Multi-Level and Intersectional Stigma Experienced by Black Transgender Women in Chicago: a Qualitative Study to Inform Sociostructural Interventions for Reducing Stigma and Improving Health Outcomes

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2023 Nov 13:10.1007/s40615-023-01853-6. doi: 10.1007/s40615-023-01853-6. Online ahead of print.


Background: Stigma contributes to health disparities including increased HIV vulnerability among minority communities. Black transgender women experience multiple forms of stigma (e.g., anticipated, experienced), which can result in poor HIV-related outcomes. We utilized an adapted social ecological model (ASEM) to better understand the levels at which stigma is encountered and its impact on lived experience, particularly related to making healthcare decisions.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews and two focus groups (n = 38) were conducted with Black transgender women and Black transfeminine individuals in Chicago from 2016 to 2017. Participants were asked about discrimination in the community, healthcare experiences, and their thoughts and decision-making process with their healthcare provider regarding HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. We conducted thematic analysis and organized our findings based on the levels of the ASEM: individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and structural.

Results: Participants experienced and anticipated stigma at each ASEM level. Stigma was not experienced in isolation: stigma experienced at one level caused anticipated stigma at other levels and internalized stigma leading to negative self-image. In each case, stigma adversely impacted health outcomes (e.g., medication nonadherence, disengagement from care). Stigma within healthcare settings, medication-related stigma, and stigma directed at appearance and identity are particularly detrimental to shared decision-making with a healthcare provider.

Conclusions: Recognizing and valuing Black transgender women's experience with stigma are essential for developing social and structural interventions that may work collaboratively across multiple levels of lived experience to reduce stigma and healthcare disparities faced by Black transgender women.

Keywords: Black transgender women; HIV; Social ecological model; Stigma.