Joshua Parmenter identifies several components of everyday life in which Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Persons may experience discrimination and oppression.
Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people face an immense amount of stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and even violence. To begin, TGNC individuals face considerable hardship in accessing care that is culturally competent for gender diverse people (dickey, 2017). Due to this lack in competent care, TGNC individuals may find it difficult or uncomfortable to disclose their gender history to health care providers or may even avoid healthcare professionals completely. Difficulties in disclosing gender identity or gender history to one’s health care provider may create barriers in receiving care that may be relevant to the TGNC individual’s gender. Additionally, research has found that concealing an aspect of one’s identity is associated with negative mental health outcomes.
Research reports that an estimated 20% of TGNC people have experienced some form of housing discrimination (National Center for Transgender Equality [NCTE], 2015a). Many TGNC individuals have experienced being homeless at some point in their lifespan, with about 20% of TGNC individuals experiencing homelessness and 10% experiencing eviction from their home due to their gender identity. Access to housing has been associated with positive health outcomes, including reduced likelihood of sexual risk taking behaviors, substance use, and suicide (Fletcher, Kisler, & Reback, 2014; Marshall et al., 2016).
A central tenet of traditional masculine gender roles is the power associated with conforming to masculine norms and oppression for those who do not conform to these gender roles (i.e., transgender and gender nonconforming people). For example, trans men and trans women may be seen as “not real men or women” (Salamon, 2009). Such statements are highly invalidating and convey to TGNC individual that their gender identity and expression is not valued or acknowledged. These invalidating statements, as well as the violence and verbal aggression towards TGNC people are one of many examples of toxic masculinity (i.e., socially constructed attitudes that depict masculine gender roles as violent, sexually aggressive, and unemotional; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). Research on masculinity and violence has been extensively examined and has shown violence aimed at a range of groups, one of which is gender diverse people. Some even posit that perpetrating violence against TGNC individuals serves as protection or way of bolstering the perpetrators own sense of masculinity. Such violence and aggression could function as a way for men to publicly prove or bolster their masculinity by demeaning those who are erroneously labeled as “not man enough” (Whitehead, 2005).
Given the aforementioned examples, TGNC individuals face ongoing oppression, from use of the restroom to accessing healthcare or experiences of aggression, even after the later stages of gender identity development. Psychologists can play an integral role in combating systems of oppression and violence against gender diverse populations (APA, 2015). To begin, when assessing for trauma with TGNC clients, clinicians should validate and believe the client’s experience and reactions to these systems of oppression. Clinicians should encourage the client to develop self-advocacy skills as a way to build resiliency when combating discrimination and oppression (dickey, Singh, Chang, & Rehrig, 2017). Psychologists can also aid TGNC people by targeting systemic forms of oppression, including but not limited to rigid cognitive schemas about masculine ideals held within institutions, organizations, or even perpetrators of violence that favor cisgender masculinity. Psychologists can intervene in these situations by providing trainings aimed at targeting systems or institutions whom hold strong values toward rigid masculine ideals. While there are clear nondiscrimination laws within several states pertaining to employment and housing, there are no present laws that provide universal protection for TGNC individuals in the United States (NCTE, 2015b). As social agents of change, psychologists can become involved in political activism and continue the work in creating positive and affirming environments, not only within organizations, but also within our legislation and government.
This article was adapted from the American Psychological Association (APA) published Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People (TGNC), to assist psychologists in providing culturally competent psychological services to TGNC people, including guidance for research, psychological education, or clinical training surrounding issues of gender identity and gender expression (APA, 2015). In 2016, the Sexual and Gender Minorities Special Interest Group of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities (APA Division 51) formed a workgroup to create a brief document to highlighting masculinity-related topics touched upon in these Guidelines that are salient in the practice of psychology with TGNC individuals.
You may also like:
Joshua G. Parmenter is a doctoral student in the Combined Clinical/Counseling Psychology program at Utah State University. Joshua’s research is currently exploring: 1) masculinity among sexual minority men and how this influences their physical (i.e., sexual risk taking, HIV, body image/disordered eating) and mental health (i.e., psychological distress, depression, internalized homophobia), and 2) sexual minorities’ identity with the LGBTQ+ culture and concealment of sexual identity. Joshua is primarily interested in working with men with eating disorders as well as sexual minorities who are navigating the early stages of sexual identity development.
Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), 829-859.