GLB but not T – what the Suicide Prevention Strategy is missing

I have much to say about the NZ Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006-16, but today is just a short snippet that stood out to me. Page 22 of the Strategy deals with the issues faced by GLB people in relation to increased suicide risk. This is really rather important, because GLB suicide attempts and completions are significantly higher that those of the general population. We need to address this, although I don’t know if the Suicide Prevention Strategy can deal with the complex societal factors that push GLB people, especially youth, toward suicide. The fact that it acknowledges the problem is a step forward, at least.

But what about the T? Well, I hear you say, that section addressed sexual orientation, not gender identity, so it must be under the ‘gender’ section, right? Well, no. The section that addressed gender (p.19-20) has not a word to say about trans or genderqueer people. Erased right out of existence in the official Suicide Prevention Strategy, despite the fact that trans men and women have a suicide attempt rate double that of their GLB brothers and sisters, and ten times the population average.

I rant often about inclusiveness in Ministry of Health publications. Often it can seem a bit petty, I guess, demanding equal representation for the severely depressed in MoH literature. this is big though, bigger than any exclusion I’ve seen so far from the Ministry. It’s painful, because they make an effort to include both young and old, Maori and Pacific Islanders and Asians, various sexual orientations, and migrants and refugees – but not trans people. You can see they’ve tried so hard to be inclusive, but what about trans men and women? Have they been overlooked? Have they been carefully and officially ‘overlooked’? Is it pure nastiness and spitefulness, or a religious denial of their existence? I don’t know. I hate to ascribe dark motives to the Ministry, who have some excellent people working toward trans equality, but I don’t see how trans people’s existence could have been forgotten.

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