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“Passing” Linked to Better Mental Health in Transgender Individuals

“Passing” Linked to Better Mental Health in Transgender IndividualsFor many transgender people, being perceived by others as their desired gender or “passing” is important. An appearance that is in harmony with their gender identity can help with acceptance, and it might reduce stigma and discrimination.

New research suggests that passing could have mental health benefits as well.

For a recent Journal of Sexual Medicine study, researchers surveyed 620 transgender people (309 transwomen and 311 transmen) about their experiences with passing, defined as “visual conformity with affirmed gender.” They also evaluated each participant for depression and anxiety symptoms.

Transmen were more likely to feel that they passed. About 84% of the transmen said they wanted others to see them as very masculine, and 70% felt that this was the case. Most of the transwomen (91%) said they wanted to be seen as very feminine. But only 45% thought they were perceived that way.

Participants who felt that they passed were less likely to have depression and anxiety.

Among transmen, those who had had gender-affirming surgery (such as the surgical creation of a penis) were more likely to feel that they passed. This was not the case for transwomen, however, and the study authors called for more research in this area.

They added that their observations could be “bidirectional.” A feeling of passing may be linked to less depression and anxiety. But being less depressed or anxious might make someone feel like they pass.

Confirmation of the findings are needed, the authors said. The results could help professionals develop programs to benefit transgender people.


Gender Issues

Anderson, Alecia D., et al.

“ ‘Your Picture Looks the Same as My Picture’: An Examination of Passing in Transgender Communities”

(Full-text. Published: July 24, 2019)

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

To, Margaret, MD, MPH, et al.

“Visual Conformity With Affirmed Gender or “Passing”: Its Distribution and Association With Depression and Anxiety in a Cohort of Transgender People”

(Full-text. Published: August 14, 2020)