Everyone should have an equal opportunity to access care and support. But there are still alarming gaps in both the accessibility and the level of healthcare that’s offered to LGBTQIA+ people.
The unique health needs of all LGBTQIA+ people—from sexual healthcare and mental health support to fertility specialists—aren’t adequately met in most current systems. And accessing even the most basic care may be fraught.
Trans people face physicians ignoring their health concerns in favor of questioning their gender; stigma around queer sex makes conversations about medications like PrEP (a prescription drug that reduces the risk of getting HIV during sex) and birth control deeply uncomfortable; and the risk of being misgendered, invalidated, or dismissed is always lurking. Within public healthcare systems, many LGBTQIA+ people have to either ignore their problem or go private—if they can afford it—and even then there’s no guarantee that their needs will be met.
But change is happening. Queer entrepreneurs and innovators are taking matters into their own hands, serving the needs of people like them who are currently ignored by traditional healthcare systems—such as gender-affirming primary care with Plume or FOLX, Euphoria’s curated resources through transition, breaking down stigma around sexual healthcare with LVNDR and alternative smart penises from SkiiMoo Tech.
These innovations won’t just help LGBTQIA+ people; companies created by and for the queer community are finding that there’s demand for their products and ideas far beyond their initial target audience.
Plume: a holistic hub for gender-affirming healthcare
Jerrica Kirkley (she/her) wanted to go into medicine because she understood healthcare as a form of social justice. As a family physician, she saw “a lot of communities that were significantly underserved, who were left out of the healthcare system.” It was in that work to serve them that she first had the opportunity to provide gender-affirming care.
“It’s life-saving work, but it’s really an extension of the medical training that all healthcare professionals should have,” she says.
This led to the idea for Plume, a hub for gender-affirming healthcare with a particular focus on hormone therapy. Memberships include video appointments with healthcare professionals, prescriptions for gender-affirming medications sent directly to your local pharmacy, online progress monitoring, support groups, and access to a trans-led care team through the app.
Acceptance of telehealth has rapidly accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic and is now understood as a vital service—and one that can help lead to better care for trans people.
“What we’re seeing in the healthcare world is that there’s more awareness among providers and people who are really trying to find ways to deliver this care,” says Kirkley. Now even health insurance companies are coming to Plume for assistance in improving their coverage.
Kirkley says that while the world can feel hostile to trans and gender non-conforming people like her, she’s seeing healthcare change slowly towards something that truly acknowledges individual patients’ needs.
“I love to remind folks that it does look pretty different behind the scenes—there are a lot of people and a lot of stakeholders who carry a lot of weight in the healthcare system who really do, care about us as a community and are trying to make those strides forward.”
LVNDR: personalized sexual healthcare
When Araxie Boyadjian (she/her) moved from the Middle East to London with her co-founder Christopher El Badaoui (they/them), she was hoping to leave behind the various levels of discrimination that she experienced in that healthcare space. However, the UK’s offerings weren’t necessarily any better, particularly when it came to sexual health. So, inspired by their own experiences navigating the National Health Service’s sexual healthcare system, they started LVNDR (pronounced “lavender”) as an “LGBTQIA+ digital sexual healthcare haven, tailored to your needs.”
The specific barriers to healthcare are unique depending on your location, such as a lack of access to local services in rural areas, or discrimination or a refusal of service by care professionals. This means, as Boyadjian explains, “existing LGBTQIA+ services are often overwhelmed and overbooked,” making it close to impossible for LGBTQIA+ people to access vital sexual-health services like getting tested, consulting a clinician, or obtaining medication.
LVNDR overcomes that by offering an online hub for personalized care, consultations, and treatment. Its primary focus is aiding access to PrEP, but its goal is to complement the work of existing services and ensure all patients receive the care they need. It’s now in conversations with the NHS about how LVNDR can be valuable in better serving underrepresented communities, especially in remote areas.
“Working with public health systems, we aim to improve access to specialized care across the UK, reducing the need for people to travel long distances for these services,” explains Boyadjian. “By fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding, and working closely with public health systems, we strive to reduce the stigma associated with sexual healthcare and create a more inclusive landscape for everyone.”
Euphoria: educating through apps
Kate Tamera (she/her) came out as a trans woman 10 years ago and her transition was fraught. Not only did she face social stigma and an unaccommodating, privatized healthcare system, but she was caught between two fairly limited sources of information: hard-to-access, in-person support groups, and anecdotal experiences found online.
Reflecting on this, she decided to use her skills as an app developer to provide an alternative. “It was a profound exercise of lived experience,” she says—“just taking this moment of introspection to say: this has been hell for me, but it can be better for others.”
