Guest blog by Peer Ambassador, Finn.
Being transgender, I am always hesitant to discuss my mental illness with others.
There’s this idea that being trans is a mental illness, and that any mental health issues we encounter would be resolved if we could “cure” our transness. In reality, many of us experience mental health concerns before we have even realised we are trans. A lot of these concerns are exacerbated if we are unwilling to accept we are trans.
I was raised in a family of 6, in semi-rural Queensland. My exposure to LGBT+ people was limited to mockery and the hatred of “delusional transgenders”.
My coming out to family was delayed because small actions, small statements here and there made me feel unsafe, to be honest. There were jokes about conversion therapy because I’m bisexual, comments of “what is THAT?” while pointing to a visibly trans person, the insistence that my boyfriend couldn’t possibly be a boy, because he looked too ‘feminine’ (he was 16, and unable to start hormones). These are only a few examples.
When you’re exposed to these behaviours your whole life, you grow to resent and repress who you are.
Being taught to hate ourselves for being trans - even when we don’t know we’re trans - has lasting negative effects. No wonder mental illness is common amongst us. But despite how common it is, our access to help is limited once again by a lack of understanding within mental health services.
Services are slowly improving yet it is still common to encounter stigma, harassment and ignorance. I remember seeing a psychologist for help with my anxiety and PTSD. Instead, I spent many of the sessions trying to educate her on the experiences of trans people so she could begin to understand mine.
Others I know have been turned away from services, because they “don’t know how to help transgenders”.
Some who manage to access services have their gender invalidated, due to the presence of mental illness. These scenarios, amongst many others, contribute greatly to the ongoing difficulties we as a population experience with mental health.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I managed to find a trans-friendly psychologist - a task which I never would have accomplished without the guidance of my trans peers.
Connecting with the trans community has helped me to heal from over a decade of mental illness. I encourage other trans people struggling with their mental health to reach out to peers.
We have been where you are: we are able to help.