Who Are Transgender People?
The word “transgender” may just be more encompassing than you assumed. It embraces a variety of gender identities and expressions that might fall outside the traditional classification of two genders — male or female, referred to as gender binary. Transgender people include those who have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, whose gender expression as conveyed through communication, clothing, behavior, mannerisms, and interests don’t align with stereotypical societal norms for the sex assigned to them at birth. Transgender people express their gender fluidly outside of the gender binary, and may or may not undergo hormonal or surgical procedures.
Over the decades, transgender people have encountered various challenges. They are particularly more vulnerable to a number of mental health risks, owing to segregation and stigma. This is why it is important for gender-affirming environments to support the mental health of transgender people and other gender minorities. Studies show that gender minority people are over four times as likely to have at least one mental health problem compared with their cisgender counterparts. The common mental health disorders that gender minorities experience are depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Transgender people are particularly more likely to experience increased signs of loneliness and reduced life satisfaction. They have increased stressors throughout their lives, owing to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Some of the stressors are low self-esteem, poor coping skills, body image issues, rejection from friends and family, avoidant behaviors, and poor sexual satisfaction. These stressors may affect them throughout life and contribute to poor mental health.
Mental Health Challenges of Transgender People
Loneliness is a major challenge that transgender people face, and this plays a role in mental health conditions. Transgender men, in particular, experience romantic loneliness, which is a major determinant of their mental health conditions. Their loneliness stems mainly from social attitudes towards them which vary across locations. Some of these social attitudes entail discrimination, which could lead to personal prejudice, social stigma, and possible violence. In many cases, this loneliness discourages them from reaching out for help at distressing times, and may, in turn, lead to worsened mental health and, in extreme cases, to deep depression or suicide.
Gender dysphoria is the mental stress a person undergoes for not having the same gender identity as the sex they were assigned at birth. To deal with this condition, sufferers may need to affirm their gender identity through gender-affirming health practices and treatments. Some others may need hormone therapy and surgery to fully ease their gender dysphoria. Paying proper attention to gender dysphoria can reduce the stressors on a transgender person and help them focus on underlying issues.
Some common options for people experiencing gender dysphoria are dressing as their preferred gender, taking hormone replacement medication, or going as extreme as having a sex reassignment surgery, however, this is an expensive option, which, sadly, many insurance plans don`t cover.
Suicide Thoughts and Attempts
Prolonged loneliness may lead to depression, and eventually, suicidal thoughts and attempts. This is why it is important to check in with friends and family members who are transgender. Ask them tough questions like, “Are you considering suicide?”, listen to them without being judgmental, and call 911 or the local emergency number whenever they`re in danger. Stay with them until professional help arrives, and keep weapons, medications, or other possibly harmful objects away from their reach.
How to Care for Transgender People
Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy (GAHT)
GAHT entails administering safe doses of hormones to a person with gender dysphoria to help them transition to their preferred gender identity. It reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, diminishes markers of social stress, as well as improves the quality of life and self-esteem. Hormone therapy is usually an integral part of alleviating gender dysphoria and is essential in treating underlying mental health issues.
Create a Gender-Affirming Environment
It may be difficult to imagine what transgender people experience during their transition, however, it`s a lot of trauma that a cisgender person may never completely understand. To protect the mental health of transgender people, their friends and family members need to be supportive. Here`s why creating a gender-affirming environment in a familial or social setting is essential in easing gender dysphoria and enabling treatment for underlying mental health conditions.
Other supportive roles include:
- Use their preferred pronouns and name.
- Become educated about transgender issues and solutions.
- Avoid making assumptions about their gender roles, sexual preferences, or desire for treatment.
- Advocate for transgender rights.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Listen to them without being judgmental.
Some Transgender Facts you Should Know
Post-Surgery Regret Is Common
Just like many health-related transgender issues, there isn`t sufficient information on how often individuals report post-surgery regret, however, there has been an increase in the number of such stories lately. Some transgender patients return to their doctors months or years after their surgeries to ask for as much reverse as possible. A number of these cases are as a result of gender dysphoria and gross stigmatization. Some transgender regret cases get blamed on the influence of hormones as a driving force behind the rash decision to undergo surgery, with to a large extent, might have been due to the neglect of therapy.
Transgender Surgery Complications Can be Gruesome
Although the entire idea of transgenderism is risky, sex reassignment surgeries are particularly dangerous, sometimes resulting in bladder or urethra damage, among other urinary complications. A 2017 study revealed that over 33% of transgender people complained of urinary complications, and as many as 11% of patients needed further unplanned operations due to severe bleeding in the surgical site, especially for male-to-female surgeries.
High Rates of HIV
Transgender people are three times more likely to test positive to HIV than their cisgender counterparts. In a study, 84% of those diagnosed with HIV were transgender women, 15% were transgender men, while 1% were gender non-conforming.
High Transgender Suicide Rate
Transgender people are much more likely to attempt to kill themselves for various reasons ranging from bullying, self-esteem issues, gender dysphoria, among others. Did you know that 43% of transgender people have reported having attempted suicide at least once in their life? And 30% of transgender teens revealed that they felt unsafe when traveling to or from school, while there have been many cases of sexual assault. In the LGBT community, transgender individuals are about two times more likely to think about suicide or commit it.
Other Interesting Transgender Facts
- About 50% of transgender people fear using public toilets due to possible discrimination or harassment.
- Over 50% of trans people have hidden their identity at work due to fear of discrimination.
- There are over 1.5 million transgender people in the United States.
- About 50% of transgender people have reported a family breakdown due to their transition.
- Sex reassignment procedures can cost between $5,000 and $50,000, while some even cost as high as $100,000.
- The first recorded case of sex reassignment was in 1930, when Lili Elbe, a German national, went through the procedure that changed her into a woman. She died three months after her last surgery.
- A recent report revealed that transgender people are at a higher risk of unemployment, as they are four times more likely to earn less than $10,000 a year.