Project Summary

The STRIVE study is the first national randomized trial to focus on improving well-being, access to surgical care and other health outcomes for transgender and nonbinary (referred to as trans) people seeking genital gender-affirming surgery (GGAS). Trans people have gender identities that are different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Due to discrimination based on their gender identity in settings such as schools, the workplace, housing and health care, trans people face much higher rates of distress as well as poorer health and quality of life. Trans people are often unable to access necessary surgeries and hormone therapy to help align their bodies with their gender identities due to a lack of trained medical providers and limited insurance coverage for gender-affirming care.  

The most common GGAS that trans people seek is vaginoplasty, which is the surgical creation of vaginal anatomy. Because of the high demand for this surgery and limited number of medical centers that offer it, trans people face lengthy wait times and complicated health system processes, increasing stress, negative mental health effects and social isolation. Social and peer-support interventions have been shown to decrease isolation and improve health. Social support during the GGAS process was also identified by the Transgender & Non-Binary Surgery - Allied Research Collective (TRANS-ARC) as the top research priority. Due to limited information on this topic, the STRIVE study was developed to meet this need. 

The research team’s goals are to: 

  • Compare the effectiveness of two approaches to presurgical preparation for vaginoplasty: a virtual group-based peer support intervention led by trans peers who have had GGAS, or usual care delivered by gender-affirming surgical teams, enhanced with patient education materials. 

  • Determine if the intervention improves meeting presurgical criteria for vaginoplasty. 

  • Evaluate if patients, peer supporters and healthcare staff find the intervention acceptable. 

The research team will conduct a pragmatic randomized controlled trial, meaning participants will be assigned by chance to one of two groups: peer-support group or usual care enhanced with written and web-based education materials. This study is pragmatic because it is happening under real-life conditions to understand if the intervention will work in practice.  

The research team will work with five academic gender-affirming surgery programs across the country to recruit and enroll 260 trans adults ages 18 and older who are seeking vaginoplasty. Participants assigned to the peer support group will receive the intervention virtually over the course of three months, facilitated by peer facilitators from Trans Lifeline. The usual care group will receive education from their gender-affirming surgical team, with in-depth materials that cover the same topics as the virtual course. 

The primary outcome to be measures at six months is coping self-efficacy, reported by patients, using a survey which assesses perceived ability to deal with stressors. The research team will explore additional outcomes at 12 months, including meeting GGAS presurgical criteria and other outcomes deemed important to trans community partners, surgeons and other gender-affirming providers (e.g., psychological stress, social support, resilience, quality of life, presurgical knowledge, surgical delays and cancellations). Postsurgical outcomes, including surgical satisfaction and other related outcomes, will be measured at 24 months. Finally, the team will conduct in-depth interviews with participants who undergo the intervention to understand their experiences at the beginning of the study and after six months. Researchers will also interview peer supporters and clinicians to understand how to improve and implement the support intervention more broadly. 

In designing this study, the research team worked closely with trans community members and patients, health services and policy researchers, gender-affirming surgeons, advocates, gender program administrators and representatives from social support organizations. Collaboration with and input from the trans community during the conduct of this study will be critical to ensure that the STRIVE study is patient centered. Results from this study will be shared in multiple forms, including clinical guideline recommendations, policy briefs, patient-centered reports, web-based information and summaries for clinicians and researchers. Trans people seeking gender-affirming surgery can use the study findings to understand options for social support to improve quality of life and health outcomes. Clinicians, gender program administrators, health insurance companies and health policy advisors can use the findings from this study to better support and prepare patients who are seeking gender-affirming surgery. 

Project Information

Geolani Dy, M.D.
Oregon Health & Science University
$7,038,257

Key Dates

66 months
June 2023
2023

Tags

Award Type
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: March 28, 2024