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Some people feel threatened or uncomfortable with the existence of transgender people living in society with them. As with homosexuality, taking the time to understand transgender people may reduce feelings of fear or threat. You also need to understand that transgender people do not choose to be the way they are but discover at some point that this is part of their makeup.
The American Psychological Association published an excellent article in 2023 called Understanding transgender people, gender identity, and gender expression which clarifies what is known about transgender include the following considerations:
- 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.
- Sex as assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence as well as external and internal anatomy.
- Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.
- Transgender persons have been documented in many indigenous Western and Eastern cultures from antiquity until the present day.
- Genderqueer is a term that some people use who identify their gender as falling outside the binary constructs of “male” and “female.”
- Cross-dressing such as with drag queens and drag kings is not indicative of sexual orientation.
- There is no single explanation for why some people are transgender.
- Sexual orientation refers to physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person, whereas gender identity refers to one’s internal sense of being male, female or something else.
- Transgender people experience their gender identity in a variety of ways and may become aware of their transgender identity at any age.
- People who transition often start by expressing their preferred gender in situations where they feel safe.
- The process of transition differ widely among transgender people.
- Many obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance in society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. But this does not mean that being transgender is a mental illness or disorder.
The National Center for Transgender Equality in an article titled Understanding Transgender People: The basics, adds the following considerations:
- Someone who lives as a woman today is called a transgender woman while a transgender man lives as a man today.
- Gender expression refers to how a person presents their gender on the outside.
- When a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be when they were born, this time period is called gender transition.
- Some people undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures to change their physical characteristics and make their body match the gender they know themselves to be.
- Some transgender people identify as neither a man nor a woman and may use terms like nonbinary or genderqueer to describe their gender identity.
Suicide and suicide attempts have been studied in the United States and in India, reported in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. Recent international suicide attempt rates ranged from 32% to 50% in various countries. Factors contributing to these attempts were found to include:
- Gender based victimization.
- Rejection by family, friends and the community, police and public.
- Discrimination and ill treatment at health care centers.
- Breakup of love relationships initiated by the partner.
- Serious altercations with other family members.
- Refusal of gender/sex assignment by the family members.
- Financial problems.
- Being diagnosed with HIV positive in the past few days or weeks.
Research also identified resiliency and protective factors reducing the probability of suicide attempts. These include:
- Personal qualities such as assertive communication, self-advocacy, spiritual coping, honesty, integrity, avoidance of physical or verbal aggression, help seeking, being future -oriented, having personal goals, being outspoken, strong, friendly, outgoing, independent and determined.
- Social support from family.
- Online support from groups like the Trevor Project which provides telephonic, online, E-mail peer counseling, crisis intervention and online materials as well as information about suicide.
- More inclusion of services specifically for transgender youth in wider teen-focused help programs.
With all the negative publicity and public outrage about transgender people, one good thing did happen recently. Judge James Moody issued an injunction against an Arkansas law banning trans youth and their families from seeking gender-affirming medical care. There is hope!