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According to Study, Two-Thirds of Transgender Individuals Have Contemplated Suicide

 

According to a recent study conducted by Rylan J. Testa of the Center for LGBTQ Evidence-based Applied Research in Palo Alto, California, two out of every three transgender individuals surveyed have contemplated suicide. To put that in perspective, suicide ideation rates range from 6% to 12% in the general population. Transgender (trans) individuals are more likely to be victims of physical violence and sexual assault than nontransgender peers. Many transgender people have experienced significant discrimination and prejudice. Research also has shown that transgender individuals are more likely to engage in negative coping strategies to deal with stressors; rates of drug and alcohol use and other potentially harmful behaviors are elevated among the transgender population.

Testa wanted to determine how physical violence and sexual violence affected transgender men and women independently. He sought to measure the influence of various types of violence on drug use, alcohol use, and suicidal ideation and attempts in a sample of 179 transgender women and 92 transgender men. The participants were part of a larger study, the Virginia Transgender Health Initiative Survey, designed to identify any health concerns that may be associated with the transgender lifestyle — in particular, HIV prevalence and treatment.

After reviewing data from both groups of transgender participants, Testa found that sexual and physical violence directly correlated with suicide attempts and ideation in transgender men and women. Additionally, transgender men who had experienced either form of violence had higher rates of alcohol misuse, while the women who had been victims of sexual violence had increases in alcohol and drug abuse. Testa also reported that more than half of participants reported being victims of some form of violence. “Furthermore, an alarming 26.3% of trans women and 30.4% of trans men reported a history of suicide attempts,” Testa said. He also found that fewer than 10% of the victims of violence reported their attacks because they were afraid of retaliation by their attacker or the police to whom they reported the crime. Clearly, tolerance, acceptance, and non-violence are social obligations that need dramatic expansion to support the health and well-being of transgender people.

Reference:
Testa, R. J., Sciacca, L. M., Wang, F., Hendricks, M. L., Goldblum, P., Bradford, J., Bongar, B. (2012). Effects of Violence on Transgender People. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029604

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Comments
  • Dr. Lynn Banez, PhD, LPC August 31st, 2012 at 8:05 PM #1

    Important & much needed research/article. The article shines the light on first the lack of awarness & knowledge of trans people. The multiple layers of “membership” in groups that experience opression becomes clearer in terms of being assaulted, feeling ashamed & fearful of reporting because of “membership in non-dominant group (woman, trans, etc)” and feeling unable to report for fear over the response by those who are supposed to help such as police who often lack appropriate training & understanding. All these layers of “having to fight for your rights & dignity” leads to dispair and ways to relieve bad, difficult feelings, forgetting the incidents and turning to substance misuse/abuse and suicide, the ultimate “out” from painful events, memories & feelings. Definitely need to provide people with accurate info and an open, honest conversation about being transgender, being a woman who has to feal with sexism, being assaulted…esp as a man and then being transgender, woman or man who was abused or sexually assaulted. We need to advocate on their behalf and to increase education on all areas. Article is good start!

  • Lita September 1st, 2012 at 5:41 AM #2

    Think of the sheer amount of abuse and hatred that a transgender person has had to endure for a long period of time and then think about how this would make you feel. That is something difficult that most of us would struggle with, so it soes not surprise me that this demographic has to sadly deal with higher than the norm rates of suicide and depression. If someone you love is dealing with this in their own lives, I so encourage you to help them seek counseling. This is not to try to change them because I don’t believe in that; but more to give them guidance and support and show them that this is okay and that no matter they need to feel good about who they are.

  • Dale September 1st, 2012 at 7:09 AM #3

    Two thirds?! It is a crazy figure for any group! While stress and abuse can play a role in alcohol and drug abuse the clear lack of support system and difference in attitudes of others when it comes to trans people is what is driving them down this dangerous road. Having problems is one thing but having no support or help to deal with it is quite another and that is clearly lacking for them and needs some serious look in.

