Is Gender Dysphoria Really To Blame?

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By C. Blair

It is probably not going to come as a surprise to anyone that those who identify as transgender are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health issue within their lifetime. Studies show that half of those who identify as transgender deal with anxiety/depression, compared to the general population who have a 6.7 percent chance of having depression and an 18 percent chance of having anxiety.¹ Transgender people are also 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. To top it off these are only 3 of the possible issues that transgender people could face at some point in their lives.

To many this is because a lot trans people have what is known as gender dysphoria. Some estimates say that 71 percent of people with gender dysphoria at some point will be diagnosed with some kind of mental health issue. These include substance abuse, mood disorders, sleeping disorders, suicidal thought/actions, and of course anxiety and depression. Even though it is common for people to instantly put the blame on gender dysphoria, studies now show that just because trans people have gender dysphoria does not mean that they inherently have these issues. If this is indeed the case we must ask ourselves what the real reason why this is happening, and more importantly how can we stop it? To understand we must get to the root of the problem.

What Is Gender Dysphoria?

Those unfamiliar with the term “gender dysphoria” may be left wondering what it is exactly. To those who are transgender or have someone in their lives who is, this may seem like a refresher. Gender dysphoria in its simplest form is a medical term used to describe the dissatisfaction and restlessness that trans people have in regards to the gender that they were assigned at birth. Furthermore people with it identify as the opposite sex, both, none, or something else entirely. This leads to trans people taking steps to become comfortable in their bodies. This for some may include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), or simply dressing in their desired way.

The distress related to gender dysphoria is what many believe to be the cause of the poor mental health in the transgender community. From what I’ve learned from talking with people with varying gender identities and speaking from my own personal experience this seems to not be fully the case. There is no denying that gender dysphoria is in part to blame, but many note that a lot of these issues connected with it begin to go away after starting their transitions or coming out as transgender. So what is to blame then? A study done in 2016 involving 250 trans men and women may have our answer.

Why Do Trans People Face High Rates of Anxiety/Depression?

Now that we have ruled out gender dysphoria we must ask ourselves what is the underlining factor that has led to these high statistics that were previously stated? Some researchers believe that the problem is right in front of us. Recent studies show that the distress related to the transgender community may come from the outside more than within. The amount of discrimination, stigmas, abuse, and an overall lack of acceptance that trans people have to deal with on a constant basis has been linked to the high rate of mental issues.

According to a study done by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in 2013, out of all hate murders related to the LGBT community and those living with HIV about 72 percent of them are committed against trans individuals. So if that is the problem then why not just call the police? Well for some that is not an option because on average 32 percent of trans people say that the police respondents were hostile. The workplace seems to be just as hostile. A staggering 90 percent of trans workers have experienced some form of harassment or mistreatment in the workplace. Sadly some states having little to no protections for trans people, meaning there is not much for us to do to prevent any of this.

Even though trans people commonly face harassment there must be some safe space for trans people? Like home or school? For many these places are just as bad. Statistics show that LGBT students are twice as likely of being verbally and physically bullied in schools. All you have to do is try looking it up and you will find so many articles about the maltreatment of LGBT students. Plus for an estimated 67 percent of trans individuals home life is no better. When someone comes out as transgender they face the possibility of a negative reaction from their family members, being disowned, or in some cases they face physical harm. Some studies say that a family’s support can have a greater impact on trans youth than anything else. Self-esteem, physical health, satisfaction with life, and of course mental health will dramatically decrease when their family is not supportive.

From walking down the streets and the legal system to schools and even our homes there seems to be no safe place for those who identify as transgender. This living in fear, abuse, and discrimination has caused those who identify as transgender to have anxiety, depression, and many more mental health conditions.

How Do We Put An End To It?

So how do we put an end to these problems that are causing such an elevated rate of poor mental health? Well we will not only need to change the way trans people are perceived by the general public but fix the overall treatment of those who are trans. This can be done many ways.

We as people would need to stop discriminating or intervene when discrimination occurs. Parents can majorly help the cause by teaching their kids to be more open minded at a young age. In order to hold those who harass trans people and employers responsible laws have to be put in place to protect trans people at both the state and federal level. Police departments in some states are doing their part by implementing seminars to teach police officers how to better recognize hate crimes and discrimination, plus to better understand those who are trans. Similar seminars are being used in schools to help teachers to do the same. Most importantly family members need to accept and love their kids/siblings/cousins who are transgender. These are only a few of the possible ways everyone can assist in stopping what is causing trans people to suffer. Sadly because of how many people are transphobic doing these things are easier said than done.

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  1. If suicidal and need someone to talk to visit Trans Life Line @ US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366
  2. Anxiety and Depression in Transgender Individuals: The Roles of Transition Status, Loss, Social Support, and Coping
  3. Eating While Transgender
  4. Removing Transgender Identity From the Classification of Mental Disorders: a Mexican Field Study for ICD-11
  5. Fighting Anti-Trans Violence 
  6. Injustice at Every Turn
  7. Impacts of Strong Parental Support for Trans Youth

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