We had to do a research paper in my last year of high school, and it had to be about an issue that we face today. Naturally, I wanted to bring transsexual suicide into the light a bit. I figured some of you would be interested to read this, so here it is.
It's copy/pasted, so all the extra stuff I needed to add is still in here (source names, underlining, etc).
The suicide rate for transsexuals 31%. Almost a third of transsexuals succeed in killing themselves, and 50% attempt it before they are even 20 years old (Amato). These numbers are way too high, it doesn’t matter if they’re transsexual or not, there should not be this many people killing themselves. The suicide rate for transsexuals is astronomically high, something has to be done to lower it.
To understand just how many people are in that 31%, actual numbers need revealed. Old estimates from the late 1900s say that every 1:30,000 males is transsexual, and every 1:100,000 females is transsexual (Conway). This is still thought to be a highly rare “disease.” These numbers only calculate those who have gone through sex-reassignment surgery (SRS). However, this can’t be the case, because there have been 30,000-40,000 male-to-female (MtF) SRS’s performed since the practice started in the 1960s. Taking in deaths since then, there are about 32,000 post-operation MtF people in the US. This means that every 1:2500 biological males have already gone through SRS (Conway). But this doesn’t say how many transsexuals in total there are.
Experts estimate that there are three to five times more transsexuals that haven’t gone through SRS than transsexuals that have. That brings the number of transsexuals up to 130,000-240,000. Suppose the number is 160,000, which is closer to the lower end of the range, that would imply that every 1:500 biological males is transsexual. The number may actually be higher than that. If the old estimate (1:30,000) is correct, then only about 1:120,000 would go through SRS, meaning there are only about 670 post-operation MtF’s living in the US. That means there would only be an average of 17 SRS’s performed each year (Conway). But that’s definitely not the case. There are about 1500-2000 MtF SRS’s every year for US citizens and residents (Conway).
With these numbers, that means between 40,000-74,000 transsexuals have already killed themselves (31% of 130,000 and 240,000), between 65,000 and 120,000 have already attempted it (most succeeding in it), and it just keeps climbing.
Reasons for this may be bullying and harassment, unfair treatment, or it could just be the fact that transsexuals aren’t in the right bodies. When puberty hits, transsexuals are put in a living, unending nightmare. Girls who are in boys’ bodies start having nighttime erections, their muscles get bigger, more body and facial hair starts growing in, and their voices deepen. What kind of a girl wouldn’t freak out if she sounded like Darth Vader? Boys who are in girls’ bodies start growing breasts, their hips widen, and then there’s the monthly reminder that they’re in the wrong body. What boy enjoys wearing a bra? They put up with all this while still being held to the same social standards for male and female as everyone else, the only difference is that they’re being held to the wrong standards. It can be stressful for anyone, especially when they haven’t told anyone about their situation. Until they get the courage to tell people, they suffer alone.
Kids learn at a very early age the differences between boys and girls. It’s usually between the ages of one and two. Before they turn three, they usually are able to label themselves as a boy or girl. This is when most transsexuals say they knew they were different. In fact, 80% of transsexuals knew they were different before leaving elementary school. Only four percent of transsexuals realized they were transsexual after turning 18. The average age kids begin noticing they’re different from their friends and family is 7.9 years old. The average age kids learn that transsexualism is a thing is about 15 and a half (“Students”).
Kids who find out they’re “different” at the average age are usually subject to harassment from their fellow students, and sometimes the staff of the school. Gender non-conformity is actually the third leading cause of bullying in school. From a recent survey of transsexuals, 63% heard derogatory comments because they weren’t “masculine/feminine” enough. 27% were physically harassed (shoving, tripping, etc.). 13% were physically assaulted in school (punching, kicking, etc.) (“Students”). Kids are being bruised for expressing who they really are every day. This harassment is doing much more than just leaving bruises, though, it’s also causing mental distress among these students. “Is this how everyone will react?” “Is this what it’ll be like for me forever?” “Am I really this sick freak they’re saying I am?” It’s no wonder so many transsexuals try to kill themselves, they spent most if not all of their childhood either hiding who they truly are or being assaulted for expressing themselves.
