11 February 2015

"Coming Out" Opens The Door To Better Health

I often wish that I could have "come out" as trans earlier in my life--say, in my adolescence or even early adulthood.  I think of the years I "missed", being unable to live as the person I am.  And I always suspected that I would have had an easier time of living as a woman--especially in my early years in my true gender--had I started sooner.

Of course, there are many reasons why I didn't.  For one thing, I didn't think I was anything like Christine Jorgensen or Renee Richards, the only transsexual women I heard about when I was growing up.  I didn't understand that there were all sorts of ways of being a transsexual woman, let alone a woman, period.  Also, even though I have had relations with males, I always knew that my primary attraction is to women.  According to the conventional wisdom of the time, a "true" trans woman was attracted--and, for that matter, attractive--only to men.

Plus, there was a great deal more overt hostility toward people who didn't fit the prevailing notions of gender and sexuality.  The only reason why I wasn't bullied or harassed even more than I had been was that I was involved in sports and kept up a masculine facade.

One of the results of being in the closet was that I drank heavily and dabbled in drugs in my early adult life.  I also had difficulty forming and keeping relationships--a problem I still have now.

I don't think anything I've just said would surprise Stephen Russell.  He's an expert on adolescent mental health at the University of Arizona at Tuscon.  The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry has just published a study, of which Russell is the lead author, indicating that LGBT adolescents who are open about their sexuality and gender identity have higher self-esteem and suffer from less depression as adults. 

As almost everyone knows, depression can lead to other mental as well as physical health problems, including substance abuse, not to mention suicide attempts.  So, I think it's fair to say that anyone who "comes out" as a teenager is likely to be more healthy in general as an adult.

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