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Honoring Transgender Women’s Narratives: a Postmodern Feminist Approach for Assessment and Engagement in HIV Services

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: Transgender women are likely to engage in high rates of HIV risk taking behaviors such as sharing injection drug using equipment and having sex without condoms (Nemoto, Sausa, Operario, & Keatley, 2006). Because of these factors, transwomen have high rates of HIV-positivist serostatus. Furthermore, transgender woman have low levels of participation in HIV prevention, care, and treatment services which has been attributed to a lack of cultural competency within existing services (Senreich, 2011). Although transgender women have very different needs and lived experiences, they are often grouped together with lesbians, gays and bisexuals for purposes of research , and very few studies presented in top social work journals have focused specifically on the transgender experience (Scherrer & Woodford, 2013). Without improving both engagement strategies of HIV prevention providers as well as research methodology used to promote transwomen’s health, there is likely to be neither a change in their high HIV prevalence rate nor improvement in their health outcomes. For these reasons social workers must advance their skills in engaging transgender women in HIV prevention and in conducting productive research on this under-represented group. Transwomen’s lived experiences can be understood and honored through a postmodern feminist theoretical approach that is strengths based (Burdge, 2007, 2014; McPhail, 2004; Nagoshi & Brzuzy, 2010). This poster includes the presentation of a model created from the writings of poststructural feminist social workers Wendt and Boylan (2008) and Transgender theory advocates Nagoshi and Brzuzy (2010) and is the main highlight of the poster. Our model describes the engagement process for securing transwomen in therapeutically effective partnerships. Specifically, our model encourages social workers to use reflection and acknowledgment of both the embodied essentialist markers of identity as well as the local subjectivities of transgender women in their work. The poster also presents two case studies of transwomen who view their identity with pride, even though the struggle to present with that identity has been intricately tied with very difficult lived experiences. For these individuals, and for the author who engaged them, coming to learn this information was only possible through the feminist approach described in the model.

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