Two colleagues of varying genders are sat at a desk working. One colleague has a curly dark, and is wearing a leopard print jacket over a white top and a chunky chain necklace. The colleague next to them is wearing a dark brown leather jacket. They both have a pensive expression.

Why transphobia in public debate is putting people’s mental health at risk

10 June 2024
By Andy Bell

Last year, our most recent writer-in-residence Andrew Kaye Kauffman wrote that he would no longer ‘debate the lives’ of trans people in a world where transphobia was trampling on people’s rights and dignity.

Sadly, today that statement feels more relevant than ever. In recent weeks, and most notably since the calling of the 2024 UK General Election, the lives of trans people are being questioned from all angles. Public and political debates about trans people, that largely exclude trans people themselves, too often simplify, denigrate and distort real life experiences, needs, and struggles.

As a mental health charity, our starting point on this topic is, and must be, the mental health and wellbeing of trans people. We know, from what little data is collected on this issue and from research, that trans people have starkly higher than average rates of mental distress, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Mental health services are not always as welcoming or understanding of trans people’s identities or needs as they could be to offer equitable and effective support. And this may be particularly the case for trans people from racialised communities and those who are neurodivergent.

Public narratives that further marginalise or question the validity of trans people are only going to make this worse. They may put people’s mental health at risk, and by making trans people feel unwelcome in health care environments, may further undermine their access to essential mental health support.

Trans people – including young people – deserve to be heard just as much as any other group of people. We all have to get better at listening, seeking to understand, and challenging narratives that demean or exclude. Only then can trans people have a fairer chance of good mental health and effective mental health care.

The World Health Organisation recently described good mental health as a universal human right. And like any human right, that’s unequivocal and unconditional. There are legitimate discussions to be had – with trans people in the lead – about how to build a more inclusive society and provide health care that best meets people’s holistic needs. But current public debate about trans people’s lives is falling far short of that basic standard, turning attention away from what people need by fuelling prejudice and misunderstanding.

Politicians, commentators and public figures can do their part by listening more, by speaking with compassion, by sharing their platforms with trans people, and by encouraging more and better research into what will enable trans people to live equal, rightful lives.

We’d like to do more to listen to trans people’s experiences of what affects their mental health and what kind of support they need when it is at risk. If you’re interested in sharing your experience via a blog or on our podcast, or getting involved in our work, please get in touch at

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