Trump’s presidency linked to LGBTQ mental distress, studies find

Worry. depression. Stress. These are some of the feelings LGBT Americans experienced during the Trump administration, according to two recent studies. The two reports, which were conducted independently, came to the same conclusion: There was a significant decline in the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people when Donald Trump was president.

“Everyone’s worst fears have come true,” Adrienne Grzenda, associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA and lead author of one of the studies, told NBC News. “We’ve been noticing this undercurrent of desperation and desperation among our clients,” many of whom are LGBT.

Even before Trump’s election, LGBTQ advocates sounded the alarm about his track record and that of running mate, Mike Pence, who publicly opposed gay marriage and other gay rights. Once sworn in, the Trump administration took several steps to roll back LGBT rights and protections, including banning transgender people from the military, withdrawing Act IX protections for transgender students, and reversing plans to count LGBT people in the census.

While Trump is no longer in the White House, the continued introduction of anti-LGBT legislation in states continues to put LGBTQ people, especially children, at risk of significant mental health consequences, according to some advocates and researchers.

‘Severe’ and ‘frequent’ mental distress

A study due to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Economics and Human Biology found that “severe mental distress” — defined as reporting poor mental health every day for the past 30 days — increased among LGBT people during Trump’s rise and presidency.

The report, written by Masanori Kuroki, associate professor of economics at Arkansas Tech University, compared the likelihood of severe psychological distress between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people using data from more than 1 million people interviewed from 2014 to 2020 for Government Behavior. Risk factor control system.

This study found that the “extreme mental distress gap” between gays and non-gays “increased from 1.8 percentage points during 2014-2015 to 3.8 percentage points after a Trump presidency became possible in early 2016”. The study notes that even small increases in severe distress are considered significant, because such narrowing is not uncommon.

While Trump was not the first president to advocate and implement policies widely considered anti-LGBT, his tenure has followed the relatively pro-LGBT Obama presidency. The study states that the possibility of removing recently acquired rights and protections “may be more detrimental to the mental health of LGBT people than simply not having equal rights in the first place”.

While Kuroki’s report includes a cautionary note about attributing the increase in LGBT mental disorder to Trump’s rise and presidency, it notes that “the findings do indicate that the Biden administration may have inherited higher rates of LGBT mental disorder than they would have.” If only Trump had not run for office and won the 2016 election.

In his conclusion, Kuroki suggests that future research examine LGBT mental health under the Biden administration, which has already implemented measures to advance LGBT rights and protections.

“If presidents are affecting gay mental health, we should expect the gap of severe mental distress between gay and non-gay people to narrow under the Biden presidency,” he stated in his report’s conclusion.

The Grzenda study used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Monitoring System to measure whether the 2016 election and transition to the Trump administration led to a change in the number of Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) adults who reported “recurrent psychological distress” compared to heterosexual and heterosexual men. Responders (Recurrent mental distress is defined as feeling depressed, tense, or unable to control emotions for at least 14 of the last 30 days). Between 2015 and 2018, LGBT respondents who reported frequent psychological distress reported an increase of 6.1 percentage points, from 15.4 percent to 21.5 percent, while non-LGBT respondents reported an increase of 1.1 percentage points, from 10.4 percent to 11.5 percent. cent.

“There is a clear association between the 2016 election and the shift to a critical anti-gay, bisexual and transgender administration and deteriorating SGM mental health, although no causal relationship can be fully established,” the report, published this year in LGBT Health, states. .

However, the effects did not appear equally among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

“We have to start looking at the subpopulations more,” Grzenda said. “When we broke it down, it was bisexual people and especially transgender people who were really affected the most.”

The disparate impact on sexual minority adults may be due to the Trump administration’s targeting of transgender rights, protections in military service, health care, and access to public facilities, Garzanda said. At the same time, a focus on LGBT rights may “exacerbate feelings of bisexual disappearance/erasure,” and compound the current pressure on intersex respondents.

The study, which includes a sample size of nearly 270,000 adults, about 5 percent of whom are LGBTI, states in its conclusion that its findings provide “data-driven support for advocacy efforts toward implementing unambiguous anti-discrimination that protects on the basis of [sexual orientation and gender identity] In all areas of everyday life, unchangeable for sudden political realignment.”

Grzenda, like Kuroki, points out that a definitive causal link between the Trump administration and decline in LGBTQ mental health cannot be drawn with the existing data, although both studies controlled for potential competing factors.

‘Breaking the Legislation’

The impact of policy on LGBT mental health is not limited to the federal government and national policies. The wave of anti-LGBT legislation in state homes is raising concerns about other sources of mental health stress, especially for young people.

From 2015 to 2019, 42 states introduced more than 200 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation, according to a recent study by Child Trends, a nonpartisan research institute, finding that introducing such measures has negative mental health consequences for LGBT minors.

The report notes that Crisis Text Line, a global nonprofit that provides free texting services for mental health, saw a slight rise in messaging from LGBTQ youth in the four weeks after their states proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“This suggests that the bills are harmful whether they are passed or not,” Dominique Paris, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Child Trends and lead author of the study, told NBC News. “We need to understand the full scope of what these laws do to young people.”

Among the most common types of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced during the 2015-19 time frame were restrictions on single-sex facilities, the report notes.

This year alone, Paris said, there have already been more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced statewide.

“Often the argument is in support of [these bills] is to protect children, but what this research indicates is that this may not actually be the outcome, and suggesting this legislation simply might cause distress to children,” said Paris.

Researchers with the Trevor Project, an organization that intervenes in LGBTQ youth crises and prevents suicide, found that 94% of LGBTQ youths said recent policies had negatively affected their mental health.

“When there are public policy decisions, we hear about it in our crisis line,” Amit Bali, CEO of the project, told NBC News.

When Trump banned transgender people from the military, Project Trevor saw an increase in trans and non-binary people reaching out for crisis services, he said. Paley added that this was not because transgender people necessarily wanted to serve in the military, but because a powerful public figure was making judgments about their worth.

He said, “Young men are listening.” “When their message is discriminatory and hateful, it has an effect.”

According to the Trevor Project research, transgender and non-binary youth are at particular risk of the most devastating consequences of mental disorder, including suicide.

“It’s not because non-binary LGBT people are born more likely to think about suicide. It’s because of the discrimination, isolation, and rejection they face,” Bali said.

This year, Pale said, Texas lawmakers have introduced dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills, many of which target transgender and non-binary people.

On Wednesday, a bill that would require student-athletes to compete on sports teams matching their “biological gender” left the committee and heads toward a full state assembly floor vote where it is likely to pass. The bill was introduced despite emotional testimonies from parents and students regarding the toll such a law would take on transgender children, something that advocates for children from the LGBTQ community have been sounding about for some time.

“The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 calls, conversations, and texts from trans and nonbinary people in Texas this year,” Paley said. “This is considered actual bullying under the legislation. It is dangerous and it is wrong.”

“A few steps forward, several steps back”

Advocates hope gay mental health will improve under the Biden administration, which has issued public statements and enacted policies to support LGBT rights.

However, some, like Bali and Paris, are wary of the message that some signals — such as continued support for Trump among many Republicans, the onslaught of anti-LGBT state legislation, and the failure to pass the Equality Act in Congress — will be sent to the LGBT community. Young and old.

“I think we’re seeing some steps forward and several steps back,” Bali said.

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