Transgender individuals face potentially stressful situations that many members of the community may not realize – and such problems can arise from one’s adolescent years, and sometimes even earlier. These hardships can include mental health issues, emotional struggles, and violence toward transgender identifiers.
What does it mean to be transgender? Transgender is a term used to indicate a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex, according to The Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org). This can be a male who feels that he should have been born female, or a female who feels she should have been born male. Sometimes none of these labels represent how an individual identifies themselves. While there are various stages of transformation in becoming a transgender person, the controversial aspect isn’t how much they change, but how young transgender persons are wanting to change or transition.
Having gender concerns can occur at any time in one’s life. However, it has become even more common in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community for young teens and even children to want to change their sex.
Transgender and Mental Health
The most common mental health issue that all transgender persons face is gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria, as defined by Transgender Mental Health (tgmentalhealth.com), is a psychological condition in which a person’s biological born gender causes emotional distress which results in anxiety, depression, restlessness, and other symptoms. This dysphoria often acts as a start to change one’s body, gender appearance, and gender expression, to feel like the gender they identify with or feel they were meant to be.
While some chose to transition, one does not have to do so. Choosing not to transition can work as effectively as transitioning, if one is concerned about how the transition would affect their life. However, by choosing not to transition, they still have to combat their gender dysphoria. This can be achieved by talking to others about the issue, interacting with others who are aware of how they feel, taking low levels of hormones that don’t affect the body, or even having times when one can cross-dress to express their inward gender identity.
If someone with gender dysphoria cannot openly express their gender identity, resulting feelings may lead to depression and suicide. Transgender Mental Health states, “Transgender adults are much more likely to have suicidal thoughts, with 50% of adults reporting some suicidal ideation.” Many of these adults had most likely had gender dysphoria throughout their childhood, teens and adulthood. Being unable to express themselves as the gender they identify with, being forced to hide the identity they feel like deep down inside, and keeping it a secret can lead to depression and anxiety.
Choosing to transition or not either can be an emotional struggle for transgender persons. In today’s society and American culture, breaking stereotypes can result in a harsh backlash from society. As humans we often like to put everything into categories, including ourselves. This especially comes down to when we try identify another person’s gender. According to BeLonG To (belongto.org), an Irish organisation for LGBT young people, many people are able to step outside of these “gender boxes” by wearing different clothes or doing a job outside the norm. However, “Transgender people are also dealing with these gender boxes.”
As the BeLonG To website states, “Some other people want society to be open when they completely change to the ‘opposite’ gender (transsexual people)” – but there is a long way to go before society completely welcomes all people of race, sex and identified gender. It is important to think outside of these “gender boxes.”
Being misidentified as the wrong gender, especially during transition, can be a difficult experience. Even after going through the full transition process, some transgender people may still be called by their original birth sex. What can you do if the people in your life do not support your new gender identity before, during and after the transformation? For some, the stress of transgender life can lead to tragic results. As Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com) states, “over 41 percent of trans men and women are estimated to have attempted suicide – a rate that’s nearly nine times as high as the rate of cisgender Americans.”
Violence Towards Transgender Persons
According to The Human Rights Campaign, already in 2017, 15 transgender persons have been killed by being “fatally shot or killed by other violent means.” Violence toward transgender people has been steadily on the rise since 1993, but these hate crimes have been around for much longer.
Community members attack transgender people for their own reasons. NBC News notes, “When homophobia, racism, sexism, and transphobia are combined, it can have fatal or deadly consequences.” Violence towards the LGBT community has attracted the eyes of lawmakers who have legislated laws to protect the community – including, but not limited to, equal rights for gays and transgender persons.
Violence toward a group or community is called a hate crime. Hate crimes, according to Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), are normally criminal actions toward a victim because of: “sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.” Hate crimes are not the only type of threat which transgender people encounter. Another type of violence includes trans bashing. Trans bashing, according to Wikipedia, “is the act of victimizing a person emotionally, physically, sexually, or verbally because they are transgender or transsexual.” At times, this violence ends with the death of the transgender person either by suicide or the violence of others.
It is important to keep an eye on transgender violence within the community, especially if you are thinking of transitioning, in the process, or have already undergone the transition. Transgender people in crisis should contact the following resources:
The Trevor Project’s 24/7 Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386) or Trevor Chat, the Trevor Project’s online messaging service.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860
For more information about specific transgender issues:
Mental health and gender dysphoria:
Stereotypes about transgender:
The emotional struggles of transgender life: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201612/why-transgender-people-experience-more-mental-health
Human Rights Comapign/Violence Against Transgender Persons: http://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2017
NBC News on Hate Violence:
History of Hate Crimes: