Transgender People in Psychology
Transgender is defined as being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth, especially of being a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth. Studies on people who identify as transgender only started in 2009, so there is a limited amount of research that has been done on this population. It was found that the average age for a person's first awareness of their transgender identity is 5.6 years old.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by healthcare professionals in North America and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. DSM has been periodically reviewed and revised since it was first published in 1952, with the current edition of DSM being the fifth edition (DSM-V).
Currently in the DSM-V, gender dysphoria is still considered a diagnosis. Gender dysphoria refers to an individuals affective/cognitive discontent with their assigned gender. There are two criteria for diagnosing gender dysphoria in the DSM-V; a marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months, and the 'condition' is associated with clinically significant distress. This is an issue because the majority of transgendered people experience distress in their lives in the form of discrimination and other pressures, which is related to their gender identity/expression, but typically the cause of the distress in their lives is not directly due to their gender identity/expression. Another issue is that in order to receive most hormonal/surgical treatments, a medical diagnosis is required, and a majority of the diagnoses would be for a 'mental disorder'. Though it is said that in the next edition of the DSM (DSM-VI) changes will be made to the classification of gender dysphoria.
Transgender youth have a higher risk of reporting psychological distress, self-harm, major depressive episodes, and suicide. Transgender youth face additional issues in their lives, especially those in the child welfare system; they are often severely stereotyped and subject to abuse, homelessness, depression, and fear. A study that was done on fifty-five transgender youth found that 54% of their mothers and 63% of their fathers initially reacted negatively, and 50% of the mothers and 44% of their fathers reacted negatively three years later. The more gender non-conforming the youth, the more likely they reported they were physically and verbally abused by their parents.
"Transgender youth face additional issues in their lives, especially those in the child welfare system; they are often severely stereotyped and subject to abuse, homelessness, depression, and fear."
Foster care, health centres, and other youth serving institutions are often unsafe for transgender youth due to institutional prejudices, lack of provider and foster-parent training, and discrimination against transgender youth by adults and peers. They tend to avoid shelters due to the discrimination they would receive and often times their room/bathroom assignments do not match with their gender identity/expression.
Research has shown that transgender youth that enter the juvenile justice system are twice as likely than other youth to have experienced family conflict, homelessness, and child abuse. The high risk backgrounds of transgender youth bring them into contact with the juvenile justice system where they are often denied basic civil rights and wrongly categorized as sexual deviant because of their gender non-conformity.
Some protective factors for transgender youth include: social support, reduced transphobia, appropriate sex designation on personal identification documents, completing a medical transition (when necessary), and parental support for gender identity.
Written By: Sydney