Be An Ally to TGNC Youth

Categories: LGBTQIA + Rights
06/17/2018
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During this Pride month we are affirming those who are within LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming communities. We are validating their voices and celebrating how far they’ve come in a society that often silences and deems them as “other.” While we celebrate, let’s not forget to tackle the underlying social issues that still continue to oppress those in the LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming communities.

Working in the health field I have been elated to see trans-affirming advertisements and training. During one of our staff meetings we had a training on how to make the clinic a safe place for transgender and nonconforming youth. After meeting some transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) patients, I realized a pattern of depression and suicidal ideations. Not only is this shocking, but it has been shown to be common amongst these communities.

According to a study, 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted to end their lives and 92 percent have tried to do it before they turned 25.

Talking about suicide among transgender and gender nonconforming youth goes beyond managing processes, but requires salient social change. During Pride month, let’s talk about how we can go about making this world a more affirming space for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.

“During Pride month, let’s talk about how we can go about making this world a more affirming space for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.”

Society’s marginalization of and violence towards trans-ness is responsible for the mental distress in TGNC people. A critical factor that influences TGNC people’s mental health is whether their families and friends accept and affirm them. When those who are close to them reject them, that rejection can lead to feeling deeply invalidated and unseen.

These factors not only cause lasting pain, but ultimately isolates these individuals. TGNC youth are often kicked out of their homes or feel unsafe due to past experiences of violence and abuse. For this reason, LGBTQ+ individuals comprise  20 to 40 percent of the homeless population and TGNC experience homelessness at  2.5 times the rate of  the general population. Young TGNC people are also more likely to be in foster care, experience substance abuse, and engage in survival sex.

TGNC often experience stressors in regards to public spaces such as using public restrooms, showing personal ID’s, and being misgendered or called the wrong name. In addition, they are often bullied, ostracized and bombarded with other forms of structural violence.

So how can we help to improve suicide and mental health among TGNC and LGBTQ+ persons? We understand that  through education and teaching people the effects that the gender binary has on TGNC persons will reduce the stigma and isolation of those within the community. Furthermore, on an individual level, we need to assess our own notions about gender and the privileges we possess as being cisgender.

Next time you encounter someone in the TGNC communities, be affirming by using their true name and asking what pronouns are correct, be an advocate by listening attentively about their struggles and further educating others, and support gender-affirming spaces in medical, school and personal spaces.

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Nadia McKinney is a recent graduate from Cornell University. She majored in Biology and minored in Anthropology. While in college Nadia was an advocate for educational equality for under-served communities, women’s rights and health equity. Currently, she conducts clinical research on HPV and sexual histories. She is passionate about empowering women to love themselves fully despite societal notions that constantly shape who they should be. In the future, she hopes to create policies that will improve maternal health for women of color.