Health Equity Challenge Finalist Zuri Insunza

“The more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I thrive.” — Elliot Page

When reflecting upon this quote, I pondered on the meaning of thrive. In various interpretations, thrive was defined as growth, prosperity, and bloom. For many communities, past, present, and evolving barriers make it challenging to thrive in systems that were not built with everyone in mind.

Being made aware of these barriers through my community and lived experience in health care led me to the field of public health. My name is Zuri Inzunza and as a second-year MPH student at UCLA in the Community Health Sciences department, I have had the pleasure to foster and expand on my interests in public health around improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ communities of color through my research and advocacy.

As a queer and nonbinary Latine public health professional, I hope to be able to advocate for my communities and alleviate stressors that make it challenging for my community to thrive. I first started out in gender-affirming care research and advocacy in 2021, as I began to navigate my own identity. Through my work, I spoke with people who expressed a challenge with navigating health services, ranging from low health literacy, discrimination, and gaps in medical education. This made me wonder, what more can be done to promote trans well-being?

The opportunity to participate in the 2024 Health Equity Challenge has allowed me to answer this question. Through the wonderful mentorship of Dr. Kristen Choi and the community partnership with the LA LGBT Center, and UCLA Gender Health team, I came up with the idea of Equi-T: A Vision for Prideful Pathways to Wellness and Supporting Trans Youth. After listening to the community representatives, they indicated a need for a resource that youth and their loved ones can use to help them throughout their transition. Navigating gender-affirming care can be tough as an adolescent or supported loved one, as you may not know where to begin, what is available to you, what to know, and where the resources are available. Additionally, this project is needed now more than ever due to the current threats to gender affirming care access in the era of anti-trans bills.

In 2024, the U.S. passed 20 and considered 484 anti-trans bills across the nation, according to the ACLU. Of these bills, 101 of them target gender-affirming care. With the rise in anti-trans bills targeting trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care and legal and social protection, now more than ever health professionals and other stakeholders in trans youth well-being should take strides to provide support as the state of gender-affirming care begins to evolve.

I first started out in gender-affirming care research and advocacy in 2021, as I began to navigate my own identity. Through my work, I spoke with people who expressed a challenge with navigating health services, ranging from low health literacy, discrimination, and gaps in medical education. This made me wonder, what more can be done to promote trans well-being?

Interventions that connect community to peers and resources are important to me and my community, as historically, gender-affirming care has been dismissed as elective care. However, gender-affirming care is life-saving care. According to a 2022 American Medical Association study, access to gender-affirming care among trans youth led to a 73% decreased likelihood of suicidal behaviors. Other studies have supported these outcomes and also reported on reduced distress and improved mental health outcomes and well-being.

My goal and hope for my project is to support trans and gender non-conforming youth and their loved ones with the knowledge, skills, and resources to navigate the ever-changing world of gender-affirming care through an online resource toolkit and workshops with providers and those with lived experience titled “Ask me anything: Navigating gender-affirming care” and “Supporting trans youth through gender-affirming care.” The Equi-T Project hopes that these resources and workshops can provide support for trans youth in L.A. to be knowledgeable, equipped, and, most importantly, to thrive through their gender identity journey.

Zurisadai Inzunza


By
Zuri Inzunza
2024 Health Equity Challenge Finalist
Zuri Inzunza is a second-year Master of Public Health (MPH) student at in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Inzunza’s community and lived experiences as a non-binary Latine young adult navigating health services in the Inland Empire drew them into the health care field.

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