Project History

Why was Trans PULSE formed?

In 2003, Sherbourne Health Centre started serving trans clients and almost immediately became overwhelmed with trans people from across the province wanting to become clients. As a primary health care centre serving Toronto, Sherbourne realized that it needed to advocate for accessible health care services across the province, however there was no broad based research to demonstrate the need. Anna Travers, Manager of Sherbourne’s LGBT Program, formed a committee with trans community members to seek funding to begin research in this area.

How we organized

The initial members applied for and obtained a grant from the Wellesley Institute to fund the beginning of this journey in 2004. The trans community members and ally then interviewed and selected academic researchers to partner with. This was done in recognition of past exploitation of trans communities by researchers and medical professionals. Academic researchers were selected based on their expertise and their ability to be allies to the community. Thus the original Trans PULSE Investigators Committee was formed. This committee has undergone changes throughout the years, as can be expected with any long-term project. The Investigators Committee went on to obtain funding from both provincial and federal sources (Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Canadian Institutes of Health Research) for the different phases of the project.

A commitment was also made at the beginning of this project to undertake research with respect for the lived experience of the trans community, to build community capacity, to use the highest quality research methods possible, and to ensure meaningful involvement of trans people. Trans PULSE is committed to strengthening trans communities through building the capacities of:

  • trans community members to conduct health research
  • cisgendered (non-trans) health researchers and students to understand and address trans health issues
  • providers, advocates and policy makers to enact  change to improve the health of trans communities

What have we done?

The project has gone through different phases to arrive at this current point in time. One of the first phases of this project was qualitative in nature and was carried out in the form of  community soundings (focus groups). The framework identified through the soundings went on to help form the shape of the quantitative Trans PULSE survey. Another critical aspect that shaped this project was the creation of a Community Engagement Team (CET) of trans community members, selected through a province-wide application process. The 16 members represented, as much as conceivable, Ontario’s diversity in terms of geography, newcomer status, age, ethno-racial groups, and trans identities. The CET provided valuable input, knowledge, and advice for numerous aspects of this project including survey and interview guide development; outreach and promotion of Trans PULSE; a ‘knowledge to action’ strategy for social change; as well as providing access to trans networks in diverse geographic areas.

The 87 page Trans PULSE survey was launched in April 2009, using respondent-driven sampling (RDS) with the CET functioning as ‘seeds’ (the first people to complete the survey and then pass it on), and data collection was completed in May 2010, with a total of 433 respondents from across Ontario, Canada filling it in. We are currently analyzing the data and returning these results to various decision-makers, including community members, researchers, health care providers and policy-makers. The project is also conducting a new qualitative phase focused on understanding the health care needs and experiences of trans people living with HIV (PHAs). In that phase, 20 trans PHAs and 10 service providers are providing input on how to make the HIV and other health-related sectors more trans-sensitive and responsive.

The Trans PULSE team is committed to making sure that the information that comes out of this study is used to produce the greatest positive impact possible on the well-being of trans people. Keeping this in mind, the team has presented at numerous conferences and community events; released E-Bulletins in both English and French; published academic papers to speak directly to a professional audience; released project reports often targeted for specific institutions; and is continuing to plan more knowledge dissemination strategies. Current results can be found in the Research and Study Results section of this website.

Furthermore, Trans PULSE in partnership with Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) held a Trans Health Advocacy Summit  in August 2012 on the beautiful grounds of Western University. The goal of the summit was to provide trans community change-makers, activists and allies living in Ontario with opportunities to learn, share and gain new ideas, and support for their ongoing work. The summit was a success with 38 trans community members and 8 allies attending. They created an energized atmosphere where the goals of the summit were realized.