5 Things To Know About Suicide In The Trans Community

by Chris Burner, LCSWA, MDIV, SEP

The word “transgender” is used to describe persons whose gender identification differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. This term includes individuals assigned male at birth who identify as female, individuals who are assigned female at birth and identify as male, and also individuals who describe their gender identification to be unincorporated within the binary of male-female gender categories (Perez-Brumer, Hatzenbuehler, Oldenburg & Bockting, 2015). Because transgender individuals inhabit a lower-status social group, these persons experience more discrimination, violence, and victimization in comparison to cisgender (a term which refers to one’s gender identity that aligns with one’s birth gender) individuals (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015). Research shows that these aforementioned stressors—discrimination, violence, and victimization—within the transgender community increase mental health risk factors, including depression and anxiety, & heighten vulnerability to suicidal risks and attempts (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015; Tebbe & Moradi, 2016).

Victimization and discrimination
 Sexual minority populations, including trans men and women, experience high rates of violence, discrimination, and rejection (Barboza, Dominguez, & Chance, 2016), which may exacerbate one’s risk of suicidal attempts. Additionally, repeated exposure to transphobia significantly increases lifetime suicidal attempts (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015).

 Studies show that anywhere from 0.3% to 5% of the U.S. population identify as transgender (Hyderi, Angel, Madison, Perry, & Hagshenas, 2016). According to the Pew Research Center (2015), during a 2013 survey of approximately 1,100 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, 5% of adults identified primarily as transgender. Of that study, LGB adult participants reported little social acceptance for transgender persons and only a small percentage cited that they could relate with transgender persons (Pew Research Center, 2015).
Within the American transgender population, the lifetime prevalence of suicidal attempts registers at 41% in comparison to 9% in the general population (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015).

Significance of condition within transgender youth community
 Within the transgender youth population, troubling statistics suggest that a large number of trans-identified youth have attempted suicide (Clements-Nolle et al., 2006). Studies indicate that gender nonconformity, interpersonal conflict based on sexual orientation, sexual identity transparency, and lack of familial support serve as risk factors influencing attempted suicide among youth (Clements-Nolle et al., 2006). In addition to sexual identity struggles, gender identity conflict within trans youth also compounds stress factors within the transgendered youth population (Clements-Nolle et al., 2006).

Individual and communal traits that affect course of condition
 On an individual level, internalized transphobia, which can be described as an internalization of society’s negative conceptions about transgenderism, affects one’s self-esteem and self-worth (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015). Internalized transphobia has been directly linked to increased suicidality within the transgender community (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015).
 Structural stigma involves societal-level conditions, including but not limited to institutional policies and behaviors, laws, and religious proceedings (Perez-Brumer et al., 2015). High levels of structural stigma increases health risks for vulnerable populations. Studies indicate that persons who live within highly stigmatized environments are more likely to engage in substance use and suicidal attempts (Perez- Brumer et al., 2015).

Impact on individuals, families, and communities
 Suicide has profound effects on survivors’ social networks; the most deleterious impact occurs with the desire to affix blame—this is particularly true among parents who lose children to suicide (Cerel, Jordan, & Duberstein, 2008). Due to the fact that shame may make it especially difficult for surviving family members to broach the topic of suicide (Cerel et al., 2008), individual therapeutic counseling provides an ideal place for transparency and de-stigmatization.

Research is clear: familial, individual, and communal support for transgender-identified individuals is integral for resiliency and can potentially make a life or death difference. Additionally, by supporting families during their journey of acceptance, validation, and affirmation, we can directly alter the potentially disastrous effects of stigma upon transgender individuals.

Resources for Parents:
 Gender Diverse & Transgender Children
 Parenting a Gender Diverse Child: Hard Questions Answered
 Family Acceptance Project
 Gender Spectrum
 Trans Youth Family Allies
 Explore: Parenting (Human Rights Campaign)
 The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper (Cleis Press, 2008)
 The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper (Cleis Press, 2008)

Resources for Teachers & Schools:
 Gender Spectrum
 Schools in Transitions (Gender Spectrum)
 LGBT Youth Resourses (American Physchological Association)
 Welcoming Schools (a project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation)
 LQBTQ Resources for Professionals (Advocates for Youth)
 The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper (Cleis Press, 2008)
 The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper (Cleis Press, 2008)

Resources for Youth:
 Trevor Project
 Trans Student Educational Resources
 Youth Pride
 The Gender Book
 Living Openly: Coming Out Guides and Resources (Human Rights Campaign)
 The Gender Quest Workbook: A Guide for Teens and Young Adults Exploring Gender Identity by Rylan Jay Testa (Instant Help, 2015)

Advocacy Organizations:
 The Human Rights Campaign
 National Center for Transgender Equality
 Trans Youth Equality Foundation
 The Transgender Law and Policy Institute
 Lambda Legal

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