Understanding the Mental Health Experiences of Transgender Australians
There is growing body of international and Australian research that outlines the mental health experiences of transgender people.
The increasing number of studies undertaken within the transgender community, particularly in the past five years, has enabled us to better understand their needs and to identify the key areas that will determine whether there are negative or positive mental health outcomes for our transgender community.
Our Australian studies provide a consistent picture of transgender adults mental health and indicate the following:
Levels of poor mental health appear to be higher among transgender people than among Australians overall.
Experiences of discimination and exclusion are related to poor mental health.
Age appears to play an important role in determining mental health outcomes.
Social support and connectedness to the community plays an important role.
Availability of psychological support within the familly and the community is of vital importance.
Access to medical support in the form of hormone treatment and gender affirming surgeries improve mental health for those wishing these interventions.
Current Australian legislation pertaining to Gender Identity creates onerous emotional and financial demands for those transgender people negotiating our legal system and negatively impacts upon their mental health.
While the above provides an indication of the needs of our adult community, we have a limited research based picture of the mental health needs of our transgender children and adolescents.
What we do know from the studies that have been undertaken is that transgender children appear not to be confused, delayed, pretending or oppositional when it comes to their gender identity - instead they show responses typical and expected for children with their gender identity.
There are a number of key behaviours that indicate that a child or adolescent may be transgender.
They may be interested only in toys that are generally the preference of the opposite sex. They might prefer the clothes of the opposite sex and insist on wearing them. They may exhibit opposite sex bathroom behaviour - ie a girl child may insist on standing up to pee. They might be insisting that they are a girl or a boy when their sex indicates that they are not. They might be distressed about what they experience as a mismatch between their assigned sex and their gender.
It can be the case that such behaviours are a passing phase, but if these behaviours don't end, then they are not a phase.
What we do know is that by the time kids reach adolescence, if they have a gender identity that is different from their sex assigned at birth, that it is very likely that they will continue on to have that gender identity.
In order for our young transgender children and adolescents to have good mental health outcomes we need to address the issues raised by the studies and to put resources into providing the appropriate support services for them and their parents and caregivers.
Parents can play a pivotal role in providing a safe and supportive environment for their transgender children to be themselves and to reduce the detrimental effects of any societal discrimination. They can be powerful allies and advocates.
Cottesloe Counselling Centre/Counselling South provides comprehensive counselling and support services to the transgender/gender diverse community.
We provide services to the adult transgender community as well as to children, adolescents, their parents and families.
Contacting our Clinic
Individuals, parents, couples and families are welcome to contact our Centre to discuss how we may assist in providing information and support services.
If you would like further information about our servides or to make an appointment please email firstname.lastname@example.org, complete the contact form below, or telephone (08) 9278 678.
Due to the high volume of enquiries to the Centre, an email, or contact form enquiry will ensure that you receive the most timely response. Please provide your telephone number in your email enquiry. All enquiries will be responded to during business hours on the day of your enquiry.
References and Resources:
An Evidenced-Based Model for Understanding the Mental Health Experiences of Transgender Australians, The Australian Psychologist Vol.50.1 Feb 2015
Hrc.org - Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights
The Gender Centre
Transcend - Supporting Transgender Children and their Families
The Freedom Centre
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