Content Warning: This article contains mentions of violence and physical abuse against trans people.
Trans people are more likely than cis people to be victims of a violent crime. Anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are also on the rise. This violence influences not only their mental and physical well-being but also when they decide to start gender-affirming healthcare.
Research indicates that trans people are at significantly greater risk of violence than their cis counterparts
A 2021 study published by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that trans people are four times more likely to experience violence and abuse compared to cis people. Around one in every four trans women who were victims of a violent crime believed it to be due to their gender identity. In comparison, only one in every ten cis women believed it to be due to their gender. Half of all victims of violent crimes did not report it to the police.
Further research also proves that experiences of violence and abuse negatively impact trans people’s well-being. The suicide rate for trans people is already extremely high compared to that of cis people. In the US, around 50% of young trans and non-binary people have contemplated suicide. In 2020, 20% attempted suicide.
Gender-Affirming Healthcare improves mental well-being
Another study demonstrated that trans people who receive gender-affirming healthcare had a decrease in their depression of about 60%. The study also showed a 73% decrease in suicidal ideation and attempts among trans youth who started gender-related medical care.
A 2023 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine also confirmed trans healthcare improves the mental health of trans youth. These studies are part of a growing body of evidence confirming the benefits of gender-affirming healthcare for trans people’s mental well-being.
In February 2023 ILGA Europe released their annual review of the human rights situation of LGBTQ+ people. The review found that hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community led to the most violent year in over a decade.
It is worth noting that positive court responses to anti-LGBTQ+ violence have increased. Nevertheless, ILGA Europe confirms that there is a ‘stark rise in violence against LGBTI people’ as well as a rise in the severity of said violence.
Experiences of members of the GenderGP team
We interviewed a pathway advisor at GenderGP to talk about her own experiences with violence as a trans woman. She discussed the influence violence had on her journey with her gender identity. She knew that she was trans from a young age, stating that her first experience with gender dysphoria was at the age of 5. However, she only started gender-affirming healthcare in her early 30s.
A significant reason as to why she started transitioning later in life was the continuous physical abuse she experienced from a family member. Whenever she would act in a way that was not deemed as ‘normal’ or she was doing ‘anything other than being a boy or a man’, she was met with violence. She also experienced a lack of awareness about the trans community, as she lived in a rural area of the US where bigotry against marginalised groups was normalised.
Growing up in an abusive household, the only choices she felt she had were either to conform to other people’s expectations or to present and behave in the way she desired and get physically abused for it. She was forced to conform to societal ideas of ‘manhood’ in order to protect her physical well-being. However, inevitably, this negatively affected her mental health.
Violence and abuse affects people long after the abuse has stopped
Our colleague shared with me that due to the way she was socialised and the fears she had around the potential abuse, her emotions are extremely difficult to express. This has affected in particular her ability to cry. She only used to cry a handful of times a year, usually feeling guilty afterwards. It is only now, after being on hormone replacement therapy for over a year, that she is able to truly cry and feel ‘relieved afterwards’.
‘Just being a person that has emotions and can express them is new to me and it has been really nice.’
Looking back on her past experiences with violence and physical abuse, our colleague stated that she now feels as though she can finally ‘communicate’. She can express herself in a way that she could not do before starting gender-affirming healthcare.
We also interviewed a counsellor working at GenderGP. He mentioned how the abuse he experienced hindered him from starting gender-affirming healthcare and changing his name. It is only now in his 40s that he was able to legally change his name. The physical and emotional abuse he experienced as a child was making it impossible for him to let go of the person he used to be.
His childhood trauma was so deep that it kept him from dealing with any issues surrounding his gender identity. It was only after years of therapy that he was able to deal with the abuse. He then changed his name and finally began gender-affirming healthcare.
A need for change unmatched by the appetite
Research and testimonials from GenderGP’s team members show the extent to which violence and abuse affect the trans community. It negatively impacts their well-being as well as their gender journey. It is vital to create safe spaces for trans and gender diverse people through education and policy, to make an environment in which such violence and discrimination has no home.
While campaigners push, media and lawmakers seem either disinterested or actively hostile to protecting the community. Society has a duty of care to its vulnerable members, and the current epidemic of violence, discrimination and exclusion of the trans people has made the community extremely vulnerable. Government needs to become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
In some places, such as in Spain in February 2023, positive change has been taking effect. Meanwhile, in Scotland and the wider UK, and in much of the US, things are moving backwards. This was most recently made clear with the monstrous tragedy seen in the UK, with the murder of Brianna Ghey. This tide of violence and cruelty against the trans and gender diverse community has to break.