COVID-19 and Gender Dysphoria
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
I am noticing increase in mental health symptoms in my communities. As we adjust to COVID-19 and Shelter in Place, we all may be experiencing stages of grief, including denial, anger, sadness or depression.
Here are a some unique issues that trans and non binary folks may be experiencing during COVID 19 that may also increase other mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression:
- Gender Dysphoria triggered by increase usage of video and telephone appointments. - Increased social isolation with cancelled support groups and reduced psychiatric services. Some folks may disengage with remote services due to Gender Dysphoria related to voice. - Shelter in Place may restrict folks to non-supportive or unsafe family and home environments. - Less opportunities for experiences of Gender Euphoria (affirmation of gender identity) – for example, some patients may only present as their authentic selves when they are out of their home, or in their support groups. Court processes and government offices for legal name and/or gender marker changes are also halted, which leaves some folks mid-process or with mixed names and gender markers on legal ID’s (like me x_x). - Cancellation of gender-affirming procedures, such as electrolysis and laser hair reduction. This particularly impacts trans women’s gender dysphoria and safety (facial hair) and folks preparing for genital surgery that requires hair removal (this process can take 1-2 years, so every session counts). - Cancellation of gender-affirming surgeries across the Bay Area, including with Kaiser, as they are considered elective.
If your Gender Dysphoria is triggered and mental health symptoms are increasing, I recommend incorporating ways to experience Gender Euphoria in your day. Some examples: 1. Paint your nails. If it isn’t safe or comfortable to have painted finger nails, paint your toe nails and wear socks or slippers. 2. Take some time to put on makeup, even if you aren't going outside or seeing anyone. Do it for you. 3. Call or text someone who will affirm who you are. 4. Connect with local resources, such as - Kaiser MST clinic: Most if not all groups are remote (WebEx). - 24/7 Trans HotLine (by and for trans people): https://www.translifeline.org/ - WORLD Oakland: http://womenhiv.org/world-updates-on-covid-19/ Call 510-986-0340 for Zoom info on support groups for trans women - Brothas - Zoom support group for trans men of color. - Sex Worker ER Grant Fund: http://bayareaworkerssupport.org - San Francisco Transgender District: http://transgenderdistrictsf.com
For parents and loved ones of LGBT folks: - PFLAG Oakland/East Bay: firstname.lastname@example.org (510) 562-7692 - PFLAG San Francisco: email@example.com (415) 921-8850
If you are new to experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms, or like me, and live with chronic mental health needs, here are some relatively accessible practices that I use every day: 1. Deep breathing will help regulate your body’s appropriate stress response. We often unconsciously hold our breath or breath into our chest when stressed. Take a deep breath into your belly. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Try not to hold your breath in a way that is uncomfortable or painful. Instead, focus on physical sensations like your belly raising and lowering. Exhale. Do this 5 times. Notice your heart rate slowing down. Repeat as needed throughout the day.
If you are experiencing racing thoughts or panic: 1. Touch and hold something cold, like a cold towel on the back of your neck. Coldness cues mammalian dive which causes our heart rate to slow down and parasympathetic nervous system to activate a relaxation response. 2. Identify 5 objects around you. Redirect your mind. Name them in your mind or aloud. Touch them. 3. Go through your senses. What do I see (A black coffee mug)? What do I feel (A wooden bench)? What do I hear (car driving by)? What do I smell (oranges)? What do I taste (green tea)? Repeat as needed.