Family Rejection Linked to Transgender Suicide, Drug Use

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A newly-released report has found a connection between suicide attempts and substance abuse in an effort to cope with transgender discrimination and family rejection.

For the study, “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Suicide Attempts and Substance Misuse Among Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Adults,” data was taken from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  In all, data was used for 3,458 individuals who identify themselves to be transgender or gender nonconforming.  Authors Augustus Klein and Sarit A. Golub observed the health risks by way of level of reported family rejection, either low, moderate, or high.

Participants ranged in age between 18 and 98, with 61% having been assigned a male at birth.  Just over one-third, 36%, reported a nonbinary gender identity.  The majority of those involved were white, well educated, and employed.

While slightly over half of participants, 54.3%, reported little to no family rejection, 31.3% reported a moderate level of rejection by family members through experiencing two or three types of family rejection, and 14.3% reported a high level of rejection with four or more types of rejection.

Those that reported high levels of rejection were more likely to be older, born male, and have a binary gender identity.  In addition, high levels of rejection were found to be connected to lower income levels and higher rates of unemployment.  No significant association was found between family rejection and race/ethnicity or education.

Study results found 42.3% of participants reporting a suicide attempt, while 26.3% said they had misused drugs or alcohol in order to better handle transgender discrimination.  After researchers controlled for age, race/ethnicity, sex assigned at birth, binary gender identity, income, education, and employment status, family rejection was found to be linked to an increased chance of engaging in both of these behaviors.  As the level of family rejection increased, so did the risk of these behaviors.

According to the authors, family rejection could be responsible for negative health effects for two reasons.  The first suggests that it is itself a stressor that could negatively impact the mental health, economic security, and health behavior of individuals.  In addition, they say that such rejection does not offer transgender individuals the buffer that people usually obtain from social support of those close to them.  Transgender individuals who find themselves to have been rejected from their own families could become less resilient to the experiences of structural, as well as interpersonal, discrimination that they may encounter throughout their lives.

The authors suggest that more research is necessary pertaining to the issue of family rejection, as it could be causing negative health outcomes for transgender individuals.  They go on to say that more research would allow for a better understanding of the situation, which could in turn help to increase the amount of public health interventions available.

“These findings suggest that providers serving the transgender community consider the role of families when assessing a transgender person’s social, emotional, and physical health.35 Providing emotional and informational support to families may help make a critical difference in decreasing the risk and increasing well-being for transgender individuals. Future research is needed to examine for the protective factors associated with both social and familial support that may assist in mitigating the negative effects of the structural and institutional discrimination and violence experienced by transgender people.”