This bullying may also affect their academic performance. 46% of transsexuals who harassed minimally received A’s and B’s, while only 38% of transsexuals who were severely harassed received A’s and B’s. They can’t focus on schoolwork because they’re afraid to be in the room. Almost 40% of transsexual students feel unsafe at school because of their gender identity. 29% of transsexual students admitted to skipping a specific class at least once a month because they felt unsafe. 30% have skipped an entire day of school for that reason. It’s not just bullying in the classroom, either. A little over half of transsexuals have reported being cyber bullied. Of that half, 34% said that no action was being taken by school staff (“Students”). Not only are kids being bullied because of this, they’re not getting any help. Some of them truly are alone in this, they can’t rely on anyone to help them. In fact, sometimes it’s even the teachers who start the harassment. About one-third of transsexual students have been harassed in some form by a teacher or staff member (Mottet 33). Students who report being harassed by a teacher or another member of the school staff have an increased risk of attempting or even successfully committing suicide.
Harassment can happen anywhere, not just in school. Restaurants, home, the streets, and believe it or not, a medical setting can all be the locations of harassment. In the largest ever survey of transgender people, Injustice at Every Turn, A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, there were startling facts about discrimination in a professional medical setting. 28% report having been harassed, 26% have been full-out assaulted. 24% were denied equal treatment in a doctor’s office or hospital just because of their gender identity, and 19% were just denied any treatment whatsoever. 13% have actually been denied equal treatment in an emergency room of all places (“Health Care”). Some of them weren’t just physically assaulted, but sexually assaulted.
Sometimes it’s not just doctors and nurses denying these people treatment, a lot of transsexuals are actually afraid to go to a doctor because they’re afraid of being discriminated against. 28% postponed their own care because of this. Then there’s a lot that just can’t afford it. 48% of transsexuals postponed getting medical care due to lack of funds. But what about insurance? Some estimates say 69% are denied by some, if not all, medical providers (“Health Care”). More specific estimates say 52% of MtFs are without insurance, and 41% of Female-to-Males (FtM) are without insurance (“Issues”). Of course, this number will drop a bit with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, but that doesn’t promise coverage for everything. People aren’t getting treatment for injuries or diseases, sometimes even life-threatening ones, because of who they are. This isn’t right, it’s actually unconstitutional. Everyone deserves equal treatment in all aspects of life, especially in a hospital or doctor’s office. If hospitals and insurance companies just realized that transsexualism is a real problem that no one is bothering to help with, many transsexuals’ lives could be saved, whether from suicide or external forces. Some transsexual-related medical treatment includes things like hormone therapy (62% have had it, 23% want it, and only 15% don’t want to do it), chest reduction surgery for FtMs (43% have had it, 50% want it), vaginoplasty for MtFs (Only 23% have had it, and a whole 64% want it) (“Health Care”). Treatments like that could potentially make transsexuals feel better about themselves, taking suicide out of the picture for them.
If things continue the way they are, more and more people will kill themselves. The most optimistic number for the amount of transsexual suicides is 40,000, which is still very grave. That minimum number for the amount of suicides will continue to rise, causing more hopelessness in transsexuals. If that number rises any more, more and more transsexuals will feel like they will experience suicidal thoughts and tendencies, even if it’s not true. They’ll feel like just another number. But this dark, dismal future can be avoided, even if people who are in that dark place feel like it can’t be.
The suicide rate for transsexuals may be astronomically high, but there are ways to lower it. Be there for them, comfort them when they’re in pain, give them a shoulder to cry on. And most importantly, never ignore them in their time of need. These simple things that require little-to-no energy can create giant changes in the lives of vulnerable people. These things can create a brighter future for people stuck in the dark. These things can save lives.