The result is tech company Euphoria, which has released a suite of apps, including Solace, a mobile health app that acts as a compendium of information for all four aspects of transition (embodied, legal, social, and psychological); and Bliss, an app specifically designed to help people open bank accounts and navigate the financial planning aspect of transition.
Instead of aggregating information, the data on Solace is bespoke—Tamera wrote about 1.4 million of the 2 million words—and breaks down what your transition could look like depending on which US state you’re in. Because Solace’s information is based on hard data and actively monitoring the news, it’s currently only available in the US—though the dream is to expand into other regions.
With 100,000 registered users (according to internal company figures), the demand for Euphoria’s products is clearly high. Tamera’s priority with Euphoria, above everything else, is to provide trans and non-binary users with affirmation and dignity which, for her, means clear, accessible tools for navigating an expensive and oversubscribed healthcare system.
“We know that the greatest asset we can provide is helping people get through their systems—even if they’re horrendously unfair,” she says.
FOLX: hormone therapy through your door
When asked about why she founded FOLX, A G Breitenstein (she/her) describes a scenario that’ll be painfully familiar to many LGBTQIA+ people: a mixture of confusion, awkwardness, and vitriol when trying to access medical care—whether that’s explaining why you’re not on birth control (“I don’t need a lecture on how babies are made—I’m gay”) or being made to justify your decision to transition.
FOLX is a telehealth company that bypasses scenarios where LGBTQIA+ people have to justify themselves. Its main offerings are slickly packaged estrogen or testosterone memberships, PrEP, and virtual care for general health, infections, and hair and skin. It’s this mission that drew Liana Douillet Guzmán (she/her) to join FOLX as the current CEO.
“We live in an incumbent healthcare system that, at best, was not built for the LGBTQIA+ community and, more often than many would imagine, is openly discriminatory and even violent,” she says. “As a lesbian, Latina woman, and a mother of 2, I was excited to join a company that was at the forefront of changing that reality.”
As a platform, FOLX is focused on building opportunities for speaking directly to a clinician. But the website also acts as a library for finding certified answers to more specific questions around gender-affirming care, from “Can binding give you heartburn?” to “How long do you have to dilate after bottom surgery?”
This sits in stark contrast to the kind of resources that most can expect to access in the current healthcare system. As Douillet Guzmán points out, the average clinician graduates with 5 hours of LGBTQIA+-specific training throughout their entire education. It’s significant that many of FOLX’s clinicians are members of the community they’re serving.
In the future, the brand hopes to expand its services. “We’re looking towards new offerings and access to real-time emotional and behavioral health support, especially now during a time where our freedoms are being challenged,” says Douillet Guzmán. “FOLX wants to provide the option to build a community around themselves with those on similar journeys through an expanded community platform.”
“Our hope is to shift the broader landscape and shine a light on the need for LGBTQIA+-specific healthcare.”
SkiiMoo Tech: a smart prosthetic penis
Do you consider a penis a limb? Glenise Kinard-Moore (she/her) thinks that you should. The VDOM is a smart penis that can go from flaccid to erect using an app. It’s the first product developed by her sex tech company SkiiMoo Tech, which built up an extensive waitlist before launch in 2023.
“We wanted to provide a solution for a missing body part,” she explains. “There [are] prosthetic arms and legs. We say: why not genitals?”
The idea started when Glenise couldn’t find a prosthetic option for trans men like her friend who was waiting for bottom surgery. So, she went full steam ahead making one herself.
The VDOM is designed to function like any other prosthetic limb and can be worn comfortably throughout the day. While it has obvious functions for sex, Glenise is keen to emphasize that it’s not a sex toy—it’s a prosthetic.
This isn’t because of any prudishness (Glenise deliberately calls The VDOM a smart “penis” to get in front of people hung up on the word), but because its sexual function is only a small part of the role that The VDOM can play.
Since she started publicizing The VDOM, Glenise said the biggest revelation has been how many more people it can help than she originally imagined. “We’ve had people from all walks of life come to us and say: ‘Hey, this product would save my life, this would be so tremendous.’ People with general injuries, spinal cord injuries, [a] physical disability, period—it's just been unbelievable.”
While she’s very focused on SkiiMoo Tech always prioritizing LGBTQIA+ people, it’s helped her realize how the innovation that comes from our community doesn’t just help us. It can help everyone.
“Even [with] our diversity, we still can come together for something common, because we just need it in different ways,” she says. “We understand that we can service a lot of different communities. But it started with us.”