We as a society must find a better way to reach out to our transgender citizens. Transgender people already deal with societal discrimination and dismissal from family members based on their gender identities, but apparently they must also deal with suicide attempts. The largest study of transgender people to date was recently released with shocking numbers.
The study from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law shows a link between discrimination of transgender people and the exceptionally high suicide attempt rate among the population. One of the most staggering percentages is the percent of suicide attempts of transgender individuals at the college level.
“Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents who suffered physical or sexual violence at school reported suicide attempts, as did 65 percent of respondents who experienced violence at work,” according to the Williams Institute survey findings.
Different factors influenced the numbers as well, including a higher rate for those whose families rejected them, members of a minority race, and those who had doctors refuse to help them.
Being refused medical treatment by so-called professionals simply for being transgender, that alone should be unacceptable to everyone of us.
The recent California law that allows transgender students to choose the public restroom, sex-segregated sports teams and programs based on their self-identification regardless of birth gender may help, but these numbers must give us all pause.
Kean O’Brien, a teacher at Art Institute, has identified as transgender since he was 17-years-old and has been involved in the community as a social activist. He spoke of being privileged with a supportive family and community that many others do not experience.
“I grew up in a world where that was okay. I am in an art world and have been surrounded since I was a teenager,” O’Brien said. “But I didn’t legally change my identification until 2 years ago, the main reason was getting arrested”.
Going to jail can be a major issue for trans individuals as well. If they are female born, but identify as male and placed into the male side of a jail where they can be subjected to rape.
O’Brien’s preferred gender pronoun is male. He believes there are many ways to improve awareness and acceptance of transgender people in institutions. Asking what people’s preferred gender pronouns are, placement in jail, and gender-neutral bathrooms are among the beginning steps.
If more laws have to be passed to help protect our fellow transgender citizens, then lets pass them. We should always remember that transgender people are members of our family as a whole. They are our parents, our children, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and they should be treated with the same respect as we treat our families.
On the PCC website, Health Services offers links to the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for those who suffer from difficulty due to their gender orientation.