Mental health at risk

The nation’s roughly 1.4 million transgender people are considered one of the most at-risk groups when it comes to psychological distress. When asked about the state of their mental well-being in the last month, 39% of trans individuals reported experiencing at least one mental health challenge, compared to only 5% of the general population. 

Worse still, the attempted suicide rate for transgender people (40%) is about nine times higher than that of the U.S. population (4.6%), according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey

Transgender-inclusive health care providers are especially important when it comes to transgender mental health, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Social Work in Health Care. Researchers found that being under the care of a transgender-inclusive provider was associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. 

“It really messed with my mental health”

Marlin*, a transgender male in their twenties living in Providence, Rhode Island, said seeing a transgender-inclusive provider has lessened their anxiety and benefited their overall health. But, as with Sarah’s experience, finding the right provider was a struggle. (Marlin’s name has been changed to protect their identity.) 

“When I came out as a transgender male, I did not have much support from my immediate family, who refused to accept my identity,” Marlin told MedTruth. “It really messed with my mental health, and I struggled with depression, anxiety, and so much more. Our family doctor at the time was transphobic as well and actually discouraged me from coming out when I told him about how I felt like identifying as male. It impacted my mental health, as I would feel highly anxious when going to doctor appointments.” 

It took a while for Marlin to find a gender-affirming health care provider, as they were initially afraid of encountering the same discrimination they’d experienced with their family doctor. 

“I was extremely scared when I left my family doctor and started searching for another doctor to see,” they recalled. “‘What if they would be transphobic?’ The biggest fear I had was that they would treat me as a woman.”

Marlin finally found the right health care provider after multiple referrals from individuals in a transgender support group, and they “absolutely appreciate” the new provider. 

When asked about the proposed Trump administration rule, Marlin said the policy exposes trans individuals to unnecessary stigma and stress. 

Because the policy “makes it easier for health care professionals to discriminate based on gender identity, I think trans folks are going to fear like I did and have a hard time trusting prospective providers,” Marlin observed. “Our society has become so transphobic and it has limited avenues for people like me to get the care we desperately need.”