Watch: 7 Trends Impacting the Transgender Community in 2021

Wednesday January 6, 2021

"Hopeful" is a word many people are using to describe 2021, including transgender surgery pioneer Dr. Sherman Leis. After a year of significant increases in violence toward LGBTQ people as well as in rates of homelessness, unemployment, suicide attempts, and lack of health insurance rising, it's clear the transgender community faces continued hurdles. Still, slow and steady progress is being made.

"Despite some lingering uncertainty heading into 2021, I'm hopeful we're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding regressive LGBTQ policies we've seen in recent years," notes Dr. Leis. "Not only are we developing exciting advancements in our practice, such as the establishment of a new transgender surgery fellowship training program and new surgical procedures, there's also great potential for the community as we see growing acceptance and visibility in politics and entertainment."

Dr. Leis identifies seven trends in 2021 that are likely to impact the lives and well-being of transgender people:

2020 Election & Political Victories
Though transgender politicians have begun to break through the political landscape over the last few years, 2020 marked a significant increase in representation. From Pennsylvania's transgender Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, leading the state's COVID-19 efforts to election victories by those like Sarah McBride, the country's first transgender state senator from Delaware, these individuals are significant not only for their visibility but their ability to affect change. With LGBTQ politicians elected in eight states in 2020, bringing the total number of individuals to 32 as per the LGBTQ Victory Fund, it's clear the wider population values this potential as well.

New Administration Brings New Perspective
With the appointment of transgender veteran Shawn Skelly to President-Elect Biden's transition staff, the transgender community anticipates that the new administration will follow through on specific LGBTQ promises, such as reversing the transgender military ban put in place by Donald Trump. Though the next year, or four, are unlikely to resolve all of the disparities the trans community faces, they appear to come with greater acknowledgment of the increased violence and harassment, as well as plans to address them.

New Medical Procedures
Continued research in medical fields has led to several new and improved procedures for transgender patients that can make their transitions more successful by reducing surgical times, facilitating recovery, and improving results and/or utility. Leis's practice has been fielding more inquiries about performing their new robotic hysterectomy and vaginectomy, progress on recent studies into using fish skin instead of human skin for lining the neovaginal canal, and the development of established techniques in Wound VAC technology being used in new and innovative ways to enhance healing and reduce complications in genital reassignment surgery.

Increased Visibility in Entertainment
Transgender visibility in entertainment has been steadily expanding in recent years, with diverse representation on the new "Star Trek" and the new "Saved by the Bell" series joining other well-known series like the return of "Pose." Visibility encourages people to gain confidence in their identity and statistically has helped those outside of the community become more accepting. The high-profile announcement in December by actor Elliot Page, star of "Juno," that he is transgender and non-binary may also open the door for others who have been hiding their identities or unsure of their true selves.

New Opportunities to Tell Authentic Stories
A couple of documentaries released this year, "Disclosure" and "Transhood," shone a light on the stories of transgender experiences, and there are several additional books and films slated for 2021. Their success reflects the industry's readiness to communicate more diverse narratives and the interest of the larger population in developing a greater understanding of transgender people and the issues that affect them.

Wider Discussion About and Acceptance of Varied Pronoun Usage
With more people listing their pronouns in email signatures and social media profiles and some companies adding them to employee name tags, allies are more broadly utilizing this visible symbol of acceptance. Further, examples like Elliot Page, who prefer he/they, encourage conversations about those who identify as nonbinary and others who are still trying to understand their identity.

Prolonged Impact of COVID-19 and the 2020 Economy
Even before COVID-19, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey revealed that 30% of respondents who had a job reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment in the
workplace due to their gender identity or expression. Alarmingly, 40% of respondents
attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. As a result of job cuts and health issues arising from the pandemic, 2021 could exacerbate these numbers and the real-world impact on the actual people behind them.