An exploration of gender diverse identities and associated mental health symptomatology

Thorne, Natalie R. (2022) An exploration of gender diverse identities and associated mental health symptomatology. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Background and aims: Gender identities that lay outside of exclusively male and female have been present throughout history, but for the last 20 years, terms for such identities have started to emerge. Now considered under the transgender umbrella, little research has investigated these identities. Mental health symptomatology has been studied within the transgender community as a whole and has constantly been reported as higher than that of the cis-gender population. The reason for this may be body dissatisfaction but also prejudice and rejection. The metal health symptomatology of gender diverse individuals is less researched than the transgender community as a whole. The overarching aim of this thesis is to investigate the mental health of gender diverse individuals and to establish whether the exclusion of this group from language and terminology could be a major factor in the aetiology of mental health symptomatology within this group.

Participants: Clinical samples of gender diverse and binary-identifying individuals were recruited for studies within this research. In addition, non-clinical samples were also used in some of the studies. All participants self-identified as a gender identity other than exclusively male or female.

Main findings: Clinical samples of gender diverse individuals were found to have elevated levels of mental health symptomatology when compared to a similar age group of binary-identifying individuals. A further study reported that gender diverse individuals who seek gender affirming medical treatment (GAMT) did not report higher levels of mental health problems than a group of gender diverse individuals who did not seek GAMT. This rules out body dissatisfaction as the central factor in the aetiology of mental health symptomatology in this group. Qualitative studies within this thesis explored participant’s experiences of being excluded from language and concluded that developing a gender diverse identity was limited by the unavailability of terminology and that the linguistic invisibility of this group lead to many stressful and emotionally difficult situations.

Implications: This thesis demonstrates that mental health symptomatology in gender diverse individuals may be driven more by linguistic invisibility than body dissatisfaction. Language is a major area of stress for gender diverse individuals and invisibility hampers both gender identity discovery and the communication of gender to others. In addition, the absence of terminology for those outside of exclusively male and female can lead to difficult social interactions and a good deal of negotiation of identity is needed on the part of the gender diverse individual. Therefore, transgender health services and mental health professionals should be aware of the additional stress language places on the individual. The introduction of a legal identity outside of male and female as well as greater inclusion in language of such identities will have a positive impact on the mental health of gender diverse individuals.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Arcelus, Jon
Yip, Andrew
Keywords: Transgender; non-binary; gender diverse mental health
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 68958
Depositing User: Thorne, Natalie
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2022 04:40

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