How Evvy Aims To Help Trans Folks Better Understand Their Bodies

Not all health care is created equal, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Consumer Reports states nearly a third of transgender people are refused medical care or harassed by medical professionals because they’re transgender. 

Evvy, a startup on a mission to close the gender health gap, is working to change this. Specifically, co-founders Laine Bruzek and Priyanka Jain are working to apply their research into the vaginal microbiome to provide better care for women and people with vaginas, including those who identify as trans or nonbinary.

Evvy has partnered with a team of doctors and vaginal microbiome researchers to accomplish this, including OB-GYN Diana Currie. The Harvard Medical School graduate has been treating trans folks and educating medical students and residents for more than two decades. 

“One of the reasons why we invited Dr. Diana Currie onto our science advisory board is because she is a pioneer of gender-expansive and gender-specific care, and we’ve often talked about how underrepresented both cisgender women and trans folks have been in clinical research,” Bruzek says.

Evvy Aims To Include Trans People in the Health Care Conversation

Bruzek points out while cis women weren’t required to be included in clinical research until 1993, it’s been even tougher for trans women.

“If you think cis women haven’t been studied well enough, trans women and trans men even more so [have been overlooked],” says Bruzek. “For instance, anyone with a vagina who is also on testosterone, including trans men and nonbinary folks, can be more susceptible to infection. That’s because estrogen plays a role in feeding the protective bacteria in the vaginal microbiome. Better researching and understanding that relationship can help us create better care for everyone with a vagina.”

Bruzek further explains, “The vaginal microbiome, in general, is understudied. The neovaginal microbiome is vastly more so. So, by doing research on all kinds of vaginal microbiomes, we are hoping to pioneer research that can lead to better treatment and care for trans folks.”

Typically, protective bacteria called lactobacilli dominate the vaginal microbiome of cisgender women. However, in those with neovaginoplasty, studies have shown that a high presence of aerobic bacteria was found.

The BMC Microbiology study discovered penile skin-lined neovaginas don’t support the growth of lactobacillus, but a 2014 Scientific Reports study found that lactobacillus was present in 75% of study participants with neovaginas. 

Currie says there’s been a lack of data on the vaginal microbiome for any group of patients. “We are stumbling in the dark for everyone,” Currie says. 

“The most frustrating knowledge gap for me is whether or not vaginal estrogen helps improve integrity, function, comfort, etcetera, for trans women,” Currie explains.

Evvy: We All Need To Advocate for Equal Research and Destigmatized Care

Since the vaginal microbiome is known to be related to one’s risk for sexually transmitted infection (STI) acquisition, preterm birth, and other health outcomes, the Evvy team is determined to push forward the research on how it affects overall health.

Along the way, Evvy is championing scientifically sound, destigmatized vaginal health education, so its community members can learn about their bodies in a shame-free environment.  

Through her work with Evvy, Currie says she’s looking forward to the day when people are willing to talk about vaginal health as openly as they discuss Super Bowl commercials and erectile dysfunction ads.