I have been asking people to fill in my survey for my research paper this week, and in doing so have been aware that social media does not perhaps allow the amount of space necessary to address some of the issues around my research. I hope to do so here.
What is the Research?
The aim of this research is to look at whether the high rates of suicide and attempted suicide by people who define themselves as trans/transgender is linked to a fear or reluctance to seek counselling support. This may be caused by past negative experiences, or the belief that counsellors will not understand trans issues, be ill informed or in some cases may be actively transphobic. Findings by Jane Hunt (2013) found that there was a perception among some trans people that counsellors may not have experience of working with trans people, may try to link any psychological problems to being trans, or in may actually express transphobic views. In light of this I want to see if trans people who have attempted, or considered suicide were put off seeking counselling support for the reasons Hunt described.
I hope therefore to not only add to the knowledge about this topic, but provide an impetus for all those who might work in a therapeutic environment with trans people to ensure they are providing the non judgemental, and unconditional positive regard we all should be aiming at in our practice.
Should I be doing it?
This question has concerned me since I decided to propose this as my area of research. I am cisgender. This means that the gender that was assigned to me at birth by examination of primary sexual characteristics matches the gender I feel myself to be. The midwife said “it’s a girl” and I have grown up to be a woman. The external assumptions about me and my internal world match. I am aware that in many ways this research would be better if it were done by someone who was not cis. There is always an issue when someone outside a community attempts to study it. Within sociology this has often resulted in studies that either miss the real concerns of a community or which take on a paternalistic air. However as I discuss here the current structure of counselling training means that those who belong to minority groups are exceptionally unlikely to be able to afford to complete training. It seemed therefore acceptable to set out to study this since I am not speaking over any trans person doing the same kind of work.
My first step was to reach out to trans people I know and ask is this something you believe needs studying, or is there another focus I should be taking. This was vitally important I believe. Even whilst accepting that it may be acceptable for me to study this area the phenomena of the well-meaning outsider who decides what the problem is without being guided by members of a community is not one I wished to perpetuate. I was assured by a number of people who this was a topic that needed more research as a matter of vital importance.
Being led by those who know
It was very important to me that not only was this research something that was seen as needed, but that the research itself was conducted in such a way as to be informed by trans people at every step. The design of the survey was redrafted many times on the advice of the trans people in the pilot study. This was a huge learning experience for me. Listening to people whose experiences were so different to mine proved, if proof were needed, that as counsellors and therapists we must always place the experience of others before our own ideas and assumptions.
If you are not cisgender, and would like to take part in this research you can do so by clicking the link here.
If you have any suggestions or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch.