November 13-19 is Trans Awareness Week.
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we are in the middle of the week of a mental health concern for which we should not be grateful. From November 13-19, it is Trans Awareness Week. In other words, we need to remember the psychological and societal challenges of being trans. The following day, November 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
What do we currently need to be aware of? The Human Rights Campaign announced on Wednesday that at least 32 transgender and gender-nonbinary people have been killed in the United States so far in 2022. Over half of them were Black and about 80% of darker skin color or a trans woman.1
This data is the tip of the physical and psychological violence iceberg towards trans individuals which, despite positive gains in recent years, still includes a higher rate of discrimination, hostility, and suicide than those within the gender binary. The social challenges also seem to contribute to increased rates of psychosis, such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders.2 Backlash is taking place in some locations, including the threat that Florida will legally block any transgender medical care.
Transgender Awareness Week was designed to help raise awareness and action to address these challenges. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey suggests that about 58% of Americans think that they have never met someone who is trans.3 Passing without notice may be desired at times, but knowledgeable interpersonal relationships generally seem to reduce prejudice.
Organized psychiatry has done much to try to reduce the stigma of being trans, yet has not completely eliminated it from the DSM as had been done with homosexuality.
Personally, I experienced the paradox of working part-time with trans individuals from 1992-2012, and ended up feeling that they were the most courageous patients I ever saw, but wishing they never had to use such courage to go through those difficult transitions. In our own family, we will be grateful for our own trans individuals this Thanksgiving, but will be even more grateful when the risks diminish.
My psychological and human plea: Our family would be so grateful if you helped make that happen. Thank you.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.
1. Schoenbaum H. Report: At least 32 transgender people killed in US in 2022. AP News. November 16, 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://apnews.com/article/transgender-deaths-america-2022-data-76c8ba3936e9a724377d1733a4619d7c
2. Barr SM, Roberts D, Thakkar KN. Psychosis in transgender and gender non-conforming individuals: a review of the literature and a call for more research. Psychiatry Res. 2021;306:114272.
3. Minkin R, Brown A. Rising shares of U.S. adults know someone who is transgender or goes by gender-neutral pronouns. Pew Research Center. July 27, 2021. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/07/27/rising-shares-of-u-s-adults-know-someone-who-is-transgender-or-goes-by-gender-neutral-pronouns/