Celebrating Transgender Awareness Week in Timor Leste

In November, the Marie Stopes Timor Leste team celebrated Transgender Awareness Week with their partners Coalition for Diversity and Action (CODIVA), Kay Population (KP) and Arco Iris.

In Timor Leste, the visibility of transgender people has grown significantly. Marie Stopes Timor Leste collaborates with organisations that advance the needs of transgender communities.

It is crucial to provide inclusive services, because transgender people can have sexual partners who are of different genders and need family planning services, which could include unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Transgender people can be reluctant to seek sexual and reproductive health care out of fear of discrimination or disrespect.

In response to concerns that conceptualising sexual and reproductive health as “women’s” or “men’s” services can marginalise transgender and gender diverse people, the Marie Stopes Timor Leste team took action.

The team held a focus group discussion to understand sexual and reproductive needs for transgender people to ensure Marie Stopes Timor Leste provides services responsive to the needs of transgender people.

The feedback from the focus group was:

-those that have visited a Marie Stopes Timor Leste clinic rate service delivery highly, and that the service is free of judgment and stigma

-counselling services are high quality, but more plain language could be useful

-the cost of services is prohibitive for some people, and the services are only available at government facilities where transgender clients are at risk of stigma.

Marie Stopes Timor Leste will reach out to the transgender community by:

-collaborating with organisations advancing the rights of marginalised communities

-health education sessions on sexual reproductive health and rights

-education sessions held in the clinic so people can feel comfortable accessing a facility they are familiar with.

Future improvements to serve the transgender community could include:

-working with funding partners to fund waivers for family planning services

-engaging more frequently with the transgender community and providing more education services

-encourage clients to use the hotline service, which can offer discounts to those who need services.