The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has published the results of “the largest survey to date comparing the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents to heterosexual and non-transgender residents in Massachusetts”.
[Click here to download a PDF copy of the report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Persons in Massachusetts]
The Executive Summary points out that the health of trans people is worse than amongst cis people; and that we also have “worse outcomes with respect to self‐reported health, disability status, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and lifetime violence victimization”.
Some of the results do stand out – they may not be particularly surprising, given the amount of anecdotal evidence one hears from conversations with other trans people, but they do seem to confirm it:
- While 10.4% of heterosexual respondents and 7.8% of gay men and lesbian respondents did not have a personal doctor, 17.6% of bisexual respondents and 17.3% of transgender persons indicated that they did not have a personal doctor.
- With respect to overall health, respondents were asked if their general health was excellent, very good, good, fair or poor. Heterosexual respondents had 82.5% responding Excellent or Very Good while gay men or lesbian respondents reported 78.0%, bisexual respondents 73.5% and transgender persons 67.3%. Self‐reported general health has been found to be a good indicator of an individual’s actual health status.
- Respondents were asked to report how many days in the past 30 days they have felt sad, blue or depressed. Heterosexuals reported 3.97 days, gay men and lesbians 4.18 days, and bisexuals 6.38 days. Transgender persons reported 7.79 days, higher than non‐transgender respondents (4.29 days).
- Respondents were asked if during the past 12 months they had seriously considered attempting suicide. Among heterosexuals, 2.3% reported having considered suicide and among gay men and lesbians, 4.4% reported suicide ideation. Transgender persons (30.8%) and bisexuals (7.4%) reported higher rates of suicide ideation.
- Respondents were asked if they had ever been threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner. Among heterosexuals (12.3%) reported a lifetime history of being threatened with intimate partner violence victimization, compared to gay men and lesbians (14.0%), bisexuals (18.4%). Transgender persons (34.6%) were more likely to report being threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner than non‐transgender persons (13.6%).
- Respondents were asked to report whether they had ever had an HIV test. Gay men and Lesbians (72.2%) had the highest rate, followed by bisexuals (66.7%), transgender persons (65.4%) and heterosexuals (49.0%).
To my mind, what’s missing from a lot of these data is the “why” aspect: why are trans people less likely to have access to a doctor than gay and lesbian people, why do we feel depressed more often than cis people, why do we feel suicidal more often, why are we more likely to report being threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner than cis people, and so on. Of course, those reasons will undoubtedly vary widely between individuals, but it would have been interesting to know if any patterns had emerged, and if there were any differences between trans and cis populations.
Overall, I think the report is to be welcomed, cautiously – but I also hope that a more rigorous (and bigger) survey can be carried out in the near future. If nothing else, it suggests that the problems we face in our everyday lives are in urgent need, not only of study, but positive and supportive action by the mainstream cis society which oppresses us in so many ways. However, I also think that for there to be any real improvements in our circumstances there first needs to be a substantial change in cis people’s attitudes to us – and that doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon.
Curtsey to Stefani for the heads up
Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia