Whether you have just discovered you are trans or have known for as long as you’ve lived, it’s important to keep in mind your physical and mental wellbeing. Our wellbeing can affect huge parts of our lives, so we have to do our best to take care of our health, and in turn, ourselves.
Mental health issues in the LGBTI+ community
Physical and mental wellbeing are important things for everyone to keep in mind, but I think, especially for trans and gender-nonconforming people.
In a recent survey from BeLonG To, 42% of young LGBTI+ people surveyed said they were not fully accepted in their home environments due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Over half of the people surveyed said their home environment is not a good place to be during COVID-19 restrictions. This is bound to have some kind of negative impact on people’s mental health, and indeed the survey found that 93 percent of LGBTI+ young people are dealing with mental health issues here in Ireland. Trans people suffer from higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, than other LGBTI+ people.
Dealing with Gender Dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is the distress caused by a mismatch of gender identity and biological sex. It is something that affects many trans people, although you do not need to have gender dysphoria to be trans.
Dysphoria is, at least to me, general unhappiness with the body I have. My experience with Gender Dysphoria has led to some unhealthy thoughts over the years. The best thing I’ve found that I can do for myself is to remember that I need to take care of my body now in order to achieve what I want in the future, or at the very least, live more comfortably.
Another positive thing I tried to do is to focus on experiencing more gender euphoria – happiness in being seen as and/or just identifying as the gender(s) you feel you are. Maybe you can start by changing your name privately in your phone or writing in your diary under that name. Or you could dress a certain way, or go online and use your new pronouns wherever you feel safe. Doing this can help reaffirm your identity with yourself, or let you explore more!
Taking care of your body
At this time, COVID-19 is affecting all of us, and getting out frequently can be hard to do. If you bind or tuck, etc. remember to take breaks from it. Your health is important, especially if you’re thinking of getting surgery in the future, and binding or tucking for extended periods of time can have a negative effect.
A few years ago, when I had let dysphoria drag me down, I was binding with whatever I had as I had no way to get proper binders. I was experiencing terrible chest pains and didn’t link the two together until the summer when I took a break from binding and the pains eased up. The moral of that story is to take a step back to really make sure that what you’re doing is safe, regardless of how much you want to bind/tuck and how frequently you want to do it.
Supportive environment for your mental health
Growing up trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming can be so difficult depending on the surroundings you grow up in. Growing up, in Ireland, in the midlands, I would always hear homophobic and transphobic thoughts and language thrown around. Hearing homophobic and transphobic language has made me hesitant to open up to more than two people about how I identified. I haven’t tried to be publicly out as trans, though I am slowly trying to change that.
Deciding to come out as trans can be terrifying and can have an impact on your mental health. The best advice I can give for dealing with this is that taking it slow is perfectly fine. If you don’t feel ready to come out as trans, it’s fine to wait until you are comfortable. Knowing which of your friends is an LGBTI+ ally can be a good place to start coming out. Or find a group or space intended for LGBTI+ people and start fresh there. BeLonG To and TENI have some great resources and supports that you can help too.
Creating a supportive environment for your mental health online can equally be as helpful. Finding trans people online and watching their progress can be really heart-warming and inspiring, and even reading stories of older trans people gives you a push to just keep hanging on.
Remember to keep your head up. There’s a life for you out there, as your authentic self, as you. Learning to take care of your body and your mind will help you now and in the future. Those who came before you left tracks for you to follow, no matter how faint they seem to be, so carry on.