Gender And Mental Health
July 10, 2021
This article covers
- What is Gender identity?
- Gender identity and mental health
- With whom or where to get support?
What is Gender Identity?
Gender identity refers to what you believe your gender is. You might identify as a man, woman, transgender, gender fluid, non-binary, or any other way.
Gender identity is not related to biological sex. Your sex is based on physical and biological body parts, such as the penis, vagina, breasts, and hormones.
Sometimes your gender identity can match your body and sometimes it does not. With time and as you explore you can decide that you identify with a certain gender. This can happen at any point in life.
There are many related terms not covered in this article, which you can find in the Stonewall list of terms. But some terms that are commonly referred to when describing gender identity include:
Cisgender: Refers to someone who identifies as the same gender assigned to them at birth.
Transgender: Refers to someone who identifies with a gender that is different from the one assigned from their sex at birth.
Genderqueer/non-binary/gender fluid: Refers to someone who identifies as male or female, or a combination of both, which can change at any given time, depending on how they feel.
Intersex: Refers to someone who is born with sexual or reproductive organs that don’t fit with the typical male or female anatomy, or with chromosomes/hormones that do not match with their organs, and in rare cases born with both male and female reproductive organs. You might also prefer for others to refer to you with certain pronouns, such as “she”, “him”, “them” or “they”.
It is becoming more common for people to think of gender as a spectrum. Some might feel like they don’t fit in with certain labels and can experience gender in a fluid and fluctuating way. Therefore, gender identity labels should not be set in stone.
Trans and gender-diverse people is the term that is commonly used to refer to those who identify with a different gender from the one assigned to them at birth.
“It might take time to understand your identity, you may even change your mind a few times. I came out as non-binary when I was 15, it was scary, but staying true to myself was important to me, just be safe, and love yourself, you’re valid.”
Roan – Mindsum Peer Support Worker
Gender Identity and mental health
Positive mental health
Identifying as trans or gender-diverse does not always mean that you suffer from mental health issues. Embracing and being proud of your identity can have a positive and powerful impact on your mental health. This can help you to feel:
- More at ease
- More confident
- More authentic
- A sense of relief
- A sense of community and belonging
- A sense of freedom for you to express yourself
- A sense of improved relationships with loved ones
Poor mental health
Due to the type of stressors that trans and gender-diverse people can go through, there is a risk of experiencing mental health issues. These stressors can include:
- Prejudice and discrimination
- Harassment, bullying, victimisation
Research shows that these types of stressors can influence trans and gender-diverse people to have problems with self-esteem, body image and low satisfaction with life. Other problems can include:
Mental health problems might also be experienced due to something called Gender dysphoria. This is when the person feels extremely uncomfortable because they feel that their biological sex does not match their gender identity. Sometimes this feeling can be so overwhelming that it leads to issues that can include:
- Low self-esteem
- Social withdrawal/isolation
- Neglecting their self
If you are experiencing any issues with your mental health, including gender dysphoria, it is a good idea to find support as soon as you can.
“You are not alone. There are millions out there experiencing a gender Identity awakening and many more who are supportive and willing to listen and help you to the best of their abilities. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Your Identity is a part of you, not something that is ‘wrong’. You should never put yourself down for how you want to be seen and referred to as.”
Soroush – Mindsum Peer Support Worker
With whom or where to get help?
If you are in immediate danger or you are struggling to the point that you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, please call 999 as soon as possible.
You do not have to struggle alone. Talk to someone you trust and let them know what is going on. They can listen to you and help you as you get more support. This might include talking to a friend, parent, teacher, or school counsellor.
You can also talk to your GP and let them know what is happening. They will be able to refer you to the right services for the type of support that you need.
Working with a counsellor or therapist can help you to work through difficult feelings, relationships, and many other challenges that you might be experiencing. You can choose to work with an LGBTQ+ therapist, although not all services can guarantee a match with an LGBTQ+ therapist.
You can book a free initial consultation with a qualified mental health professional through our online service.
If you would like to get in touch with organisations that provide support services for the LGBTQ+, trans and non-binary community, you can contact:
Gendered Intelligence– a charity led by trans people to increase understanding of gender diversity and to help other trans people (under 25 years old) to live better lives.
LGBT Foundation– a national charity in the Manchester area that offers services and resources for trans people.
Mermaids UK– a charity supporting gender-diverse young people and families.
MindOut– a mental health charity led by LGBTQ+ people to improve the mental health and well-being of other LGBTQ+ people through offering various services, such as peer support advice, support groups, counselling and more.
Midline Trans+ – By calling 0300 330 5468, transgender, agender, gender fluid and non-binary individuals can get free support. The line operates on Mondays and Fridays from 20:00 – 24:00.
Stonewall– a charity that offers help and advice for LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones.
NHS List of Gender Dysphoria Clinics (GDCs)– a list of GDCs offered by the NHS can be found on their website. This list can give you the information needed when speaking to your GP, who can make a referral to a clinic.
Other useful resources
You can read more information about gender dysphoria on the NHS website. You can click here to access the link.
You can read information about gender and mental health on the Young Minds website. You can click here to access the link.
Mental Health Foundation
You can read information including research on gender identity issues and mental health on the Mental Health Foundation website. You can click here to access the link.