By Asis for Cake:
Many trans people are mentally ill. That is to say, mental illness(es) seem to be a very common problem for many trans people, especially gender dysphoria, which affects a majority of trans people.
Some, like myself, have dysphoria penetrating every aspect of their lives, eating away at them constantly, reminding them of the failures of their bodies and identities. But dysphoria is just the most prevalent of a variety of mental illnesses that trans people seem to suffer, often as a result of their transness and how society reacts to it.
I have depression and anxiety (special mention to social anxiety), and I’m pretty sure the depression has been lurking for years and years now, way before I realised I was trans, yet possibly still because I was trans. As it is now, the depression is strong, and I’ve found a deep relationship between depression, dysphoria, and, again, how society (both people I know and in general) reacts to transness and treats it. So, if I am reminded that I have had to live most of my life as a boy, and am still forced to live parts of it as such, it is going to trigger my dysphoria and that will surely give a boost to whatever amount of depression I’m already facing.
I guess it’s not just about transness, but about how society sees gender as a whole. Because apart from all the social stereotypes perpetuated about women, we are told that a woman has a uterus and vagina, a woman has periods, a woman has this feature and that feature. And this isn’t just affecting trans women. There are enough cis women as well, many who are intersex or have hormonal conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, who don’t fit into the ‘biological standards’ that we apply to women. And for me, this is what trickles down into gender dysphoria, this is why hearing about uteruses and periods is enough to make me instantly feel suicidal. Because unless science comes up with some serious miracles soon, those are things I will never have, and if I won’t have them I can’t possibly be a real woman, and if I can’t actually be a woman (not to mention I can’t even deal with talking about these things) then why am I even living at all.
And I live with feeling suicidal, so often. I’ve already attempted it once, and come close to doing it so many times, even recently. As I write this I’m going through one of my worst bouts of suicidal feelings. Because I don’t know if I can live as a trans person. I don’t know if I can survive society refusing to accept me as a woman, or keep pretending to be someone else in my own home, or be able to interact with other women without only being reminded of the failures of my own body and existence.
This is just me. So many trans people are also abuse/rape survivors, have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Others might be autistic, or have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bipolar Personality Disorder, any of a number of other things, all of which only make it tougher to survive as a trans person in a world that is constantly sending out messages that we are not real, that we are not our genders – whether it’s through blatant transphobia or a simple cissexist statement.
I know for a fact that when I am able to be myself, my depression and anxiety become much much easier to manage. And when I am forced to be a ‘guy’ it’s always worse, when I am called Sir or Mr. or he or ‘him’ it is always worse.
So if we want to treat trans people’s mental illness, we have to work at treating them right. The fight for trans rights and the fight for better mental health care are knotted at a point, as they are with so many other struggles.
There’s stigma against mental illness and there’s stigma against trans people. It is not fun sitting at the intersection of the two (with an added bonus for being a queer woman). We need to work at changing this, starting with language, with how we treat people, how we accommodate their existence into a world whose architecture relies on the idea that they don’t exist or don’t matter.