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Removing barriers to legal gender recognition good for mental health – study

When the barriers to legal gender recognition are removed, the mental health of transgender and nonbinary people may improve.

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When the barriers to legal gender recognition are removed, the mental health of transgender and nonbinary people may improve.

This is according to a study – “Barriers to Possessing Gender-Concordant Identity Documents are Associated with Transgender and Nonbinary People’s Mental Health in Aotearoa/New Zealand” – that appeared in LGBT Health.

For this study, the researchers – Kyle K.H. Tan, Ryan J. Watson, Jack L. Byrne, and Jaimie F. Veale – used data from a 2018 community-based survey of trans and nonbinary people in Aotearoa (N = 818) in New Zealand. Variables of investigation included: gender-concordant IDs, mental health (past-month psychological distress, past-year nonsuicidal self-injury, past-year suicidality) and barriers to changing gender markers on a birth certificate or passport. Associations between gender-concordant IDs and mental health were determined using generalized linear regression models.

They found that:

  • 34.8% reported the correct name on all of their IDs.
  • The proportion with the correct gender marker on both birth certificates and passports was 16.0%.
  • Participants with gender-concordant IDs were more likely to be older, have higher levels of income and education, and have had genital reconstruction.
  • 68.7% of participants reported experiencing at least one barrier to changing gender markers on their IDs, and these participants had significantly higher average points of psychological distress scores and greater odds of suicidal ideation than those with gender-concordant IDs, after adjusting for sociodemographic variables.

“We present novel findings on higher levels of mental health problems among trans and nonbinary people who faced barriers in trying to obtain gender-concordant IDs compared with those with gender-concordant IDs,” the research hers stated, adding that “removing barriers to legal gender recognition may be an effective way to improve mental health.”


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