  • Frances Tadda September 1st, 2012 at 8:49 AM #4

    I agree with the three posters, this is very necessary research and a good start. Dale further points out “the clear lack of support system and difference in attitudes of others when it comes to trans people is what is driving them down this dangerous road.”
    The point I’d like to stress, using Dale’s thought “difference in attitudes of others”, is in the main article’s wording, namely, “health concerns that may be associated with the transgender lifestyle.”
    Unfortunately, most researchers are not themselves transgender, nor do they often know someone of a close relation that is. So, I ask you to please STOP USING THAT TERM! Being transgender is NOT a freaking lifestyle!! We are human beings, who happen to have bodies that are not congruent with our internal sense of self. This isn’t a choice, as the word “lifestyle” implies, it is who we are.

  • Amber Powell September 1st, 2012 at 9:46 AM #5

    Im not offended by the use of the word lifestyle in the context here. I can only assume that such a group of illustrious people know it is hardly a choice. As for the results – no surprise at all. Likely they are under reported as many feel ashamed or have internalized transphobia.

    No sensible trans woman who is “out” will call the police if it can possibly be avoided.

    However, im sorry to let this same group of clever men know that very very few trans people would ever fill out a questionnaire like this. For those who survive a transition, they are mostly intensely private and would not take the risk of getting involved with this sort of thing. Most people are only out during their transition and after we simply disappear.

    Completing transition eases our distress considerably and – no – its not just about GRS. That is one small part only.

    It would certainly be helpful if you could elicit the help of actual trans people.

  • Solomon September 1st, 2012 at 10:11 AM #6

    I agree with Dale! This is a crazy statistic! Two thirds? I would be scared to death if I had a family member engaged in this kind of lifestyle, not necessarily because of that choice, because that is something he will have to live with. But it would make me frightened for his safety and sanity to be transgender.

  • Jenn September 1st, 2012 at 11:41 AM #7

    @Frances, I don’t think the article is referring to being transgender as a lifestyle. Rather, I think that the reference is to the fact that many trans people do make lifestyle choices – for example, the enormous percentage of trans women who are escorts, or the high rate of drug/alcohol use cited in the article – which are risky, health-wise.

    Obviously, trans people are primarily driven into making those lifestyle choices by circumstances, including systematic oppression and discrimination. They are lifestyle choices nonetheless.

  • DOnaLD September 1st, 2012 at 1:53 PM #8

    While there’s no arguing the fact that help for transgender people is not as easily available or accessible as other people,that should not become something of an excuse.A lot of people just do not seek treatment or help and go on to be involved in alcohol and drugs.That is a not a failure of the support system,that is a failure of the individual,transgender or not!

  • Joe September 2nd, 2012 at 4:25 AM #9

    I guess I don’t know much about this whole trans gender issue- are these men and women who want to be the opposite sex from what they are, or they dress like that sometimes, in the midst of having sex change operations, what? It might help me understand this a whole lot better if I knew what I should be thinking about!

  • gerard September 2nd, 2012 at 3:24 PM #10

    Lita:Yes,it must be absolutely pathetic to deal with all the trouble and hatred from people.And for what?For something you have no choice over,something that happens and is not done.Its almost like being put down for something you have no control over!

  • Haley September 2nd, 2012 at 8:14 PM #11

    Transgender individuals, to put it simply, are people who are born into a body associated with one gender, but feel as if they belong to another. A transgender woman would be someone born with a “male” body, but feels she is female. A transgender man is someone who is born into a “female” body, but feels he is male.

  • Carlos September 3rd, 2012 at 5:54 AM #12

    I for one am tired of all of this happening to people who have done nothing to deserve that, they have been conditioned to hate themselves that they have to live with the fact that depression will be a large part of their lives along with self hatred and hatred from other people who have never even met them!
    Aren’t we ready to move on past this? To know that we can be better than this?

  • grrl aex September 3rd, 2012 at 7:17 AM #13

    The article states “… health concerns that may be associated with the transgender lifestyle-…”

    “the lifestyle” is singular which precludes an interpretation of meaning as plural as in “lifestyle choices”. Whoever wrote this article was definitely referring to the transgender condition as a mere “lifestyle”.

