You can only lie about who you are for so long without going crazy – Ellen Wittlinger
If I had a pound for each time I heard phrases such as, “Transgender is a mental illness” I’d be quite the rich woman by now. It’s needless to say that being transgender is not a mental illness – but transgender people are more likely to experience mental illness than the general population, and this is a scary fact that can be ignored no longer.
Many transgender people experience mental illness and have contact with the mental health services due to the difficulties that come with being transgender.
It’s the social nonacceptance. The fear of attack and being disowned. The fear and hatred of our own bodies. So many factors go into this, and it’s complicated and different for each individual. But there’s an important point here that must be made: transgender people need respect and love from society if we are going to combat this mental illness epidemic.
The sad thing is that transgender people with mental health issues will often have their treatment with the gender clinic delayed because “the mental health needs addressing first” – yet receiving the treatment is likely to improve our mental health significantly. I know from personal experience that a large part of my mental health issues is caused by my insecurities and hatred of my body, and if I could have access to treatment faster without delays due to my history with the mental health team —my mental health would be hugely improved.
We need to think about transgender children too. Stonewall’s 2017 school report revealed that almost half of transgender school children in the UK have attempted suicide at some point.
Two in three trans children face bullying at school, with a shocking number of respondents reporting receiving death threats from their peers.
Society needs to wake up to this huge problem we are collectively facing. Transgender people are committing suicide. They’re being killed around the world simply for being trans. They’re self-harming and going to the black market to secure, potentially dangerous, hormones.
This problem isn’t just about looking at the way in which transgender people are treated by the NHS and speeding up waiting times (which, by the way, are ridiculously long). This problem is about society as a whole changing its tune. We need less of the “man in a dress” and “look at the size of those hands” and “you look like a butch lesbian.” We need less of the hatred projected towards our community. We need society to not just accept us, but embrace us as a part of it.
We also need to review mental health services, something Theresa May keeps promising to do but never seems to get round to. It isn’t acceptable that transgender people are self-harming and facing huge waiting lists for treatment. It isn’t acceptable that transgender people are killing themselves because of their mental health and the way they feel society treats them.
Transphobia is a hate crime, but the police need to do more to tackle this issue. The police need to go on a campaign to urge transgender people to trust them and trust that transphobia, in all forms, will be dealt with. I know so many trans people who do not go to the police when they experience hate crimes due to the way they identify, and it’s a real shame that the police aren’t fully trusted by our community.
On the whole, things need to change in all areas of our society. The NHS needs to improve its offering. The government needs to take more steps to tackle the social injustices and inequalities we face. The government and the NHS need to work together to improve trans services and mental health services. And finally, the police need to be tougher on transphobia and reinforce that it isn’t acceptable in our society.
Just one transgender person killing themselves because of mental health is one too many—and we need to address this urgently! Start talking about things and help our community to bring about a change for all!