Gender nonconformity or gender variance is the behavior or gender expression of an individual that is outside of the typical gender norms of the society that typically associates with gender responses of both sexes. The trans youth, having this trait of being different, face a lot of acceptance issues.

However, the alienated behavior is on decline, according to a report by GLAAD-2017, people have become more accepting and tolerant of gender nonconforming youth. This progress is seen as positive but, but there is still a lot of progress to be made so that gender nonconforming children can feel safe and accepted within their communities.

Population-based study

 The evaluation study in May 2018 on Mental Health of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth in contrast to the typical children of similar age groups reported some unsettling facts. The anxiety, despair, sadness, and lack of attention to the needs of the individuals have created mental health disorders such as depression seen at a much higher right than gender conforming children.

The researchers used electronic medical records of mental healthcare clinics in California and Georgia for reference and did a case study of 588 transfeminine and 745 transmasculine children between 3-9 years old. Alongside the younger age group, adolescents between 10 to 17 years of age were also included in the research. Practically, all the nonconforming children suffered from mental health disorders at a higher rate than their peers.

The symptoms that was found to be the most alarming was the suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm among the non-conforming children accompanying prevalent depression and anxiety disorders. The study concludes with one strong point and that is that gender nonconforming children need immediate reprieve from their psychological distress.

Survey facts about Trans

 The National Center for Transgender Equality’s national survey report in 2015 highlights that about 40% of nonconforming gender individuals made a suicide attempt at least once in their lifetime. About 92% of suicides reported before 25 years of age.

Another analysis of 2016 Interstate survey of 81,000 Minnesota teens, where 2,200 teens acknowledged as gender nonconforming children presented with worse mental and physical health than their peers. The survey rates were more than a study done by UCLA carried out in previous year, estimating that 0.7 percent of teens say 1.5 million children aged 13 to 17 are transgender, in comparison to 0.6 percent or about 1.4 million of U.S. adults identified as transgender.

This study is based on the teen population of ninth and eleventh grades of the Minnesota children, which also indicates higher prevalence of disparities exist among gender nonconforming children than the gender conforming.

Gender Nonconforming children face a very high rate of neglect, homelessness, and even physical violence. These children and adolescents face the abuse of sexual exploitation in many cases at a much higher rate than their peers.

Discrimination and Exclusion

 Gender nonconforming children face psychological challenges in form of discrimination and exclusion from the society and even their own families. The result of this negligence emerges into the mental health disorders or risky behaviors that lead the children toward substance abuse and violence or other misconduct.

Bullying at school or elsewhere is one factor that causes massive strain on the mental health of gender nonconforming teens. This combined with the fear of family rejection, anti-transgender and or homophobic messages in churches and in different platforms, offer them a long-lasting stress that worsens their mental health.   This form of discrimination is prevalent throughout most of the United States.

The key concern is How to reduce mental health risk for gender non-conforming children.

 The most worrisome point that needs to be addressed is that gender nonconforming children’s provenance of mental illness and how there should be no disparities in the levels seen in their gender conforming peers. Gender nonconforming children are more affected mentally, at three times the rate of their gender conforming peers. They experience poor mental health which is the direct effect of being discriminated against for their gender orientation. This treatment of society for these children leads to a depressive state of mind and causes irreparable stressful lifelong trauma. Their fear is also their main enemy, and they are helpless as people are conditioned to see them as a separate population and not part of everyone else in a typical societal structure.

Family Support

Ironically, for gender nonconforming children, most of their families reject them as if they were an outsider despite being their own offspring. However, even with rejection their best course of treatment should come from their home. Parents should play a major role in mitigating their depressive state and influence their children lives to raise a happy and healthy adult, making it important for parents to learn about their nonconforming children to avoid rejection which usually comes from a lack of understanding.

Home support is primary, if parents do not support them than who else will? They should extend their love & affection towards these nonconforming youth by buying them clothes, books, and other important things as per their gender identities and expressions. They should involve their children into constructive activities and groups. The parents also can offer them some specialized mental health support that would fill them with much-needed positivity. The parental and sibling support would give these children a great deal of confidence to live gracefully within their different gender identities.

