What challenges do transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals face?

Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals have gender identities, expressions, or behaviors that are not typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. They may identify more strongly with the opposite gender or they may identify outside the gender binary.

Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are at a higher risk for issues related to their mental health and other social issues compared to individuals who identify with their birth sex or other sexual minority populations. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals struggle with early and ongoing trauma from being mis-gendered, stigma, and from “gender policing” which is when normal gender expressions, such as behaviors or appearance, are imposed on someone. When transitioning, it can also be a challenge to re-learn messages and understand expectations of their preferred gender. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are subject to increased violence, discrimination and micro-aggressions and experience intense focus on their bodies, even by strangers. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals struggle in their relationships and they are at risk of losing their peer group (no longer are they one of the girls or one of the boys), struggle with fitting into their new peer groups and loved ones often have difficulty accepting the change in the relationship. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face discrimination within queer communities and struggle with visibility and finding peer groups. If someone decides to medically transition, it is difficult to obtain hormones which can lead to choosing high risk routes. Additionally, the surgery is costly and infrequently covered by insurance. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals run into legal issues around gender changes on documents. They are also at high risk of homelessness and unemployment. Additional research on transgender and gender non-conforming individuals’ mental health is needed to help inform the treatment process. Building resiliency, building relationship support and identifying individual factors that contribute to distress can be helpful. Local experts in the professional community may be able to connect you with support groups and provide further education.

For more information, see this article: Demographic and Psychosocial Factors Associated With Psychological Distress and Resilience Among Transgender Individuals (Am J Public Health, 2015)

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