Transgender Suicide Rates Are Out of Control and Here Is How You Can Help (VIDEO)
Too Many Transgender Americans Are Being Lost to Suicide and We Can All Work to Prevent It
It’s become clear that sexual identity and gender expression are far more complex issues than they were once given credit for. Acceptance of gays and lesbians has increased. There is more visibility for bisexual people. But now we are in a new fight for equality when it comes to transgender rights, and it is a work in progress.
The American Psychological Association gives an excellent description of what transgender means:
“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.”
Unfortunately, being transgender isn’t widely accepted in our society and that has lead to a terrible and deadly epidemic of suicidal depression as a result.
How bad is it? Bad. According to a 2014 report by The William’s Institute and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention the number of transgender people attempting to take their lives in the US is at a staggering 41% percent. The attempted suicide for the overall population is 4.6%. The situation is bleak when it comes to gay, bisexual and lesbian Americans who attempt suicide at a rate of up to 20% and yet transgender attempts blow those out of the water.
So, why are so many transgender Americans feeling so desperate that they are willing to take their own lives? The answer, of course, is complicated. It can do both with what is going on within the person themselves and how they are being treated by society.
From the inside, a condition known as gender dysphoria can cause extreme stress and anxiety within a transgender individual. Gender dysphoria, as WebMD describes, is when a person does not feel like they are in the right body and feel as they should be in the body of what is often considered to be the opposite gender.
Gender nonconformity is not a mental illness itself, but the extreme discomfort of being forced to present themselves to the world as the wrong gender can cause “clinically significant stress” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, also known as DSM-5.
“Some estimates say that 71% of people with gender dysphoria will have some other mental health diagnosis in their lifetime. That includes mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.”
That makes perfect sense. When a person feels they are in the wrong body and don’t conform to what have up until now been considered societal norms the stress can be awful. That should be quite easy to understand. And not only do they have the internal stress of coming to terms with who they are or dealing with the dissatisfaction of the body they are born into, too often, transgender folks are discriminated against, abused and even abandoned by their family.
In fact, 57% of transgender people report that their family have rejected them. Up to 55% have been bullied at school and almost 60% have been discriminated against or harassed at work, Remarkably, 60% have reported that they have even been refused care by doctors or health care providers!
When it comes to law enforcement, transgender Americans report that they have faced physical and even sexual violence at a rate of up to 70%.
And, sadly, up to 69% of transgender Americans have faced the devastation of homelessness.
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Clearly, society in general is failing transgender citizens. These are people who deserve the same respect, human rights and human dignity that anyone else should expect. So, why the discrimination? Why the hate? There is no good reason for it.
It may not be easy to understand what someone who has gender dysphoria may be going through. Someone who hasn’t experience it might not get the whole concept of what being transgender is. Indeed it is complex. No one knows why transgender people are transgender. No one knows why gender dysphoria exists. But does it matter? We know it does exist. And we know that people who are facing this are suffering far too often as a result.
What transgender people need is not for others to have a complete grasp of what they are experiencing. But they do need empathy and understanding that they are experiencing something that offers a challenge. They are human beings and deserve to be treated as such.
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GLAAD offers a guide on how you can be a better ally to the transgender community. It asks allies to treat transgender folks with dignity and respect by using their chosen pronouns and name and see them as being of the gender they identify with. That’s pretty straightforward. The biggest way to help, really, is to listen to what transgender people are telling you about how they wish to be treated. Listen.
Fortunately, there are a growing list of resources available to transgender folks to help them, which GLAAD has compiled on their website as well, that includes contacts for those in crisis and organizations that provide support.
With more and more Americans revealing their true selves and identifying as the gender they feel most comfortable with, there is a widening community of people who are experiencing and understanding what it is to be transgender all the time. If you are transgender, you don’t have to go through the experience alone. And if you are feeling suicidal, GET HELP!
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Feature image by Omer Yavin/Wikimedia Commons
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Chris Hearn is an ageing freelance writer located in wintery Winnipeg. He is a stay-at-home-parent, amateur stand-up comedian, and a guy with a lot of opinions, much to everyone’s dismay.