Ask these questions at the breakfast or dinner table

 Parents can ask their gender nonconforming kids some questions to mitigate their worries and concerns.

  • What you did today, was it interesting, fun or challenging?
  • What’s on your mind today, about the day’s plan or any thought that is bothering you?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch today and did you like the company?
  • What are some difficulties you faced at school today?
  • What are you thankful for that you came across during the day?
  • What is something you found humorous today?
  • How are your classmates or friends doing?
  • What subject do you like more English, History or any other?
  • What do you think was your most successful moment?
  • What do you have planned for tomorrow?
  • Can I help you find a solution for anything you have encountered that may be difficult today?

These questions would give you a clear picture of the child’s general mental state and the problems faced by him or her.   Approach the situation with prepared solutions for problems you can expect to hear. Also, this will help in mitigating any agony or turmoil experienced by the child.

Health Care Services

 Normally, when the mental condition of nonconforming gender youth becomes too complicated for basic treatment, they still only have access to primary care providers.  Age limits, high costs of treatment, and proximity to care restricts many of the suffering teens from accessing secondary mental health service providers. Nonconforming children are also scared that their sexual orientation or gender identity may be revealed, which they may be hiding from the society and unsupportive parents or family.

The service providers that are trained in youth who identify as gender nonconforming still have difficulty extracting information from the child regarding the sexual orientation or gender identity therefore the level of trust is usually gained by taking extra time to indulge in nonmedically related conversations with the patient. If the health care provider needs to know about the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity, there are some smart ways to approach the child during an affable chat that would bring out some real answers from the teen.

Primary care providers need competent general practitioners trained in observing and mapping an appropriate care plan, after viewing the patient’s response during initial conversations and the beginning of the treatment process. A trained practitioner in mental health is best suited in treating the child for the depression and other mental disorders, aggravated by social discrimination of the gender nonconforming child.

  • The clinicians need to create an atmosphere that makes suffering teens comfortable, so they can answer all questions honestly.
  • The questions about gender identity and sexual orientation should formulated in such a way that the kids find them natural and answer them spontaneously.
  • Medical Service Providers need to be aware and trained to identify actual mental health disorders that include severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and real suicide attempts among the child
  • They should also know how to identify and diagnose substance abuse, which is again common in nonconforming teens.

Need for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve the mental health of gender nonconforming children.

  •  Develop and circulate a social-competency curriculum to different medical training programs with special emphasis on nonconforming young patients.
  • Advocate for the allotment of special medical education funds to support continuing educational programs that help in increasing the competency of professionals in all public health programs.
  • Develop nonconforming gender youth capability policies, training modules, and set the targets to achieve results.
  • Involve social workers, sponsors, policy & research organizations, customer representatives, and service providers to support community health centers that serve the community of nonconforming kids.

Gender Nonconforming children exist issues exist in the eye of the storm in America.

 The social tide is changing fast, as now gender nonconforming children and transgender individuals across the country have distinct rights that revolve around their gender identities. Earlier conservative lawmakers were adamant on prohibiting gender nonconforming youth or transgenders from using public toilets of their choice. The Trump administration revoked a federal guideline that allowed trans people to use wash rooms corresponding to their gender identities. The administration has now left the matter to individual states to create their own legislation.

Although, awareness is on the rise on trans related issues, there are still many oceans to cross before most of the people can understand actual gender nonconforming or genderqueer issues and problems associated with them at social, cultural, and physical levels. There are few questions that need answering to understand the crux of the trans people issue.

Q: Why do some people identify as gender nonconforming, genderqueer, transgender, or nonbinary?

Trans individuals are born genetically one gender and at varying stages identify to others a different gender identity. For example, a biological male who may identify with a gender identity that expresses itself through typical feminine behavior and interests and may be expressed differently over time.  Because of a lack of understanding the majority of society’s view point is to focus on their gender that corresponds with their biology.   What we have learned is not why they identify but that how they choose to express themselves and how they identify is more important to ensure a healthy individual who can live a dignified fulfilling life.

Q: What does it mean for a person to be a gender nonconforming or transgender?

