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9.4. Intersections with gender identity

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[At] my last job, I told my boss I was trans, and she told me flat out not to tell anyone [or] I would be fired. I can’t make enough money to support myself right now, and the stress of that has a huge impact on my mental health … The discouragement of looking for work that you are qualified for, and that you know you can do, and being turned down again and again and again, is really damaging.  – Focus group participant

Transgender people told us about the major impacts on their mental health from daily discrimination, lack of societal acceptance, poverty, unaffordable housing and alienation from family, based on gender identity. A focus group co-facilitated by Rainbow Health Ontario, identified poverty as a consequence of discrimination, but also a contributing factor to poor mental health. In a study of 433 trans Ontarians, half “seriously considered” suicide because they were trans. Trans youth (up to age 24) were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than trans people over age 25.[64]

People expressed their concerns with “gender identity disorder” being included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders because it treats trans people as having a mental illness. We heard that trans people are automatically believed to have mental health issues. However, there are tensions around the inclusion of “gender identity disorder” in the DSM-IV-TR. Without being diagnosed as having a disability, trans people do not have access to the Ontario Disability Support Program, funded hormones or sex-reassignment surgery. Some people said the need to transition should be considered a physical health issue, not a mental health issue. 

Some trans people talked about having difficulty getting medical supports to undergo transition, such as hormones, because of mental health issues. They told us how their transition or hormones were seen as the cause of the mental health issue, when the mental health issue may have been linked to broader experiences of discrimination. Some indicated they were not treated with dignity while hospitalized or receiving treatment for a mental health condition; they were not allowed to transition genders, they were sexually harassed, or segregated from other patients. They emphasized the importance of amending the Code to include “gender identity” as an explicit ground to ensure trans people’s rights to equal treatment and full participation in society are recognized. In June 2012, “gender identity” and “gender expression” were added as grounds of discrimination in the Code.

[64] Kyle Scanlon, et al,, “Ontario’s Trans Communities and Suicide: Transphobia is Bad for Our Health,” Trans PULSE E-Bulletin 1:2 (12 November 2010), online: Transpulse project

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