Trans and Gender Diverse People’s Experience Wearing Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Findings from Data Across 4 States in the USA

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Sexuality Research and Social Policy




Introduction: Social isolation and reduced access to public life in response to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) challenges health and well-being for many. Marginalized communities, including transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people, have been disproportionally impacted. Experiences of TGD people should be centered in pandemic-related research to better inform policy. Methods: A diverse sample of TGD people (N = 158) were recruited from Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, and Tennessee to participate in the Trans Resilience and Health Study. Participants ranged from 19 to 70 years old (M = 33.06; SD = 12.88) with 27.2% identifying as trans men/men, 26% identifying as trans women/women, and remaining identifying with terms like genderqueer and nonbinary. Thirty percent identified as people of color. Participants completed a monthly COVID-19-related questionnaire April 2020–March 2021 including open-ended questions to learn what contributed to resilience during this time. Thematic analyses of responses enabled identification of salient themes. Results: Analyses revealed pandemic-related changes in social experiences of marginalization and mask-wearing. Twenty-six participants mentioned face masks as contributing to resilience while also elaborating the influence of masks on experiences of misgendering. Participants identifying as trans women reported decreased misgendering while trans men and nonbinary participants reported increased misgendering. Conclusions and Policy Implications: Mask-wearing helps reduce transmission of COVID-19. For some trans women, masks also reduce the threat of misgendering and possibly other forms of enacted stigma. However, increased risk for misgendering, as noted by trans men in our study, should be considered and increased supports should be provided.


COVID-19, Face masks, Gender diverse, Misgendering, Nonbinary, Transgender