Blog | 31 Mar 2022

Transgender Day of Visibility

This opinion piece forms part of our IMPACTxAsia blog series

Transgender Day of Visibility

Mental Health and the Experiences of the Transgender Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelming media, policy and governmental resources and the prominence of online work and communication, many in the transgender community have voiced the crucial need to reconnect face to face. The largely online environment of the last two years has left people feeling more isolated and vulnerable than ever before. For those who feel uncomfortable using online platforms, worries for mental health repercussions are exacerbated. This is particularly prominent from a workplace perspective, as employees embark on their second year of working from home, the line between work and home life is becoming increasingly blurred, bringing with it detrimental mental health consequences.


Mental Health and the Experiences of the Transgender Community

The crippling consequences of COVID-19 have been felt across the globe and after a turbulent two years of fluctuating restrictions and lockdowns, the stress has taken its toll on people’s mental and physical wellbeing. For minority groups such as the transgender community, these pressures have been magnified, due to their already marginalised position on the periphery of mental and social support. Now more than ever, it is crucial for employers to increase awareness around mental health and wellness, advocating for the mental health struggles faced by minority groups. It is vital to promote positive knowledge transfer and increased empathy to once stigmatised conversations, approaching them with openness, transparency and acceptance.

With working from home the new norm, members of the transgender community have expressed a sense of relief at the break from their often discriminatory and hostile work environments. These enhanced feelings of safety at home have translated to an increase in productivity, with employers noting employees’ demeanor and work improving as a result. However, the issue of isolation and loneliness  must also be acknowledged, with the repercussions of arduous working hours, high employer expectations and job security pressures becoming emerging concerns within the transgender community.       


Mental Health Conversations in Asia and Transgender Barriers to Seeking Help

Conversations around mental health within the transgender community are complex. To fully understand the concept of mental health in Asia, a knowledge of context is crucial. Interviewees as part of Community Business’ research into LGBT+ mental health in the workplace identified three of the main contextual factors influencing the mental health rhetoric including cultural barriers, limited mental health resources and a lack of professional knowledge. These factors have had huge influences on transgender employees’ attitudes to seeking help, as well as past health care experiences.

In relation to cultural barriers, discussions around mental health in Asia for a long time were considered taboo and were met with stigma and hostility. In recent years, there has been a steady shift away from this attitude, catalysed largely by the pandemic which has put pressure on companies to address mental health issues amongst their workforce, as well as bringing an urgency to revaluate policies and reframe the narrative surrounding health and wellbeing. Although changes are beginning to happen, there is still a long way to go.

The issue of limited resources and access to help, in conjunction with the entrenched stigma surrounding transgender mental health means that official statistics documenting mental health disorders are often massively under reported and therefore, unrepresentative. This is hugely problematic when it comes to resource allocation and is mirrored in the lack of adequately trained mental health care professionals who are able to fully understand the complexity of mental health issues facing the Transgender community, with individuals documenting mistreatment or lack of appropriate care.


Changing the narrative

In order to address issues of isolation and loneliness during work from home restrictions, employers need to work on devising educational resources that are accessible and transferable to a range of social contexts, allowing employees to use these tools to promote conversations within their own homes. They need to be contextually appropriate to challenge cultural barriers without creating further hostility between families but instead approaching taboo topics with sensitivity and empathy.

Additionally, the signposting of accessible online mental health services and acknowledgment of the varied needs of minority groups within the workplace is a significant way in which employers can create a progressive and desirable place to work and in turn attract high quality talent. Building an environment that encourages individuality breeds a culture of inclusion and mutual respect where employees have the courage and conviction to speak up when they see a problem. This translates to a thriving productive team of committed individuals.

One thing that is clear is the urgent need for greater prioritisation of employee wellbeing, with a focus on increasing inclusive conversations around mental health. The shift towards normalising conversations around mental health needs continued commitment, prioritisation and incentives to encourage trust and participation, especially whilst participating through online platforms. Discriminatory employment practices need to be challenged and employers need to lead by example to set a precedent to their workforce.  Adjusting to a post pandemic society requires employers to better understand their employees’ needs and tailor appropriate strategies that will ensure that employees have sustained and appropriate mental health support and care. We cannot afford to overlook mental health any longer.


About the Author: Olivia Welch, Research Manager at Community Business