How do you identify?
Gender can be a very confusing concept, along with sexuality and sex. Gender is not always as simple as “male” and “female”, “boy” or “girl”. And there are many ways in which we can express our gender.
- Perhaps you feel most comfortable when people call you she/her or he/him
- Perhaps you feel most comfortable when people call you she/her at certain times and he/him at other times.
- Perhaps you don’t like he/him OR she/her. Maybe you feel most comfortable people call you they/them.
“Transgender” is an umbrella term typically used to describe someone whose gender is different from their gender assumed at birth (i.e., based on their sex/genitals or sex assigned at birth). Or it can refer to someone who is non-binary (some people like the term transgender non-binary).
The term “non-binary” regarding gender defines multiple gender groups including genders falling between or outside masculine and feminine. This includes someone who experiences being a man or woman at separate times (gender fluid) or someone who doesn’t experience gender (e.g. genderqueer, queer, gender fluid, pangender, agender, gender neutral, neutrois, genderless, or non-gendered).
There are many transgender people out there
It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of people or more in Australia who identify as transgender. And based on some US statistics, it’s estimated that one third of people who identify as transgender, also identify as non-binary. In other words, it’s a common and normal experience to have a gender that differs to what is considered typically “Man” or “Woman” or from what was assumed when you were born.
Some things you may be experiencing with mental health
Being transgender or non-binary is not a mental illness or disorder, it is simply another way of being human. However, in everyday life, there’s such a large emphasis on binary genders (being a Man or Woman) which comes out in things like clothing, sports, toilets, and things advertised only to “boys” or “girls”. There are also assumptions that the way we express our gender needs to “match” whatever assumptions were made about us when we were born. For some of us, these experiences can lead to strong feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, shame, and dysphoria.
These extra challenges create a lot of extra stress and can take a lot of energy to deal with, which can leave some of us exhausted and more vulnerable to developing difficulties with our mental health such as depression and anxiety. Though it won’t always be this way. To hear from some transgender folk on their experiences you can check out some videos at www.trans101.org.au
Things that can help with mental health
Having access to a safe or non-judgemental environment in which you can explore your gender identity and expression can provide a major boost to your wellbeing and sense of self. Along with having, finding, or building a network of understanding and supportive people around you.
If you are questioning your gender, wanting to explore it more, and/or finding yourself stuck with some of these painful feelings (anxiety, shame, fear, or anger) and want some psychological support. Please feel free to reach out and make an appointment with me and we can explore this further.
Additionally, if you are transgender or non-binary and wanting to work on building up your mental health and wellbeing (e.g., by tackling challenges such as depression or anxiety) or work on other psychological challenges in a safe space, please feel to reach out for that too.
Damian Vann is a psychologist, working with adults, adolescents, and children. He is passionate about helping his clients achieve their goals and has particular interest areas in supporting parents of transgender children, LGBTIQAP+ mental health in adults and young people, older persons mental health, anxiety, and depression.
To make and appointment with Psychologist Damian Vann, call InMind 4 Health (Southport) on (07) 5627 1382
- Budge, S. L. (2017). Genderqueer. In K. L. Nadal (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of psychology and gender (pp. 807-808). SAGE Publications.
- Clark, T. C., Lucassen, M. F., Bullen, P., Denny, S. J., Fleming, T. M., Robinson, E. M., & Rossen, F. V. (2014). The health and well-being of transgender high school students: Results from the New Zealand adolescent health survey (Youth'12). Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(1), 93-99.
- Matsuno, E., & Budge, S. L. (2017). Non-binary/genderqueer identities: A critical review of the literature. Current Sexual Health Reports, 9(3), 116-120.
- Rainbow Health Victoria (2020). Research Matters: How many people are LGBTIQ?. https://www.rainbowhealthvic.org.au/media/pages/research-resources/research-matters-how-many-people-are-lgbtiq/4170611962-1612761890/researchmatters-numbers-lgbtiq.pdf
- Su, D., Irwin, J. A., Fisher, C., Ramos, A., Kelley, M., Mendoza, D. A. R., & Coleman, J. D. (2016). Mental health disparities within the LGBT population: A comparison between transgender and nontransgender individuals. Transgender Health, 1(1), 12-20.
- Valentine, S. E., & Shipherd, J. C. (2018). A systematic review of social stress and mental health among transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States. Clinical Psychology Review, 66, 24-38.