    This is the language used by those who are, ironically, the cause of the problems the reviewed paper addresses within the transgender population. “Lifestyle” is the language of the oppressor and the bigot. It is code for “choice” and thus code for “bad choices; bad outcomes” and fosters/justifies a general overarching blame-the-victim mentality, thus absolving the bigot of their own responsibility in creating the problems their targeted group experiences at the bigots’ hands.

    Being transgender is not a lifestyle choice; it is a condition of life.

  • MaxSpeed September 3rd, 2012 at 11:49 PM #14

    The only reason so many trans individuals contemplate suicide is because of the people around them telling them all sorts of negative things.No matter how optimistic a person you are things you hear and endure day in and day out will finally get to you.It is a collective crime that many people take part in and it needs to stop at oncE!

  • Nat September 4th, 2012 at 4:24 AM #15

    There is already so much violence and hate in our world.
    Do we wish to encourage and even increase that by this kind of behavior?
    Suicide is so terrible, difficult to contemplate and difficult for a family to process when they are left behind.
    Is it to much to ask just to let each be his own?

  • josephine p September 4th, 2012 at 11:09 AM #16

    could be all about attention seeking
    they have “contemplated” suicide but never tried or succeeded
    have we given any thoughts to how they could be using this as a way to seek attention?
    of course getting attention like this is not healthy but maybe they are just looking for some kind of affirmarion that they don’t otherwise see that they are getting

  • One2One September 4th, 2012 at 2:19 PM #17

    Discrimination and prejudice is present, theres no doubting that but how can these people let others’ words and actions affect them so much that they even contemplate suicide?? I cannot understand this. No matter what others say or do that should not affect you to such an extent,period.

    To have others influence you so much means you need to buckle up somewhere,maybe that is what is bringing thoughts of suicide in your mind.

  • Jocelyn September 4th, 2012 at 3:54 PM #18

    Subjecting a group of people to things such as abuse,discrimination and ill treatment for something they don’t even have the choice over – that in itself is a crime and the ones that do this are the ones that are not normal and they need punishment and some preaching!

    I have seen a lot of transgenders who have been abused and discriminated against for no mistake of theirs and really, they need help on a community level. People need to be sensitized to their problems and awareness is of paramount importance in things such as these.

  • deanne p September 5th, 2012 at 4:16 AM #19

    I am assuming that in larger cities where this is more out in the open that there are more therapists geared toward meeting these specific needs?

  • Kris Smith September 5th, 2012 at 10:10 AM #20

    It would help if “transgender” wasn’t defined to mean everyone from an intersex baby to a cross-dressing sexual fetishist, wouldn’t it?

  • Brisbane January 13th, 2013 at 10:35 PM #21

    I think also that transgender people may consider suicide due to the social stigma and discrimination they receive that may greatly contribute to their unhappiness. Perhaps when society stops judging them, they may be able to live a little happier within themselves and the statistics from these studies may change.

  • RachelAnn March 18th, 2013 at 5:53 AM #22

    I’m a transgender woman; in transition now for 13 years. (Though I’m also forced to keep my “guy” self alive for purposes of keeping my children, my insurance, and my legal married status.) I’m one of those two-thirds who contemplated suicide. I started having suicidal thoughts when I was 14 and entering puberty, and they continued and intensified until I was well into my transition, almost 30 years later. The reason for the suicidal thoughts is first and foremost from the dichotomy of your absolute perception of your gender being the exact opposite of your outward gender. And the dichotomy increases if left untreated. I still have to fight suicidal thoughts when I go through a “down” emotional period. For myself, my faith sustained me or I would have absolutely killed myself before I turned 20, which was back in 1980, when treatment for the TG condition was only just emerging from the medical dark ages. (Driving full speed into an freeway bridge abutment was my choice of suicide, and I rated abutments by how certain they would do the job. I still do it, but the intent is gone for the most part.)

