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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