How has gender identity influenced mental health?

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Introduction To Gender Identity

Today, we know that there is a diverse range of gender identities.  However, in the past, gender has been divided into only two brackets “male” and “female.” Because gender identity was considered very black and white before, this has perpetuated a cycle of phobia and stigma, primarily due to lack of education, understanding, and awareness.

Gender identity is how you perceive your gender, how you show this to others, and how you want others to treat you. One’s gender identity is not always the same as the physical features (biological sex) that one was born with. It is important to remember that being gender diverse is not a mental illness, is not caused by a mental illness, and is not a cause of menta illness.

However, the stressful experiences that one may face by identifying outside of the traditional “male” and “female” labels can contribute to an increased risk of multiple mental health conditions and symptoms, including anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide.

Risk factors that decrease well-being and increase risk of mental health conditions and / or symptoms:

  • Feeling different from those around you. This can feel extremely isolating.
  • Feeling uncomfortable in your body, especially as you begin exploring your gender identity.
  • Feeling terrified to be your authentic self, by sharing your gender identity with others. This often creates a fear of being outcasted or unaccepted by loved ones. Rejection can feel devastating and isolating.
  • Feeling worried about opening up to others on how you are feeling.
  • Experiencing pressure to conform with other’s expectations, particularly on what your gender identity and role should be based on biological sex.
  • Experiencing bullying due to your gender identity. Bullying can be either verbal or physical, both are devastating.
  • Feeling misunderstood / unsupported, especially by loved ones.
  • Feeling self-conscious about how you express your gender.
  • Fear and experience of being misgendered, addressed with incorrect pronouns, and / or being addressed be your old name (“deadnaming”).

Statistics

  • LGBTQ+ teens are 6x more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ+ identifying teens.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are more than 2x as likely to feel suicidal and over 4x as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
  • 48% of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% of the overall US population.
  • Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons have been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
  • 38% of transgender people say they have experienced slurs and 28% have experienced insensitive or offensive comments because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • 22% of transgender individuals say they have avoided doctors or health care out of concern they would be discriminated against.
  • Approximately 8% of LGBTQ+ individuals and nearly 27% of transgender individuals report being denied needed health care outright.
  • In mental health care, stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity, and unconscious and conscious reluctance to address sexuality may hamper effectiveness of care.

Source: https://www.mhanational.org/issues/lgbtq-communities-and-mental-health

Final Thoughts

Let us be honest, it is extremely difficult to find yourself, figure out who you are, who you want to be, and where your place in this world is, regardless of your gender identity. From forming various types of relationships to applying for school / jobs to managing school / work to navigating unprecedented times (such as the pandemic), life has many stressors. But now imagine the added pressure of exploring your gender identity, discovering your authentic self, but having to hide your authentic self every single day, out of fear. Imagine having no safe space to express yourself.

We all have the ability to learn to be more inclusive. We are not “too old” or “set in our ways” to be kinder people. Educate yourself on gender identity beyond cisgender. If you are not familiar with someone’s gender identity, instead of judging them, ask them about it and / or do your own research. Do not invalidate or gaslight someone for sharing their authentic self with you; listen to them and support them. Love should not be conditional to identity or sexuality based on the society’s norms. Introduce yourself with your pronouns, and someone for their pronouns without making assumptions.  Do what you can with the knowledge you have, while continuously expanding your knowledge and understanding. When you engage in conversations, make sure to listen to people other than yourself.

The world is not solely about making you feel comfortable, it is about making everyone feel seen, heard, loved, valid, worthy, and enough. If you are uncomfortable with the way someone identifies, then educate yourself.

We cannot continue to lose lives because we refuse to make the world a safe place. How someone chooses to express themselves, how someone identifies, who someone loves does not affect you.

Some Resources

The Trevor Project: Text 678678

LGBT National Help Center: (888) 843-4564

LGBT National Youth Talkline: (800) 246-7743

SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline: (8770 360-5428

The National Center for Transgender Equality: www.transequality.org

Trans Lifeline: www.translifeline.org

LGBTQIA+ Terms by @soyouwanttotalkabout: https://www.instagram.com/p/CPqQc1InZ0O/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Gender Identity and Mental Health Resource by Headspace: https://headspace.org.au/assets/Uploads/Resource-library/Young-people/Gender-identity-and-mental-health-web.pdf

Gender Spectrum Resources: https://www.genderspectrum.org/resources

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