Under the Hood

Discriminated Transgenders Are More Suicidal, Study Finds

The transgender population is haunted by discrimination throughout their lives, which leads to severe mental health problems. In extreme cases, it ends in suicide. A recently published analysis led by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) of the U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) launched in 2015 said that 97.7 percent of the 28,000 surveyed adult transgender people had seriously entertained the thought of suicide. 

The study narrowed down four major types of discrimination experienced in the previous year by 51 percent of the respondents who reported suicide attempts: job instability, eviction, homelessness and physical attacks. These four categories were chosen to find out the cumulative effect of stressful experiences of this minority population since these are key areas that play an important role in one’s life. 

The researchers gave the respondents scores to count how many such experiences they had endured. For example if one respondent had suffered four such instances in the past year, they would receive a score of four. However, if someone experienced one such incident the previous year, the respondent was scored zero. Likewise, the study clearly explained while revealing its methodology. 

“Experiences of discrimination and serious psychological distress go hand-in-hand, and both are associated with suicide thoughts and attempts among transgender people,’’ Jody L. Herman, lead author of the study, said. While transgender people had some of the similar reasons as the general population for suicidal ideation and attempts such as depression, substance abuse and housing instability, there are other unique factors that additonally affect them deeply as well. Learn some of these unique factors below.

transgender A transgender dressed as a hazard ribbon. Kevin Snyman/Pixabay

Unequal Treatment

Respondents who had been denied equal treatment in the areas of education, health care, law enforcement, employment and public housing had twice the chances of reporting suicide attempts made the previous year. The data said that from the transgender people who were denied opportunities, there was a 13.4 percent more likelihood of attempting suicide.This number was double in comparison to 6.3 percent of respondents who had not experienced similar discrimination but had reported suicide attempts made in the last year. 

Transgender Stigma Enforced by Family

Transgender children coping with rejection from their relatives or spouses were affected significantly. Such respondents reported twice or 10 .5 percent the prevalence of suicide attempts made the past year, compared to only 5.1 percent of suicical attempts reported by respondents who did not face rejection from their immediate families. 

Religious Reasons

Rejection by religious communities hurt them badly too. Transgender citizens in this situation were 13.1 percent more likely to report suicide attempts the past year. This statistic was double in contrast to the 6.3 percent of respondents who had reported attempting suicide or thoughts for reasons other than religion. 

Physical Assault

Domestic violence was one of the primary triggers of suicidal attempts. About 30 percent of the respondents who were physically assaulted in a public place of accommodation had reported suicidal attempts from the last year. This prevalence of suicidal attempts is four times more among victims of domestic violence than those respondents who were not attacked by their partners publicly. 

The goal of the study was to bring about policy change and offer them more support to integrate into society without the burden of stigma.

"Our analysis suggests that, along with improving access to quality gender-affirming health services, suicide prevention efforts must target the social structures and institutions that stigmatize transgender people and lead to the pervasive discrimination and violence they report," Ann P. Haas, one of the study authors and Professor Emerita in the Department of Health Sciences, Lehman College of the City University of New York, said.

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