    But suicidal thoughts come from multiple sources/stimuli. I have been discriminated against frequently. I have had co-workers who supported me just watch silently as one person abused my daily for two years in the office; afraid that if they stepped in, he would leave the computer program he was writing for the company unfinished. I have a stable career, but know if I needed to change jobs it could be a nightmare. I have a loving family who supports me, but there’s always the fear of public discovery, which would lead to ridicule of our children in high school. And possibly having Child Protective Services take them away from us because my being TG could make me an unfit parent. My own brothers and sisters, cousins, etc. have essentially ignored or rejected me. Because of all this, I need to maintain my male persona in numerous locations for the sake of my spouse and children, which adds stress on to me. (It’s worth it, but there’s a price.)

    And keep in mind that the 66% contemplation rate is actually higher, since it doesn’t include the 25%-50% of TG people who contemplated and DID commit suicide.

    There is hope. I’ve lectured to medical students at two medical universities in this area. There are more and more people who are curious and friendly about and toward transgendered people. And knowing about a thing will lesson fear of that thing.

    But from the transgendered point of view, we need to keep quiet or risk what little security we’ve built up. For most of us, opening up is a scary ordeal that has lead to grief in the past. Will I report a crime where I’m sexually assaulted? No, probably not. The fallout that would happen as a result of my being outed could be even worse than the assault itself.

    A transgendered person who is receiving therapy and medical treatment is always happier. But the price for internal calm is usually social damnation. If you have occasion to meet and befriend a transgendered person, be patient. We are always willing to have a new friend. And, having kept our secret for so many years, we jump at the chance to talk. Just allow us our caginess, our oddities, and our eagerness to be ourselves.

    Thank you.

  • Brianne c April 12th, 2013 at 6:56 PM #23

    Im a male to female transgender .
    Im one of the lucky ones, I have a good job
    own my own house, have a few motorbikes,
    pilots license,and pass for female even
    when dressed in coveralls at work, Helicopter
    mechanic.
    I have been close to ending my life more
    than once before starting hormone theropy.
    the gun was loaded and I dident want to spend
    another day in sadness. Im still here because I
    couldent leave my kids alone, that wouldent be
    fair. Since Hormones Im alot happier, confident a better partner and parent, not ot mention better looking, thanks Premrin.
    This is not a lifestyle or something someone chooses.
    No one would put themselves through this, it is how
    we were born and we hurt all thi time.
    It can get better though with help and Hormones, Hormones and Surgery are a huge part of this journey , they help us match the outside body with the inside mind.
    We also NEED to help the youth before they get to the
    stage where they are in this pain, it scars us forever.
    Thanks for all the support out there it makes it possible for us to go on.
    Brianne Chabassol

  • Nichola October 1st, 2014 at 7:33 AM #24

    Domestic violence (DV) – wife trying to ‘man-me-up’ – arguments for nothing, beatings, Once stabbed in hand- none reported to Police – embarrassed re the reasons, also the circumstances/ thinking of her 1xchild from previous marriage and not wanting to be responsible for mother being locked up.

    Self Mutilation – of lower regions

    Marriage for society – which resulted in 7years of domestic violence (DV), physically and mentally- NONE of which ever got reported – this would; ‘out me.’

    Dressing and experimenting in secret

    Threatened with a machete cause I looked like a tranny
    (TRANNY:- someone who doesn’t pass as being a girl or shouts out they are a transsexual / transgender/cross dresser/ drag queen)
    and not a Tgirl
    (TGIRL:- someone whether they are pre-op or post-op, that passes for a girl in street and doesn’t shout out about being as medically classed – a transgender or transsexual).
    Sorry if those definitions hurt but that’s how they are looked upon in Thailand, Philippines, Parts of England. Parts of Scotland.

    Not a happy marriage – no friends allowed – she refusing to work – financial strain on me and draining physically and mentally. Working 12hrs a day with 2 days off a month. Travelling 2hrs either side to and from work.