 Gender nonconforming or transgender encompasses over 700,000 Americans with different gender identities that vary from the sex assigned at birth. Although trans children can self identify at an early age, it often takes many years of pain identifying as a gender opposite from how they want to identify before they begin to accept themselves as ‘real me’ as per their gender identity.

Q: What kind of hardships do trans people face?

 It is not easy for the average person to understand what day to day problems the gender nonconforming youth face. These specific youth interact with the world around them differently with their conforming peers, practically in all the aspects of the life. Often their problem begins at home, when their families shun them, based on their gender identities and expressions. Many of the families try to disown them causing permanent damage to these children and they feel like outcast in society .

Their problems climb to new heights when they reach school age into college age and all the way through their adult lives including common problems even applying for jobs. Most employers are people of the society that lacks understanding and denies them opportunity. When they try to rent a house, landlords are reluctant to give them houses to rent. Trans people are also treated as easy sexual targets and are at the brutal edge of such atrocities. Due to a lack of opportunity, trans people often have to resort to sex work for income and to cope have to do so under the influence of illicit drugs.

The worrisome part of being a gender nonconforming youth is violence they face culminating in the murders in many cases and a large percentage of youth resort to suicides out of hopelessness.

Q: Why society finds it hard to accept trans people than the normal people?

 Discrimination against the trans people echoes through the centuries old values and tradition of accepting gender that one is born with. Most of the people are highly prejudiced for associating gender nonconforming teens by depicting them in an unacceptable image. The American Psychiatric Association highlights that gender identity isn’t integrally connected to some mental disorder or poor mental health.  Even many gender nonconforming teens or transgender people find their gender uncomforting, as they respond to their identity naturally. However, the society has other plans and mindset for them.

Q: How do gender nonconforming children survive such difficulties and live a healthy life?

 There are many complicated issues that affect them adversely, but there is a glitter of hope in that there are many people in society that are recognizing the problems of gender nonconforming children and looking for solutions. There are laws that have changed to accommodate the individuals and address their safety.

However, on mental health’s point of view, these individuals have significant problems in finding inexpensive resources, such as counseling from experts, hormonal therapy, related medical activities, and more importantly the family and social support.

Conclusion

 The fight for gender nonconforming and transgender youth’s rights is not over. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Gender nonconforming children are more prevalent today with changing societal views and the ability to connect with people who provide acceptance through the internet and the rise of social media. Trans have the right to live and work normally like everyone else and progress continues to keep these rights in place. The task may seem daunting, when you see ever-rising rates of depression and suicide rates among trans individuals but society is slowly changing and so are the laws that allow them to live a peaceful life productive life like the gender conforming peers they were raised beside.

All said, there are still there is still prevalent substance abuse among gender nonconforming teens. There are millions who suffer from severe cases of depression and anxiety. There are cases heard everyday about the suicides and attempted suicides of trans teens. There are still many school dropouts and teens running away from home. There are still the cases of violence and murders reported against them. So, all is not well, the world needs a huge shift to make things right.

Federal and state governments need to take serious action by concentrating on enhancing the capability & efficiency of the primary health care clinics to improve trans teen’s mental health. In addition, society and businesses should support the efforts of equality within their communities to bring about a reform in secondary mental health clinics as well.  The idea is to make them affordable for all the gender nonconforming children.

The doctors and the staff of clinics should be well-trained to tackle unique issues encountered by gender nonconforming youth. The expert training required to handle the problems of gender nonconforming children will surely improve their mental health. These children should accepted in the main stream society so they are able to make their own contributions within their own communities benefiting everyone.  By addressing the suffering of the nonconforming community there will be individuals who grow up to contribute to society benefitting themselves and everyone.

Sources:

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/reports/2010/12/09/8787/how-to-improve-mental-health-care-for-lgbt-youth/

https://www.healio.com/pediatrics/practice-management/news/online/%7Be9ac5473-7eb5-4c0a-911a-29d762d289fa%7D/transgender-gender-nonconforming-youth-face-mental-health-risks

https://www.vox.com/2015/4/24/8483561/transgender-gender-identity-expression

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S089085671830217X