PREJUDICE, discrimination, harassment and abuse are damaging to transgender people’s health and wellbeing in ways that are not properly understood, even among health professionals, according to a paper published in The Lancet.
Lead author Associate Professor Sam Winter from Curtin University’s School of Public Health, said transgender people were often excluded from society due to them and their needs being little understood by health care providers, legislators, policy makers, family members and people in general.
A/Prof Winter said transgender people faced stigma on a daily basis throughout their lives.
“Prejudice, discrimination, harassment, abuse and violence all conspire to drive them to the margins of society where they experience social isolation and poverty, and alarmingly, poor health and wellbeing,” he said.
“Worldwide, transgender women are 49 times more likely than the general population to be HIV positive and over 2100 trans people have been murdered in the last eight years – and those are the ones we know about.”
“Transgender people’s issues are often conflated with sexual orientation – for instance a transgender woman will often be perceived and treated, including by primary health care providers, as a gay man.
“Further sustaining and aggravating the stigma is the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) diagnostic classification of transgender people as ‘mentally disordered’,” Associate Professor Winter said.
A proposal for transgender to be removed from the WHO list of mental disorders and replaced with a diagnosis of ‘gender incongruence’ will be considered during the annual meeting of the WHO governing body in May 2018.
A/Prof Winter explained gender incongruence meant these people experience life, their inner selves, in a gender different to the sex they were assigned at birth.
“Gender incongruence is not a lifestyle choice,” he said.
He also said based on population studies, it is estimated that there are approximately 25 million transgender people worldwide.
He explained that the actual numbers of gender incongruent people are unknown because since they so often face stigma and discrimination, they are less likely to express their gender incongruence, or identify publicly as transgender.
“It is not surprising that they avoid openly identifying as transgender and therefore remain ‘hidden’ in actual statistical data,” A/Prof Winter said.