The Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Trans People Need to Know | National Center for Transgender Equality

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Trans People Need to Know

March 13, 2020


COVID-19, also referred to as novel coronavirus, is a new virus, and there is still much to learn about the severity of this outbreak. However, we know that transgender people and their families may have a lot of questions about how they can properly face this public health threat.

We want trans people and their families to stay safe—both from the virus and from any unique problems we may face with this new virus.

It is important for trans people to be prepared for obstacles if an outbreak happens in their communities. NCTE urges everyone to put together a plan of action that not only takes into account basic health needs, but also your specific needs as a trans person.

Trans People and COVID-19

Transgender people must be aware of the particular risk for the coronavirus because of the several factors:

  • LGBTQ people have higher rates of HIV and cancer, and therefore may have a compromised immune system. According to NCTE’s 2015 US Trans Survey, trans people are five times more likely to be living with HIV compared to the general population.
  • LGBTQ people also use tobacco at a rate of 50% higher than the general population. The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that could be especially harmful to smokers.

Trans adults are also more likely to score their health as poor or fair compare to the general population.  More than 1 out 5 transgender adults have at least one or more chronic condition, such as diabetes, arthritis, or asthma. Fear of discrimination keeps many of us from going to the doctor. This may impact the potential novel coronavirus effect on us in three ways:

  • Stigma and discrimination makes transgender people reluctant to get help.  
  • Access to health care barriers, such as lack of insurance, leaves us less likely to get medical care.
  • Existing health conditions mean more of us live in a state of compromised health.

Creating a Plan of Action

1. Talk to your family members and roommates, or the people you interact with daily about what to do in case of an outbreak in your community.

  • Identify who are the most vulnerable people: older people (ages 60+), people with disabilities, smokers, and those with a compromised immune system are the most prone to the virus and need the most support.
  • Identify specific rooms in case you or your loved ones need to self-quarantine in an isolated setting.
  • Get to know the people in your community (while practicing social distancing). Find out about their plans of action.
  • Create an emergency contact list and share this with your support system and stay in touch frequently. Make sure to include your medical provider and emergency numbers.
  • If you are employed: find out your employer’s plan of action.
  • If you have children: find out your child’s school/child care’s plan of action.

2. Practice good hygiene habits.

  • Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick. Instead, call them on the phone or use video services to connect.
  • Stay at home if you are sick (unless you are getting medical care).
  • Cover your cough, use tissues when you sneeze, and throw the tissues away immediately.
  • Frequently clean objects and surfaces (Click here for CDC’s recommendations for cleaning products).
  • Try not to touch your face.
  • Take care of your loved ones’ and your emotional health. Provide support and assurance, especially for children.

3. What to do if you think you are sick or come in contact with someone who has it

  • Please do:
    • Stay home except to get medical care.
    • Separate yourself from loved ones including pets in your home.
    • Wear a face mask when around other people.
    • Call ahead before visiting your medical provider and tell them you may have the COVID-19 virus in case they have a plan in place.
    • Alert your local health department or ask your medical provider to alert the department.
  • Please do not:
    • Stay in the waiting rooms (your medical provider should have a plan in place to avoid exposure to other patients).
    • Walk into a health center/urgent care (please call ahead instead).
    • Stay in public spaces or use public transportation.
    • Share personal household items.
  • Symptoms can include:
    • Fever
    • Coughing
    • Shortness of breath

4. Prepare an emergency home quarantine kit. It's ok to stockpile (not hoard) supplies in case of an outbreak in your community. Make sure you have a 14-day supply of daily items.

  • Remember: There may be things you will need specifically if you or a loved one is trans, such as:
    • Sufficient supply of hormones and syringes
    • Vaginal dilators or other medical items
    • Specific grooming or beauty items: razors, make-up, wigs, binders, packing equipment, etc.
      • Note: Chest binding does not increase one’s odds of getting sick with COVID19.
      • If you get any respiratory illness, do not wear a binder so tight it reduces chest capacity.
      • Helpful guidlines for chest binding during COVID-19 (click here
    • Where applicable make sure you have access to legal documents, IDs and prescriptions

And like everyone, you are likely to need:

  • Daily Household Supplies
    • Water, drinks with electrolytes & food (enough for at least 14 days & has a long storage time)
    • First aid kit
    • Baby care items
    • Pet care items
    • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
    • Cleaning supplies (Click here for CDC’s recommendations for cleaning products).
    • Toys, book and games
    • Cell phone
    • Local maps
  • Medical: Any prescription medications (such as hormones) or assistive devices (ask for a 14-day supply)
    • If you take hormones prescribed by a doctor, ask your doctor for an extended prescription so you can keep a bigger supply with you.
    • Copies of prescriptions – make sure to save these, especially for injectable medications!
    • Syringes, alcohol swabs, etc. for any injectable medications
    • Other medical devices or supplies (such as dilators)
  • Legal
    • Phone numbers for Lambda Legal, NCTE, and FEMA helpline
      • Lambda Legal National Help Desk, toll free: (866) 542-8336
      • FEMA Hotline: (800) 621-3362
      • National Center for Transgender Equality: (202) 642-4542
    • Court orders for name and/or gender change
    • Any identification that shows your chosen name and/or gender, including passport or school ID
    • If you don’t have identification matching your gender, a letter from your therapist or doctor if you have one
    • Important documents (such as insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.)
    • Cash and change
  • Appearance
    • Razors
    • Cosmetics and make-up
    • Wigs
    • Binding, packing equipment (e.g. binders, gaffs, packers)
    • Toiletries, hygiene items, moisture wipes
    • Clothing
  • More tips on building and storing your disaster supply kit.

5. What to do if your surgery was cancelled

Many trans people are hurting during this public health crisis and have had gender affirming surgeries postponed.

It’s not a reflection of medical necessity and we know it’s a hardship, especially if you lose or change coverage in the meantime. If you have trouble with your coverage, visit our health coverage guide.

Important Resources

1. Medical Providers & Latest Health Information:

2. Housing:

Emergency contact information for trans discrimination in relief shelters and services & a guide for shelters:

3. Mental Health:

  • For trans people of all ages, Trans Lifeline (click here) provides a peer support hotline and microgrants for trans people in need. You can call their hotline at 877-565-8860.
  • For LGBTQ youth, Trevor Project (click here) provides access to counselors by phone call (1-866-488-7386), online chat, or text (text START to 678678). They also provide an online community for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24.
  • For older LGBTQ adults, SAGE (click here) runs a National LGBT Elder Hotline that provides crisis response and helps connect people with community resources. You can call their hotline at 877-360-LGBT and request to speak to someone in either English or Spanish.
  • Fenway Health (click here) runs an LGBT Helpline and a Peer Listening Line, which people can call from across the country. Call 888.340.4528 for adults 25+. Call 800.399.PEER for those under age 25.
  • CenterLink's directory of LGBT community centers. Note: do not walk in to a community center if you are sick or have been exposed. Call them and ask if there are virtual support groups.
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