Stigma and Stress among Transgender Women and Men

It is theorized that social stigma based on gender nonconformity plays a big role in the stigma surrounding transgender individuals. Stigma expressed as discrimination, harassment, and even violence can cause immense psychological distress to transgender individuals. In an attempt to better understand the specific stress reactions and gender differences to stigma-related stress among transgender people, Walter O. Bockting of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School recently conducted an online survey involving over 1,000 transgender men and women. The participants were asked about felt and enacted stigma, mental health, family support, social and peer support, and pride of identity.

Bockting discovered that mental health issues were high in the sample. In particular, 27.5% had somatization, 33.2% reported anxiety, and over 44% had symptoms of clinical depression. The presence of social stigma was highly correlated with mental stress and did not differ significantly between transgender women or men. Protective factors included family support and peer support. In fact, participants who reported very high levels of peer support showed resiliency to stigma-related stress.

There were some unique differences, however, between the transgender men and women in this study. First, transgender men were more likely to experience enacted stigma exhibited as job discrimination, healthcare discrimination, verbal aggression, and barriers to substance dependency services. Transgender women, on the other hand, reported much higher rates of depression than transgender men. Bockting believes that the social role of men and women contributes to this finding.

“For example,” said Bockting, “we found that many transgender women experience a loss of status and privilege as they transition to the female gender role, whereas transgender men describe the opposite.” In sum, these results clearly show that stigma can have a negative impact on many different domains of life for transgender individuals. Additionally, these findings underscore the importance of social networks that support transgender lifestyles and peer support that can protect from the negative influence of social stigma.

Bockting, Walter O., PhD., et al. (2013). Stigma, Mental Health, and Resilience in an Online Sample of the US Transgender Population. American Journal of Public Health 103.5 (2013): 943-51. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Shay K

    May 23rd, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    The unfortunate thing is that I don’t see this subsiding in society.
    As a whole there may develop a more widespread acceptance of homosexuality, but I think that transgendered individuals will always have a more difficult time.

  • Ariel

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    U wanna talk about stress? Then talk about your daddy suddenly becoming ur mama. When ur 14. Now that is stress people.

  • CJ Compton

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    This reminds me of something I read about my home state of South Carolina. There is a current law suit on behalf of a child against the state. The child’s adoptive parents are suing the state because before the child was adopted, the child had gender assignment surgery at the age of 2. Now, the child feels as if he/she is the opposite gender that was assigned. Now, this child has to live with being transgender. The parents feel that the state did not have the right to choose the child’s gender and that the child should have been able to choose when he/she was ready.

  • kathy

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    I just really don’t get people making fun of these people and treating them bad. I mean, do you really think these people want to be this way. Do you know how hard it is to be that different from other people. People need to worry about their own mess before they go sticking their nose in somebody else’s business like that. Why do people think they have the right to tear other people down.

  • uriah

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    My heart goes out to these people. Who have such a rough go of it.

    It must be so hard to feel that you were just born into the wrong body.

    And then to feel helpless about doing anything about it.

    It’s either people give you a hard time and add to your stress.

    Or you can’t afford to do anything about it.

    It just seems liek some people are dealt a really hard deck of cards in life.

    What seems so simple.

    Is so hard for some people.

    Even when they don’t choose it.

  • Richard

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Looks like i”m going to have to be the moral compass here. God made you a certain way and that’s the way you need to stay.

  • Hunter

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Just goes to show you how important good and true friends are. I am so very very very lucky that I have such a strong group of three supportive friends. They have been with me through thick and thin and have always wanted the best for me. I am so thankful for them and have no idea what I would do without them. They really are the best friends I could ever ask for.

  • Dianne

    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    So i am a little confused on something:

    is a transgender man one who was born a man and becomes a woman or vice versa?

  • Claudia

    May 23rd, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Maybe I’m a little naive… But I thought that more people with this issue would have mental health problems… I’m surprised more aren’t depressed…
    Best wishes to you all…
    I’l be thinking about you and praying for you…

  • Lisa H

    May 23rd, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Sounds like this is just as much a study in how society treats men vs. women as it is a study in transgender men and women. So, men have more acceptance and social status than women? Shocking.

  • Hammon

    May 23rd, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    People think they have it bad now?
    They should have seen what it was like before the 50’s.
    I have been transgender as long as I can remember.
    But I always kept it to myself.
    People now should be thankful they have it as good as they do.

  • diamond

    May 24th, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    Yeah there has been a lot of progress but there is SO much more that needs to be done.

    People as a whole are so narrow minded and closed off to the possibility that there is someone good in there. They are too wrapped up in what is different about this person instead of looking at the things that they may actually have in common.

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