    Coming to terms re myself – what I have to do. Not want to do. Not in wrong body but I’m needing to correct nature’s mistakes. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

    Informing Parents – Their response and initial words:
    “I make them sick- worse than being gay – can I not stay male and dress behind closed curtains – metaphorically speaking ‘keep the curtains white’”

    Brother & rest of family exile me- I am left with no close family.

    Leaving kids

    Leaving wife

    Leaving a house that I had bought using inheritance money with as a deposit 3 years prior to meeting my ex or her moving in .

    Living in car for 2 months as cant afford sustaining wife, kids, house debt of credit cards, loans, etc and myself in separate accommodation.

    Ex’s new bf, 20 days after I leave the family home- flies over from Dublin and moves in, not paying a thing for 5 months.

    Abortion of a planned 4th- to get me to stop transitioning when she knew who I really was.

    Access Denied to kids

    Ex’s new bf threatens me with the IRA cause I was wanting to see my kids and this upset my ex…

    Reassuring my children that I love them. And its not cause of them that this has occurred-. Ex’s first child who was 13yrs of age, kept trying to tell my two children aged 2 and 4 years of age, that I left cause I don’t love them. That hurt as I raised her child from 6years and up giving her everything she ever wanted.

    Kids leave UK with wife & her new husband to Dublin 6 months after split with courts ordering me to pay moving costs when already in debt by £140,000 pounds

    IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) for £65,000. £100,000 added to mortgage
    House cleared out and rented out to the council as I cant afford to live in the house I had paid for prior to meeting my ex. Mortgage went from £500.00/month(£92,000 mortgage) to £1400.00 pounds/month (£192,000 mortgage)

    Divorce

    keeping payments up for the kids – £1000/month as per court order

    Dealing with work colleagues

    One being out and about – being criticized by passer by or by others in clubs:
    -Your too fat
    -Your eye brows need working
    -u have hair on your arms
    -u have no breasts
    -u have facial hair
    -why are your nails short
    -Your arms are fat
    -Your ankles are manly looking
    -Your voice is manly
    -You cant walk in heels

    Full body (head->toes) laser sessions – 4hrs/session x9 – this is pain

    Learn to walk in heels

    Lose a hell of a lot of weight so much so my boss thought I had taken ill with cancer.

    Sort out any hair issues.

    Informing work of what was going to occur- I was shitting myself telling my employer of 10 years of what had been going on.

    Sexually assaulted by a now ex boyfriend when I passed out from alcohol in his holiday home in North England. Others in the house had put me to bed after finding me sleeping on the floor/passed out. The boyfriend stripped me and knowing what he wasn’t allowed to do or what I refused to do when sober, did them anyway. Next morning I had images of things and remember saying NO on many occasion and trying to push someone away but couldn’t. I was also completely naked. He denied at first doing anything to me in private and in-front of the others in the house. I asked if they had done anything or how I was naked. They all said they didn’t know as they put me to bed with a tee shirt on and my knickers. On leaving the house and leaving the boyfriend behind, he took me to the side & told me quietly away from the others what he had done and said sorry. I was mortified and embarrassed that I had trusted someone and let myself become a victim. Anger, embarrassment, distrust, hatred, towards him and myself, pitied him even… I didn’t report this as I felt embarrassed to say the least, had washed, blamed myself and not him for his actions. My fault in giving him temptation. My fault for trusting him. My fault for getting so drunk. My fault entirely. I couldn’t and didn’t see him at fault.
    Now I know it was his fault. I wish I had done something. I now never trust anyone as I did him. Now I don’t drink till I’m defenseless. I always keep in mind a way to get away from anyone and everyone where ever I go or travel.

