COVID-19 exacerbated the ongoing mental health disparities for transgender and gender nonbinary people.
This is according to a study – “Understanding the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Health of Transgender and Gender Nonbinary Individuals Engaged in a Longitudinal Cohort Study” by Jeremy D. Kidd, MD, MPHORCID; Kasey B. Jackman, PhD, RN; Renato Barucco, MS; Jordan D. Dworkin, PhD; Curtis Dolezal, PhD; Theresa V. Navalta, BS; Joseph Belloir, MS; and Walter O. Bockting, PhD – that appeared in the Journal of Homosexuality.
For the researchers, “TGNB individuals have unique health needs, including gender-affirming hormonal and surgical interventions that many TGNB people need to align their bodies with their gender identity.”
These same interventions may also help other people perceive a TGNB person’s gender as they experience it, thus facilitating gender-affirming social interactions.
For this study, 208 TNGB individuals were surveyed between March-June 2020. The researchers then used multivariable linear regression to examine reduced LGBTQ/TGNB community support and disruptions in gender-affirming health care as predictors of psychological distress during the pandemic.
The researchers found that “the pandemic exacerbated ongoing mental health disparities for TGNB individuals. Furthermore, reduced LGBTQ/TGNB support was associated with increased psychological distress during the pandemic.”
Among the 208 participants, access to LGBTQ-specific and TGNB-specific support services was reduced for 113 individuals (54.3%) and 91 individuals (43.8%), respectively. Out of 208 TGNB individuals, 23 participants (11.1%) reported having a previously scheduled gender-affirming surgery canceled or postponed; 68 participants (32.7%) experienced an interruption in receiving (n = 55) or a delay in starting (n = 13) gender-affirming hormones.
Regarding psychological distress, the study found that “a significantly higher percentage of respondents met criteria for ‘clinically significant psychological distress’ during the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic ratings.”
The researchers recommended for special attention to be given “to address the unique ways in which TGNB individuals were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes increasing access to LGBTQ/TGNB community support and addressing long-standing health disparities.”
They added: “Policy-makers tasked with developing programs to assist individuals during and after the pandemic should pay special attention to meeting the unique needs of TGNB individuals while also addressing the long-standing disparities that impact the health and wellbeing of TGNB individuals.”