November 13th-19th is recognized as Transgender Awareness Week, followed by the observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th which is a day dedicated to those who have lost their lives due to transphobic violence. Members of the Transgender community have faced discrimination in many aspects of life. This is a time to recognize their struggles and work to bring to light the social and systemic boundaries, like access to fair healthcare, that transgender community members face.
Historical Context of Transgender Mental Health
The historical context of transgender mental health is marked by a complex interplay of societal attitudes, cultural norms, and the evolving understanding of gender identity. Throughout history, transgender individuals have faced various challenges related to mental health, often exacerbated by the prevailing stigmas and lack of societal acceptance.
It’s important to understand that non-binary and transgender individuals have always existed. The American Psychological Association says “Transgender persons have been documented in many indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures and societies from antiquity until the present day.”
Different cultures have had varied perspectives on gender diversity. Some societies historically recognized and even revered non-binary and transgender individuals, while others suppressed and pathologized such identities.
Cultural attitudes influenced the mental health experiences of transgender individuals, shaping both the acceptance they received and the challenges they faced.
Social Attitudes and Stigmas
In many historical periods, and many would argue that this moment in American history is among them, transgender individuals were subjected to societal prejudice and stigma.
Non-conforming gender identities often clashed with rigid societal expectations, leading to marginalization and discrimination. Stigmatization contributed to the development of mental health challenges, as transgender individuals struggled with the emotional toll of societal rejection.
Impact of Historical Events on Mental Health
Wars, political upheavals, and other significant historical events have had profound effects on the mental health of transgender individuals. Displacement, persecution, and social upheaval could contribute to heightened stress and mental health issues. The lack of legal protections and recognition for transgender identities in various historical contexts meant that individuals faced challenges accessing appropriate mental health support.
Medicalization and Pathologization
The medicalization of transgender identities in the past often resulted in pathologization. For generations, psychiatry and psychology classified gender non-conformity as a mental disorder, adding an additional layer of stigma. In fact, the World Health Organization didn’t remove the designation of “gender identity disorder” until 2019.
Time Magazine explains: “Gender nonconformity is now included in a chapter on sexual health, rather than being listed with “mental disorders” as was the case previously.” Even so, the inclusion of “gender identity disorder” in diagnostic manuals had long-lasting implications for how society perceived and treated transgender individuals.
Evolving Awareness and Activism
The latter half of the 20th century and the early 21st century witnessed a growing awareness of transgender issues. Activists and advocates began challenging societal norms, pushing for recognition, and working towards destigmatizing transgender identities. Here are just a few of the many incredible activists working to change and shape public perception:
Increased visibility and representation have played a crucial role in reshaping societal attitudes, contributing to a more nuanced understanding of transgender mental health.
Need for Transgender Health Care
The need for mental health care in America has been on the rise following the pandemic. However, for LGBTQ+ community members, the need is even greater. The Trevor Project reports that 56% of LGBTQ+ young people who wanted mental health care in 2022 were unable to attain it.
This is alarming in its own sense, but what makes this more alarming is knowing the urgent need for Transgender mental health care. The Trevor Project’s latest survey for 2023 shows increased rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and victimization with reports of 48%-56% of Transgender young people who seriously considered suicide.
As rates of mental health concerns are high in the LGBTQ+ community, it is crucial we all do our part in finding ways to make health care and mental health care more inclusive and accessible for all, by providing health care that is gender-affirming and informed of possible past trauma.
How we can help
Galen Hope enforces a nonbiased safe space for gender-affirming care. We make sure each individual who enters through our doors feels safe, seen, and respected when in communication with us and when under our care. We hope our efforts make for a more inclusive, more productive healing environment for all individuals, as this should be the standard in all healthcare systems.
The very good news is that plenty of evidence suggests that gender-affirming care makes a significant difference and has a very positive impact. Psychiatry.org explains a few considerations that can make gender affirming care easy and effective:
- Gender affirmation
- Space for processing and understanding
- Linking to social supports, legal services, health care providers
- Creating a safe zone
- Allowing for diversity
- Reflection and empathy
If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health and have hesitations about healthcare due to personal gender or sexual identity, please know we respect you, we value you and we want to help you find healing.
Visit our site to learn how we can help.
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Built on the principles of assertive community treatment, Galen Hope is an eating disorder and mental health treatment center offering individualized treatment options that include Intensive Outpatient (IOP), supported housing, and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). As a “Community of Integrated Wellness,” we pride ourselves in fostering a thoughtful and meaningful care experience that can guide our clients on their road to recovery and increased quality of life, regardless of diagnosis. Galen Hope currently offers separate, age-specific programming for adolescents ages 12-17 and adults 18 and up, of all genders.
To learn more, or to join our community for integrated wellness, please contact us today.
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