    Time to try and improve myself – Operations x 5
    1) Female Feminization Surgery (FFS):
    -jaw broke, re-aligned, cut
    -cheek implants
    -nose job
    -Shortened philtrum
    -fat redistribution onto cheeks
    -lips
    2) FUE Hair transplant:
    3) Breast implants
    4) 1st part birth mark removal
    5) 2nd part birth mark removal

    Access Denied to kids

    Returning to work as Nichola and dealing with those that were curious and those refusing to speak or work with myself. As well as those backstabbing me in the back and demanding to know why I was being allowed to use female changing areas and toilets and demanding to know the extent of my surgery. The bosses did what they could and still are to keep all at bay but I know, feel, see it on occasion from some who were friends prior but now not willing to even say hi to me for religious, personal reasons.

    Access to kids as Nichola

    Finances changed and with IVA permission and letter from a solicitor to my ex- her money was reduced to £650/month with the extra £350 being used for me to travel and stay in a nearby hostel when she allowed me access to my kids for a supervised 4hrs- she complained to my solicitor who told her to take me to court but she would lose as I needed more than £150/month to live off after rent and the £150.00/month was seen as an extra control factor in stopping me financially seeing my kids.

    Changes in meds re Hormones

    Access Denied to kids

    Relationship issues involving work – Male claimed to be in army – work made aware- work found him to be lying which in turned questioned my ability to work for the company- in that I was dating a liar- an internal investigation and papers were served on me.
    The lying male – was got rid of but involved me attending local police station to get a harassment warning issued against him as he was constantly contacting me by phone-text-emails-even approached me in public with all at my local pub aware- Police called and harassment warning issued- at no time did i return his calls, answer texts or emails. I advised the police he was threatening suicide to get a response from me- this past to police in case he did this- but it were him seeking attention.

    Lack of sleep issues – 9yrs

    Tried to commit suicide but Ambulance & Police found me in first stages of hypothermia – embarrassing – Abandoned my car with all my worldly belongings in it, and was seen lying in a ditch found by dog walker thinking I was dead.
    Arrested for drunk & incapable as the Police weren’t sure what to do – Only to realize in custody that I had given up on life and was happy for nature to takes its course and to die- hence being found with first stages of hypothermia

    Anti depressants added to the many pills already having to take.

    Counseling sessions set up by work with reduced working hours.
    awaiting SRS – still 7 months delayed

    Eviction from house as owners want to sell it- so have to move for a third time.
    More delays in SRS cause surgeons walk out and join private sector- another 3 month delay for out patient appt.

    Parent has heart attack – they advise me a week after that it occurred and told everyone including the milkman- but told me immediate family only needed to know – reminded me they don’t support my actions or way of life.

    Transphobic public order in local pub – words of advice given – no police called – 05/09/2014

    Parent is in a near death car crash whereby her Range-Rover was written off with a head on collision- again told a week later as only immediate family needed to know according to both parents- again reminding me- I have no family but my kids who I don’t get to see or speak to.

    Ex now re married to Dublin bf with a new born – also find out they had been over to the UK visiting her friend which is 5 mins away from where I live- I could have seen my kids for an hour or so if she had told me and not gone non-contactable for 5 months.

    Transphobic threats of violence – 18/09/2014

    Transphobic public order / common assault in Crawley – 29/09/2014

    Today 01/Oct/2014 found myself on my way to work at 6am crossing Lambeth Bridge thinking my escape route / cowards way out / my plan of action one day to be if things don’t improve – looked more welcoming than ever – a release of pain and or thought – to walk off of the bridge and end it and let the tides of the Thames take me away from this grief.

  • Nichola October 1st, 2014 at 7:44 AM #25

    As per norm all of the above is slowly fading thoughts and memories and I’m thinking of future days to come…

    Anyone transitioning or thinking about it- I hope u choose carefully ur decision but with a open mind that rejection is a big big part of it regardless of the law…

    Are u strong enough to survive being alone…

    So far I’m coping… But thoughts are always there… It’s when u take action that’s when it scares u…

  • GoodTherapyAdmin GoodTherapyAdmin October 1st, 2014 at 9:18 AM #26

    Thank you for your comment, Nichola. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Sophie Parkhill December 1st, 2014 at 6:22 AM #27

    Jesus hon, you have been through the wringer! Good luck with your future.

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