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Trans people with gender-aligned passports and birth certificates less likely to feel suicidal, new research finds

More than 22,000 trans men and women were surveyed for the study.

Stock image of the trans flag.
Stock image of the trans flag.
Image: Shutterstock/Ink Drop

TRANS MEN AND women with passports and birth certificates which state their identified gender instead of an assigned gender are less likely to experience suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues, a study published in the Lancet Journal has found.

More than 22,000 people who identify as trans in the United States were surveyed for the study and asked to rank the psychological distress they experienced by not having official documents reflect the gender with which they identify.

The results found that 45% of respondents had no IDs with their preferred name and gender, 44% had some IDs that matched their name and/or gender, and just under 11% had their preferred name and gender on all their documents.

Authors of the study pointed to the red-tape and high costs associated with ID changes, which varies among states within the United States. Most states require a court-ordered name change and several hundred dollars, according to researchers. 

Data pooled from the responses of participants in the survey carried out in 2015 found that those with their preferred gender on official ID documents had a 32% lower prevalence of serious psychological distress than those with no updated documents.

They were also 22% less likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the past year and 25% less likely to have made plans to take their own life.

Those with some updated IDs had smaller reductions in distress and suicidal thoughts.

“When a trans person changes their gender on their official documents, it can be a critical step towards gaining social acceptance and legal recognition” Professor Greta Bauer from Western University in Canada, said. 

“Our findings suggest that policy changes to support trans people with taking this step should be considered, in order to help improve their wellbeing, reduce their exposure to discrimination and reduce suicidal thoughts.”

Another researcher, Dr Ayden Scheim from Drexel University in the USA, said: “Our results suggest that governments and administrative bodies can play an important role in helping to reduce psychological distress for trans people, simply by making it easier to access identity documents that reflect their identity.”

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Of the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender, over half are estimated to have clinical depression, compared to around 30% over a lifetime in the general US population.

Some 31% to 41% attempt suicide at some point during their lives, compared to less than 9% generally in the US.

This study follows previous research from Canada which found that having at least one document showing a trans person’s preferred gender marker was associated with fewer suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.  

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