Transgender women of color are at the lowest level of the social hierarchy, and in most communities, are constantly shamed and demeaned.
Transgender people of color have the lowest life expectancy in the United States at 35 years. This is due in large part to hate crimes targeting the community and the alarming rate at which transgender youth contemplate and commit suicide.
Their absence leaves the community insecure and worried about its safety. These deaths cause a ripple of fear and affect the mental health of the community.
According to the Humans Rights Campaign, 19 transgender individuals have been murdered so far this year, with a majority of them being Black women. These violent attacks are caused by the transphobic tendencies and sexist fragilities of our society. As a result, transgender women are afraid to come out.
“A lot of the [transgender] violence is towards women and so I don’t find, in the youth group, that there are a lot of trans women or nonbinary individuals who are speaking up and coming out,” said Mallory Robinson, engagement specialist for transgender health at The LGBTQ Center in Long Beach.
The experiences that transgender people go through are what affect their mental stability and confidence.
“I believe it has an impact on all people, including those who don’t identify as [transgender],” said Abraham Weil, assistant professor in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Long Beach State. “I am inclined to say that finding sources of connection and support are crucial to anyone’s well-being.”
A study released by the American Medical Student Association shows that 62% of the transgender community reported having depression and 41% of them have attempted suicide. While in comparison the rate for the population at large is much lower.
Luckily, there are services in Long Beach that can help the transgender community, but this is not the case for many other places in the U.S.
Transgender students at CSULB and have resources, both on and off-campus, where they can create a supportive space and receive counseling. With danger targeting the community and the need for a safe atmosphere, safe zones like Rainbow Café and CSULB Queers and Allies Club, on campus, are resources that can help transgender students feel comfortable.
“Rainbow Café and Q&A [are] great [ways] for LGBTQ+ students and [allies] to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community here on campus,” said Amber Va, a first-year WGSS major. “As a trans woman, coming to these support spaces on campus allow me to interact with other LGBTQ+ students and gaining more knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community.”
Sara Stanizai, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Long Beach, emphasized the importance of seeing people with similar identities in these support groups.
“It helps everything, not just [their] mental health,” she said.
According to Stanizai, these zones allow for transgender students to create a safe environment among each other. As well with off-campus resources, the transgender community has access to services that can help combat internal battles or insecurity.
Places like The LGBTQ Center in Long Beach, provide support for the transgender community in addition to “providing access to resources such as legal and medical services as well as by advocating for justice and education,” according to its website.
When asked about the services provided at The LGBTQ Center, Robinson noted that testing, mental health counseling, and legal services were the three most used.
“I definitely feel like mental health [services] is one that a lot of [transgender] individuals come in for,” Robinson said.
At the center, transgender people come in for more than just service but also for a supportive environment and a social space.
“People come here definitely to try and get counseling and just kind of support and [to have] more questions answered and how to approach things like that,” Robinson said. “To have this place, this space where individuals can be themselves…is absolutely amazing.”
These spaces are important because they create an environment where one sees other people with similar backgrounds, identities and journeys.
In places where these resources are not available, there needs to be efforts made to open a more safe space for transgender people.
“For any [transgender] student who may or may not have come out, just remember that you’re not alone,” Va said. “‘There’s [a] light at the end of the tunnel’ is what I always tell myself. You got this. Never give up.”
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
For resources at CSULB click here