Understanding the Mental Health of FTM Transgender Individuals
The mental health of transgender individuals is an area of growing concern and study.
Recognizing and addressing this community’s unique mental health challenges is crucial.
Recent research provides valuable insights into this, shedding light on the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses within this population.
A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information examined how prevalent psychiatric diagnoses are among transgender patients who are under clinical care.
Among the transgender patients in the study, 58% had at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
In stark contrast, only 13.6% of the cisgender patient population had similar diagnoses.
Understanding the mental health challenges faced by transgender individuals is a critical step toward providing adequate support and healthcare services.
It highlights the need for accessible mental health resources tailored to the unique needs of this population.
Exploring the Reasons Behind Being FTM
Understanding the factors that influence someone’s journey to becoming female-to-male transgender (FTM) is a complex and multifaceted endeavor.
Still, it’s an important step toward understanding their struggles with mental health.
It’s essential to approach this subject with respect and sensitivity, recognizing that every individual’s experience is unique.
Genetic Predisposition and Gender Dysphoria
One avenue of research that has gained attention in recent years is the potential genetic underpinnings of gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria refers to the distress individuals experience when their gender identity differs from their sex at birth.
A study by scientists at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne focused on transgender women, individuals assigned male at birth who later underwent cross-hormone treatment and surgery to affirm their female gender identity.
Analyzing DNA from 380 transgender women, the researchers made a significant discovery.
They found that specific variations in 12 genes responsible for processing sex hormones like estrogen and androgen (including testosterone) were significantly overrepresented in transgender women compared to non-transgender males.
What does this mean? These genetic variations might affect how some individuals process androgen, potentially influencing brain development.
While this study focuses on MTF (male to female) individuals, the findings could also be applied to FTM individuals.
The Acquired Factor: Differences in Sexual Interests
While exploring why some individuals transition from female to male (FTM), we examine an intriguing aspect: how acquired factors may influence sexual interests.
A study led by Akira Tsujimura and his team sheds light on this fascinating topic.
Tsujimura’s study delved into the sexual interests of FTM individuals compared to cisgender men.
Using an eye-tracking system, they observed how both groups responded to sexual stimuli in videos.
Their findings revealed significant distinctions:
When presented with a video featuring a provocatively dressed woman (clip 1), FTM individuals paid less attention to human regions (like the eyes and mouth of the actress) compared to cisgender men.
This suggests a lower interest in sexual presentation in the early stages of transitioning, possibly linked to pre-surgery feelings.
In a video with intimate scenes (clip 2), FTM participants were notably attentive to the male actor’s body, whereas cisgender men largely ignored it.
This suggests that the longing for a more masculine physique could be strong in FTM individuals during their pre-surgery stage.
Interestingly, the two groups had no significant differences in their viewing patterns when presented with a video of heterosexual intercourse (clip 3).
This similarity in response to high sexual stimuli hints at the complexity of sexual interests.
Overall, these findings suggest that the sexual interests of FTM individuals differ from those of cisgender men, aligning more closely with biological women.
This unexpected result further explores the genetic and acquired factors shaping sexual interests.
Mental Health Issues in the FTM Community
There are several reasons why someone who identifies as a transgender man (FTM) would have mental health struggles.
These reasons are not specific to the FTM community and could affect the entire transgender community.
It’s obvious that in our society, anyone who deviates from the norm will face either prejudice or discrimination.
This can manifest in multiple different ways, including but not limited to physical violence, verbal harassment, and, more seriously, being denied access to basic living necessities such as healthcare, housing, and employment.
All these experiences can lead to various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
In addition to how society treats you, transgender individuals can also struggle with how they treat themselves.
This is similar to gender dysphoria that we discussed above, in that the process of coming to terms with one’s identity can be extremely emotionally and mentally challenging.
Many individuals who are FTM experience the distressing disconnection between their gender identity (man) and the sex that they were assigned at birth (female).
This leads to confusion, self-doubt, and many negative feelings that often impact their mental health.
While being transgender is accepted in some parts of the world, it is still largely a taboo topic that many families either do not discuss or do not accept.
If a transgender FTM individual belongs to such a family, coming out as transgender can likely strain their family relationships and, thereby, their support system, which can negatively impact their mental health.
Some individuals may also face rejection from family members they previously felt close to, which can lead to them feeling isolated and alone.
Sexual Health Issues
Regarding the biological aspect of being transgender and transitioning in general, it’s possible that FTM individuals may have very specific and niche sexual health concerns in accordance with their experience.
These concerns can range from sexual function and reproductive health to body image issues and protection during intercourse.
It can be quite shame-inducing to talk about these issues due to the taboos attached to being transgender, which is why it’s so important for healthcare providers to be open-minded and knowledgeable about transgender-specific struggles so that they do not add to the emotional turmoil that FTM individuals go through.
Response Measures to Prevent Mental Health Issues
To prevent the mental health of transgender individuals from getting worse, it’s important to have response measures in place.
These can include crisis hotlines and support networks designed specifically with transgender people and their experiences in mind.
The existence of these measures could save someone’s life.
Giving transgender individuals access to counselors and/or therapists with relevant experience, as well as knowledge about gender identities, is very crucial.
Ignorance within the psychiatry and medical industry can have long-term harmful effects on transgender individuals’ mental health.
Finding Like-Minded Partners
Supportive relationships and friendships can be a great method of socialization and improving mental health.
FTM individuals can seek like-minded partners through support groups, LGBTQ+ social events, social media, and dating applications.
Not only can they connect with potential romantic partners, but they can also connect with new friends and meet new people with similar orientations and/or interests.
This can curate a safe space, positively impacting their mental health.
Certain places have an LGBTQ+ friendly environment and many bustling queer communities.
The top 6 of these places include but aren’t limited to San Francisco, Palm Springs, San Diego, West Hollywood, Laguna Beach, and Guerneville.
Social Understanding and Respect
To create a truly safe space, we must be socially understanding and respectful, which comes with challenging our biases.
This can come about by trying to reduce discrimination, challenging stereotypes, and encouraging respect for all the gender identities that exist.
All of the above will help foster an accepting environment where transgender individuals feel welcome and safe.
Good Family Relationships
While it is understandable that some transgender individuals will inevitably fall out of contact with their families, it is also essential to note that, in some cases, it is possible to build and maintain a healthy familial relationship.
This can be a critical source of support and love for transgender individuals.
Enhancement of Sex Education
Including comprehensive and inclusive education in terms of sex education and biology within schools can help not just transgender individuals themselves but also society as a whole.
It can help people understand their bodies, relationships, as well as sexual health, all the while promoting good boundaries.
If sex education is inclusive and respectful of the diversity within identities, it will increase the likelihood of better mental health among transgender individuals.
Learn More: FTM Transgender Online Resources
There’s no debate over the fact that transgender individuals have a lot of things going on in their lives that aren’t particularly in their favor.
From gender dysphoria to biological struggles to mental health issues, the life of a transgender female-to-male person is full of emotional turmoil.
However, there are ways we can help them and prevent their mental health from getting worse, as listed above.
Above all, if you’d like to be there for someone transgender, just listen to their experiences and empathize with their origin.