Challenges of Aging Among Transgender Community

The PIDE webinar yesterday on “Socio-Economic and Psychological Effects of Aging among Transgender” highlighted the socioeconomic and psychological issues faced by transgender elders in Kasur, Pakistan. The transgender population is a marginalized community in Pakistan, and it has to face multiple problems (i.e. economic and psychological). And age compounds these problems. From early childhood we treat them differently and the society discriminates against them. They face this discrimination at all levels of the society family, in schools and in places where they live. Because of the stigma attached to transgender people, they have difficulty finding a respectable place to live in the community. Usually they are living on the outskirts of the city and in isolation.

The findings of the showcased research highlighted that older transgenders are living in extreme poverty. They also don’t have any social support available to them to support their livings and health expenditures. So they have to depend on young transgenders to subsidize them and cover medical costs as well. Non-existence of any policy to support elderly transgenders makes them resort to begging at public places to sustain themselves.

Access to quality health care is also alarmingly scarce for transgender community. They are still vulnerable to verbal and psychological abuse by medical personnel. The prevalence of HIV in the transgender population is eight times higher than their cisgender counterparts in Pakistan (Singh et al., 2014). The mental health issues faced by transgender people as they age, are unique because of their being transgender.

What truly struck me was the fact that we don’t have detailed health statistics available on transgender in Pakistan. The findings of the study show the high rate of mental health issues among older members of that community. Transgender people have experiences of social rejection, isolation, verbal and physical violence. Therefore these factors are powerful predictors of distress and mental illness in later life.

We live in an era where the health care needs and caregiving of the elderly population are gaining importance and getting unprecedented attention. If we want to make Pakistan a truly inclusive society, it is high-time we bring discussion of socioeconomic and psychological problems and challenges faced by elderly transgender into mainstream research.

References

Singh S, Ambrosio M, Semini I, et al. (2014) “Revitalizing the HIV Response in Pakistan: A Systematic Review and Policy Implications” International Journal of Drug Policy; 25: 26–33.