The World Health Organization, or WHO, classified being transgender as a mental illness until just this year, voting to move the “gender incongruence” term used to describe transgender individuals from the mental disorders to the sexual health chapter. This change will take place in 2022, and although this decision is groundbreaking, the transgender community continues to face a lack of acceptance, stigma, and judgment from various parts of society, making them more prone to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and making them more likely to harm themselves or die by suicide.
According to Mental Health America, or MHA, between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, reports that 48% of all transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 4% of the overall US population. These feelings can emerge from the lack of proper healthcare and treatment that transgender individuals often face, or even from acts of violence against the community.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch reported the deaths of 26 transgender individuals, and has reported 14 more deaths so far this year. With violence against the transgender community so prevalent, it can be difficult for these individuals to feel safe and accepted, especially when so many transgender youth are kicked out of their homes by their own family members and end up homeless. This can cause them to eventually end up living in poverty, with the Human Rights Campaign reporting that The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found that 15 percent of respondents were living in severe poverty, meaning that they were making less than $10,000 USD per year. Living on the streets is unsafe and can make transgender individuals more prone to acts of violence and feelings of hopelessness due to the lack of acceptance from both their friends and family.
Transgender individuals also experience gender dysphoria. This is when an individual feels that their biological sex does not align with their personal feelings and gender identity, which can cause significant distress and discomfort. These negative emotions, when left unaddressed, can lead to severe depression and suicidal thoughts, and a lack of support from friends and family can further exacerbate these issues.
Although current legislation such as the American transgender military ban or the lack of anti-discriminatory laws in many states throughout the U.S. may make it seem like the world is against you, you are not alone. Actions such as the WHO decision, and the gradual positive shift in society’s perception of the LGBT+ community means that there is hope for the transgender community, and that you should never stop fighting or feel less valid for who you are. We are here for you!