Understanding gender identities as a spectrum is a problematic notion in itself. A spectrum, by definition, has two polar ends, with anything that doesn’t prototypically match with either of the ends, falls in the middle. While, this might seem like an inclusive space with the scope of including all possible myriad of identities, more often than not, the identities at the polar end, in this case, males and females, are seen as ‘the norm,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘normal’ and anything that falls in the middle or doesn’t directly conform gets categorized as ‘deviant’ or ‘away from the natural.’
How do we then understand and accommodate these diverse gender identities? We do that by imagining the gender identities in the form of a cloud. A cloud has no definite shape or structure, this makes it to be perhaps the most accommodative spaces where each unique gender identity gets their share of a safe-space. A cloud means different things for different people, and we are all okay with that.
By changing the very manner in which we have been made to understand these notions of gender, sex, and sexuality, we can shed the years of conditioning step by step, every day. This might sound difficult, it’s not. As the inherently discriminatory and undemocratic trans bill is being debated in our parliament, it is evident that we are more divided than we could have imagined.
At the other end of this discrimination are the individuals who will face direct consequences if this bill gets implemented. The subsequent socio-cultural, medico-legal implications presents the chance of great physical, mental and social impacts on their health as well. Prolonged exposure to these environments can significantly impact their well-being, resulting in inability to cope with extraneous stressors – the political climate, the covid-19 pandemic, polarization of the communities. Covid-19 has also magnified the situation for those in the closet living with their parents and families. The importance of preserving mental health and well-being especially in tiring times like these becomes even more pertinent.
Reaching out to others who have undergone or are undergoing similar life experience with their families, societies and people at large, for support is one way of improving their mental health. The Indian Express in their article have also highlighted the importance of support groups in seeking legal aid, emphasizing on the urgency of the situation, they write ‘Transgender community needs to form support groups that give legal aid.’
Research by Testa and colleagues (2014) has highlighted the benefits of connecting to others from the community. The findings suggest that connection to a transgender community may be protective, that is to say, awareness and engagement with other transgender people influences risk and resilience during early gender identity development. It was revealed that both prior awareness and prior engagement with other transgender people were independently related to less fearfulness, less suicidality, and more comfort (Testa , Jimenez, & Rankin, 2014). Hines (2007) has also examined the practices of care within transgender support and self-help groups by exploring transgender practices of care in relation to support groups and self-help organizations (Hines, 2007).
As suggested by Wiley et al. (2016) in their research, there exists a dearth of educational programming for health-care professionals in transgender health both across high-income and low-income settings. In situations like this, support from someone who can share their experience and guide the individuals in this process can significantly improve their mental health along with the defined roles of the mental health professional in transgender health-care decisions, effective models of health service provision, and available surgical interventions for transgender people (Wylie, et al., 2016).
Transgender people face many challenges in society including accessing and using healthcare systems. However, there exists little help in terms of specific mental health service needs and concerns of transgender people in this regard. Forming support groups is the crucial first step towards fighting for an equitable society inclusive for all.
Hines, S. (2007). Transgendering care: Practices of care within transgender communities. Critical Social Policy, 27(4), 462-486. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0261018307081808
McCann, E., & Sharek, D. (2016). Mental Health Needs of People Who Identify as Transgender: A Review of the Literature. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 30(2), 280-285. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2015.07.003
Testa , R., Jimenez, C., & Rankin, S. (2014). Risk and Resilience During Transgender Identity Development: The Effects of Awareness and Engagement with Other Transgender People on Affect. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 18(1), 31-46. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/19359705.2013.805177
Wylie, K., Knudson, G., Khan, S., Bonierbale, M., Watanyusakul, S., & Baral, S. (2016). Serving transgender people: clinical care considerations and service delivery models in transgender health. The Lancet, 388(100042), 401-411. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00682-6