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November 9, 2017
by Melanie Laing

Should gender identity be newsworthy or political?

November 9, 2017 07:00 by Melanie Laing  [About the Author]

Democrat Danica Roem defeated incumbent Del. Robert G. Marshall (R) on Nov. 7 and became Virginia’s first openly transgender elected official. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post) - The electoral race focused on traffic and other local issues in suburban Prince William County but also exposed the nation’s fault lines over gender identity.

Individuals who identify as transgender tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population. More than 41 percent of trans men and women are estimated to have attempted suicide — a rate that's nearly nine times as high as the rate of cisgender Americans. Depression and Anxiety issues rate at 19 percent higher than that of the general population.

What is the basis of this astonishingly elevated rate of mental health issues?

According to a study published in the July 2016 edition of The Lancet offers compelling evidence that the "distress and impairment, considered essential characteristics of mental disorders" among transgender individuals mainly arises in response to the discrimination, stigma, lack of acceptance, and abuse they face on an unfortunately regular basis.

Shame and Stigma

Transgender people are often treated very poorly by their parents, by their schools, by society at large. That can lead to problems in school and at work, as well as poverty and increased risk of substance use.

Psychologists have been exploring the effect that stigma, rejection, discrimination, and abuse have on mental and physical health for decades. For many adults, dealing with discrimination results in a state of heightened vigilance and changes in behavior, which in itself triggers stress responses — now picture the effects of those triggers throughout childhood or through puberty!

A life of rejection, discrimination, abuse, and other mistreatments of transgender individuals can impede their psychosocial and identity formation. There's a theory in Heinz Kohut's self-psychology, that “you only develop a fully formed 'self' if three pivotal needs are met”:

Mirroring - a caregiver's accurate and consistent reflection of your emotional state

Idealization - someone to look up to; a role model

Twinship - having someone who is 'like you,' that makes you feel you aren't alone in the world

Many trans people grow up without one or all of these crucial elements, which leaves them feeling isolated, unprotected, and much more vulnerable to life's inevitable stressors.

Gender Dysphoria

Gender Dysphoria (GD) is the new term for Gender Identity Disorder. Gender dysphoria (GD), or gender identity disorder (GID), is the distress a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. In this case, the assigned sex and gender do not match the person's gender identity, and the person is transgender.

To be clear, transgender identity is not a mental illness that can be cured with treatment. Instead, transgender people often experience a continued and authentic disconnect between the sex assigned to them at birth and their internal sense of who they are. This disconnect is referred to by medical professionals as “gender dysphoria” because it can cause undue pain and distress in the lives of transgender people.

Gender Dysphoria isn’t just a phase and it’s not something you can change.

Sure, most children and teens go through “phases” – like only wearing all black, dyeing their hair green, being obsessed with a celebrity or asking to go by a pseudonym – but being transgender is not a phase, and trying to dismiss it as such can be harmful during a time when your child or teen most need support and validation.

Trying to change your child’s gender identity – either by denial, punishment, reparative therapy or any other tactic – is not only ineffective; it is dangerous and can do permanent damage to your child’s mental health. So-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapies, which are typically religious-based, have been uniformly condemned as psychologically harmful by the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and numerous similar professional organizations.

Stigma associated with both mental disorder and transgender identity has contributed to the precarious legal status, human rights violations and barriers to appropriate care among transgender people - so, when it comes to exploring the complexity of transgender mental health, Is there something hereditary about being transgender that makes one more at risk for mental health issues, or is it about how society treats transgender people?


Washington Post


About the Author

Melanie Laing

Melanie has a background in healthcare administration and in digital content creation and is currently a copywriter for Yes Wellness. She has written for many online publications-,, and to list a few. You can read more about her at her linkedin profile or contact her at mel3lle - at -

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