It has been widely described that transgender people often suffer, in addition to physical and sexual violence, from economic, professional, educational, medical and also institutional forms of discrimination. This seems to be mainly the consequence of transphobia and stigma (social disapproval).
The term transphobia has been introduced in recent years and it refers to the emotional distress towards individuals who do not conform to gender stereotypes. In other words, transphobic people experience unpleasant emotions, ranging from intolerance and disgust up to real hatred towards anyone who does not appear and/or behave like a "typical" male or female. This psychological construct has little to do with “known” phobias: in fact, while phobic people generally cause harm to themselves, for example by isolating themselves because of their fears, transphobia results in harm to others. Transphobic people perceive as abnormal any gender expression that differs from the “norm”. As described in the literature these individuals function with rigid structures, tend to see things dichotomously (either black or white), are often conformist and have low self-esteem.
Internalized transphobia is a condition according to which transgender persons feel ashamed for their condition and therefore often self-isolate and self-exclude from relationships and/or work. A large part of the psychological distress associated with gender incongruence (for example, depression and suicide) seems to be the consequence of low self-esteem and social isolation, directly linked to transphobia and internalized transphobia.
Similarly, transgender people frequently experience problems in their studies up to early school drop out, conflictual family relations and/or drug abuse. Many transgender people do not report discomfort towards the body; in these cases, the main challenges seems not to be related to hormonal or surgical therapies, but to the fight against stigma and to acceptance and inclusion by society.
Grant JM, Mottet LA, Tanis J et al. Injustice at every turn: a report of the national transgender discrimination survey. National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 2011.
Fisher AD, Castellini G, Ristori J, et al. Who has the worst attitudes toward sexual minorities? Comparison of transphobia and homophobia levels in gender dysphoric individuals, the general population and health care providers. J Endocrinol Invest. 2017; 40(3):263-73.