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International Transgender Day of Visibility

A team of researchers from the Iscte-University Institute of Lisbon and the University of Lisbon mapped research on transgender and gender diverse (TGGD) people in Portugal. The results show a growing interest in studying the experiences and well-being of TGGD people in the last decade, especially in the social sciences.

© 2018 Cecilie Johnsen | Unsplash

A literature review sought to identify the nature and extent of research on TGGD people in Portugal and to contribute to mapping the rapidly changing social, medical, and policy landscape of trans issues in Portugal. Carla Moleiro, a researcher at the Center for Psychological Research and Social Intervention (CIS-Iscte) and the first author of this study, explains that "we can say that research in Portugal is in its early stages, but there is already a great diversity of researched topics and multiple disciplinary perspectives". In this work, the 48 studies that met the inclusion criteria were grouped according to the dimensions they investigated: "The most frequent theme is related to gender trajectories and identities", says the researcher, and adds that "gender affirmation interventions were addressed mainly in medical and health science studies". Also, psychological distress, stigma and discrimination, and social and legal framework were topics explored in the research in Portugal.

Researchers Violeta Alarcão (Center for Research and Studies in Sociology, Iscte; Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon; Institute of Environmental Health) and Lia Raquel Neves (Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon) are coauthors of this "map" published in the scientific journal Journal of Gender Studies. This work identifies gaps in research to date, informs future research, and opens doors to developing new conceptual models, reflecting on the recognition of TGGD people as social agents with an indispensable role in research.

In Portugal, gender identity self-determination has been possible since 2018. The social impact of studies with multidisciplinary approaches that consider intersectionality will help integrate human rights in the fight against marginalization, discrimination, and inequalities suffered by this community. Indeed, Carla Moleiro points out that "most studies have focused on psychological distress and challenges experienced by TGGD people" and adds that her research team has also shown interest in exploring the resilience of TGGD people in the face of these negative experiences of stigma and discrimination.

In this regard, in a study carried out within an international network coordinated by Alain Giami (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, France), Carla Moleiro and Violeta Alarcão characterized the heterogeneity of this community in Portugal in terms of the way they identify, their social, legal, and medical affirmation trajectories, and their aspirations and life goals, such as parental status and/or desire for parenthood. Of the sample of 115 participants, most reported living in accordance with their gender identity in almost every context of their lives. Despite reporting some history of abuse/violence and discrimination, most respondents had completed high school or college education, and half were in a significant relationship or living with a partner. About 10% of the respondents had children, and 20% were interested in having children. The authors clarify that "these results indicate that despite being disproportionately exposed to experiences of discrimination and violence, these people show extraordinary resilience, in which the processes of social and legal gender identity affirmation may act as protective factors”. According to the research team, the people who participated in the study appear to be achieving valued life goals such as education, intimate relationships, and family aspirations.

Another study led by Carla Moleiro sought to understand the experiences of families of TGGD youngsters with the purpose of documenting the experiences, considerations, and challenges faced by their parents, brothers/sisters, and other relatives. In this work developed by Maria João Carmona, Nuno Pinto, and Carla Moleiro, it was possible to describe the perspectives of the families of TGGD youths regarding their roles and (inter)family relationships, including the coming out process, but also to understand the relationship of the nuclear family with the extended family, the educational system and the health services. It was also possible to recognize the challenges and experiences regarding the social and legal framework of these issues in Portugal. Overall, the results show common experiences across domains and systems. Families often reported difficulties, fears, and doubts regarding health care, concern about the future of these young people, mainly due to social stigma, and adaptation in the use of different names and pronouns, not only in the family but also at school. This study also allowed the identification of positive and supportive experiences by the families. Considering the results, the research team also reflects on the need to develop public policies to provide better health care for young TGGD people in Portugal and safer school environments, including training for health professionals, teachers, and other relevant stakeholders.

CIS-Iscte joins the community in marking International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31).



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