Gender Non-conformity (GNC) Creates Mental Distress in Youth
GNC or gender non-conformity has become a real issue in our schools today. A study conducted of 6082 high school students said GNC was associated with feeling sad and hopeless as well as suicidal. This leads to an increase in peer harassment and violence as well as increase exposure to child abuse. this exposure also has led to an increase in substance abuse as well as an increase experience of mental distress (Lowry et al, 2018).
Youth who are transgendered have an identity differing from the sex assigned at birth. There is a poorer health outcome with the gender non-conforming (GNC) group. There has also been found to be an increased risk of problems with mobility, usual activities, pain or discomfort, anxiety, and depression. Population studies with large samples of adolescents are needed. Health status and care utilization are different among youth who are GNC (Rider et al, 2018).
Peer victimization and homophobic bullying tend to emerge during early adolescence and are highly correlated behavior as demonstrated by both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Homophobic bullying is understood as a form of gender-based harassment consisting of pejorative labels or denigrating phrases aimed at youth perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual queer or gender nonconforming. This kind of bullying can involve physical, verbal and electronic aggression or violence.
Research has demonstrated this kind of bullying is not only targeted toward sexual and gender diverse youth but may also be directed at heterosexual youth to reinforce traditional gender norms. Bullying perpetration and homophobic name-calling are overlapping. Yet distinct forms of peer aggression among friends this type of harassment or teasing may serve as a form of gender role enforcement where friends use homophobic name calling to enforce their own status while warning others not to deviate from socially sanctioned gender behavior.
Some of the literature this study looked at showed homophobic bullying or name calling is connected to negative mental health outcomes. Those exposed to this bullying are associated with lower educational outcomes and mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, substance abuse, and distress. Of the studies reviewed 70% showed only risk factors while 50% included an assessment of sexual or gender identity. Family as a part of the micro-system that a student has immediate interactions with can have a direct impact on their attitudes, behavior, and well being (Espelage et al, 2018).
Adolescents and young adults who have an NCG expression are at a higher risk of social and physical stressors such as harassment discrimination and violence victimization. Mounting evidence points to the serious mental health consequences of these social determinants for people who are GNC suggesting physical health outcomes also warrant attention. Stigma has also been linked to reducing personal well being and health-related quality of life for those with specific health conditions. Studies of masculine gender conformity support need a closer investigation of health consequences associated with the spectrum of gender conformity.
Higher levels of GNC have been associated with alcohol, tobacco, and illegal substance use, to greater depression symptomology and a medical mistrust of men. The findings provide evidence of the relationship between socially assigned gender nonconformity and risk of poor Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL). The findings also found elevated anxiety depression showing young people with GNC are at a higher risk for negative mental health outcomes. In addition, the study found childhood abuse has been shown to mediate the relationship between childhood GNC and adolescent depression. Also greater GNC among women could also predict greater participation in occupations usually seen as masculine inviting more injuries. Furthermore, the study suggested a decrease in HRSQOL can be directly related to exposure to stigma or violence (Gordan et al, 2017).
This study explored the experiences and feelings of safety in public facilities in relation to the psychological wellbeing of GNC youth. There is a widespread political debate on GNC youths’ use of public facilities in accordance to their gender identity as opposed to the gender they were born with. NC passed into law requiring all people to use public bathrooms in accordance to the sex assigned at birth regardless of gender identity or physical appearance. Much has been voiced and written about parents feeling worried about their female children going to the public facility and having a pedophile follow them in saying they identify female. President Trumps Administration has said it will not pursue federal enforcement of violations brought due to proper bathroom use.
Proponents of laws restricting public facility used to correspond with the sex assigned at birth wish to protect individuals from violence or indiscretion by perpetrators who could use their gender identity to harm children. In an effort to cater to the GNC group it has been suggested they make use of the family/unisex public bathrooms. The study found that limiting use in school to the sex assigned at birth help sort out much of the confusion as well as for their locker rooms (Weinhardt et al, 2017).
Transgendered people are individuals who identify with a different gender than that was assigned at birth. The link between transgendered and negative mental health outcomes is well documented and established. Sexual fluidity may represent a sexual stressor as individuals move toward or away from a minority orientation. Sexual fluidity is defined as a change in one or more dimensions of sexual orientation. They have a reported increase of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Youth with this report greater psychological distress like self-harm behavior. Lifetime change in attractions associated with negative mental health outcomes including self-harm, suicide attempts, depression and all increased after an individual has medically transformed (Katz-Wise et al, 2017).
Espelage, D.L. et al. (2018). A literature review of protective factors associated with homophobic bullying and its consequences among children & adolescents. Aggression and Violent Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2018.07.003
Gordon, A.R. et al. (2017). Decrements in health-related quality of life associated with gender nonconformity among US adolescents and young adults. Quality of Life Research,26(8). Doi:10.1007/s11136-017-1545-1
Katz-wise, S.L. et al. (2017). Self-reporting changes in attractions and social determinants of mental health in transgendered adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior,46(5). Doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0812-5
Lowry, R. et al. (2018). Mental distress associated with nonconforming gender expression among high school students. JAMA Pediatrics. Doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.2140
Rider, G.N. et al. (2018). Health and care utilization of transgender and gender nonconforming youth: A population-based study. Pediatrics, 141(3). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-1683
Weinhardt, L.S. et al. (2017). Transgendered and gender nonconforming youths’ public facilities use and psychological well-being: A mixed method study. Transgendered Health,2(1). Doi: 10.1089/trgh.2017.0020