The growing prevalence of anti-transgender laws affects mental health

Key Takeaways

  • Multiple pieces of anti-transgender legislation are being considered across the United States, with only 16 states exempt.
  • Issues such as gender-affirming care, gender-segregated sports teams and education are under fire.
  • Proposing anti-trans legislation affects the mental health of trans people, even if it doesn’t pass.

The issue of transgenderism and transgender rights in the United States has been an extremely divisive issue over the past few years. Trans rights are human rights but an ongoing lack of understanding and tolerance has led to the creation of multiple anti-trans bills.

From Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passed earlier this year, opposing gender-affirming care, to states trying to bar trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, LGBTQIA+ rights are ‘dominating the culture wars’ and the US is divided. remains

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 was the worst year for anti-LGBTQ+ laws in recent history — but was 2022 worse?

While Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bill has made a lot of headlines, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Freedom for All Americans tracks anti-transgender legislation across the United States, and according to their density map, there are only 16 states where no anti-transgender legislation is currently being considered.

The targeting of any minority group by a governing body has serious mental health consequences, and trans people are no exception. Many of the candidates running for election or re-election during the midterms support such legislation, so building sympathy and expanding awareness is essential to fighting these measures.

Mental health impact assessment

The 2015 US Transgender Survey may be a few years old now, but it remains the largest survey looking at the experiences of trans people across the country. Responses for a 2022 survey are currently being collected, and will offer a more up-to-date overview when it is published, but in the meantime, the 2015 USTS offers some valuable insights.

Respondents reported high levels of harassment, violence and mistreatment. More than half (54%) of respondents who were ‘out’ or perceived as transgender at school were verbally harassed, while three in ten respondents reported being rejected for promotion, fired or otherwise experiencing some form of mistreatment at school in the year before completing the survey.

Kyleigh Klein, MA LMHC NCC

Even when it is not passed, discriminatory legislation has been shown to increase feelings of alienation, hopelessness, and despair from continued marginalization and stigma.

— Kayleigh Klein, MA LMHC NCC

39% of respondents reported “severe emotional distress” in the month leading up to completing the survey, compared to 5% in the general population, while 40% had attempted suicide – a suicide attempt rate in the general population was 4.6%.

and the mental health of young trans people in particular

In the United Kingdom, Stonewall’s 2017 schools report found that 84% of young trans people had self-harmed, with 45% of young trans people attempting suicide.

A 2016 study found that more than 40% of young trans women have experienced transgender-based discrimination and linked this discrimination to a doubling of the risk of depression, a tripling of the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and an eightfold increase in the risk. Suicidal thoughts.

More recently, a study focusing on youth in Colorado found that transgender and gender-diverse youth were two to three times more likely to have mental health problems than their peers.

“Anti-trans laws have a huge negative impact on the mental health and physical well-being of trans and non-binary youth,” says Kyleigh Klein, MA LMHC NCC, a behavioral therapist at Brightline. “Even when it doesn’t pass, discriminatory legislation has been shown to increase feelings of isolation, hopelessness and despair from continued marginalization and stigma.

Klein added, “Lack of gender-affirming and safe environments resulting from anti-trans laws leads to significant increases in depression, anxiety, and suicide risk among trans and non-binary youth—and decreases access to life-saving gender-affirming treatment. Care exacerbates these issues.” All of these issues negatively impact a young person’s emotional well-being and safety, and can harm their ability to simply survive both at home and at school.”

Resist anti-transgender laws

However bleak things may look, there are reasons to be optimistic. In June, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to curb discrimination against trans youth and end federal funding for transition therapy, also asking the federal health and education departments to expand access to gender-affirming medical care.

At a more grassroots level, many activists tirelessly make a difference and fight against transphobia. The TransLatina Coalition, which was founded in 2009 to “address the specific needs of TGI (transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex) Latinx immigrants living in the United States,” from the Brave Space Alliance, which bills itself as “Chicago’s first black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ center. located on the south side”.

what can you do

For parents, it’s important to talk to your children and have open conversations, Klein says, while parents of trans and non-binary youth in particular can connect them with other trans and non-binary youth and their families.

“Community and connection are so important, especially because it can feel incredibly isolating and scary at times,” she says, “advocate for your child and make sure you research and learn about your child’s rights, especially at school. At your local PFLAG chapter (Parents, Families and Friends of Gays) Join and connect with the ACLU for legal help.”

Hana Patel, MBBS BSc MSc, GP specialist in mental and sexual health and mindset trainer, said: “Just as we protect students from people who believe that corporal punishment is a way of disciplining children, we must also protect them from people who believe .Students should not be allowed to change socially at school.And these things are directly comparable because both cause immediate, lasting and avoidable harm.

“Schools are in a position to support not only the young person, but also the adults in their lives as they go through potentially turbulent times of transition, when often faced with the reactions of family members or communities to support their child. Helping parents work for their children. Steadfast allies can play a critical role but your support and reassurance can be the difference between a student’s parents actively supporting them or not.”

In the meantime, everyone, whether they are parents or educators, “can get out and vote for leaders who prioritize the health and well-being of trans and other queer youth.

“Get active in your community and speak out against anti-trans or anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Be vocal about it and be vocal supporters of youth who play on sports teams that align with their gender identity, use their identified names and pronouns, push for gender-inclusive restrooms, and implement anti-bullying programs in schools,” said Klein.

What does this mean for you?

The rise of anti-transgender laws can affect the mental health of trans and non-binary people even if it doesn’t directly affect them—for example, even if they live in a different state. While there are reasons for optimism, it’s hard to ignore the real impact anti-transgender laws are having on the lives of real people across the United States. There are support groups, many available online.

If you need immediate assistance during a crisis, please contact Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or Trevor Project Lifeline at 866-488-7386.

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