It is incredibly and painfully unfortunate that trans youth were targeted by Trump’s administration within his first 40 days in office.
Of course it’s always disgusting to see government allow children to get in the crossfires of politically charged decisions. One of the most egregious instances of this was the recent removal of a mandate protecting trans children’s safety and dignity in using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Part of what makes this move one of the most heinous acts by President Trump since he took office Jan. 20 — and that’s really saying something — is the fact that transgender individuals are among the most at-risk populations in our country.
Last year, the murder rate of transgender people hit an all-time high and already in 2017, seven murders of transgender women of color have been reported. A national survey reported that up to 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide. Compared with the national average — a mere 4.6 percent — trans mental health is quite literally a national crisis. And as it relates directly to the trans bathroom bill, one study found that trans kids who are subjected to the humiliation of having to use a bathroom that doesn’t align with their identity are at a greater risk for attempting suicide.
It is the obligation of this country to protect all its citizens and it is especially crucial that we protect our youngest generation of trans individuals. In properly protecting them, we are also directly addressing trans mental health. New research shows very different rates of mental health among trans children ages 3-12 whose parents allow them to live openly as the gender they identify and who also have generally supportive communities, These well-supported young people had rates of depression as low as the national average (among cisgender people) and rates of anxiety only slightly higher than the national average. This amazing data indicates that it is largely discrimination and stigmatization of trans individuals that has caused such poor mental health among this population. Being transgender is not synonymous with being mentally ill. Instead, being transgender is indicative of being at a substantially greater risk of constant or frequent discrimination — it is this that causes mental illness. This distinction is paramount to understanding the trans experience and the absolute necessity of appropriate protections for all trans individuals.
For the children in the aforementioned study, the concern is that, as these kids grow older and leave the protective bubble of their parents, their risk of depression and anxiety will heighten. If we don’t continue to fight for trans equality and acceptance under the law, even trans kids with supportive families and communities are susceptible to mental-health decline.
Of course, opponents of any legislation that protects trans individuals’ right to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as also reference safety as part of their defense. They claim that such a bill would put girls and women everywhere at risk of being assaulted because a man is a man “no matter how he dresses.” At first glance, perhaps someone uneducated on trans issues might think this sounds like a reasonable safety concern: Predatory men could slap on a dress and suddenly be granted entry to the women’s restroom. The problem is, upon closer investigation, there is quite literally no data that supports this as a legitimate safety concern.
On the other hand, there are mountains of very real data on the safety risks and mental-health concerns of trans children and adults alike as it relates directly to matters like being able to simply use the bathroom.
The bottom line is that every human being is entitled to certain basic rights and if there has ever been a basic right, it is one’s right to simply go to the bathroom. Failing to ensure this and other rights to our fellow human beings is an insult to their very existence. It should not be difficult to wish to protect the physical and mental health and safety of a population of individuals who are doing absolutely nothing more than living their authentic identities. Because certainly, everyone is entitled to that too.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist specializing in issues and concerns of the LGBTQ community in addition to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental illnesses. Her private practice, Philadelphia LGBTQ Counseling, offers both individual and couples sessions (www.lgbtphillytherapy.com).
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