Identifying Coping Strategies Used by Transgender Individuals in Response to Stressors during and after Gender-Affirming Treatments—An Explorative Study

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Background: Gender-affirming treatments are reported to improve mental health significantly. However, a substantial number of transgender individuals report a relapse in, or persistence of, mental health problems following gender-affirming treatments. This is due to multiple stressors occurring during this period, and in general as a consequence of widespread stigma and minority stress. Aim: The aim of this pilot study was to identify different coping strategies that transgender individuals use in response to stressors prior to and following gender-affirming treatments, as mediator of mental health. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted to better understand the treatment outcomes and healthcare experiences of Dutch transgender individuals who had received gender-affirming treatments. Nineteen participants were included, of which 12 identified as (transgender) male, six as (transgender) female and one as transgender. Outcomes: Inductive coding and theory-informed thematic analysis were used to assess stressors (ncodes = 335) and coping strategies (ncodes = 869). Results: Four stressor domains were identified, including lack of support system, stressors related to transition, and physical and psychosocial stressors post-transition. We identified six adaptive coping strategies of which acceptance, help seeking and adaptive cognitions concerning gender and transition were reported most frequently. Of the seven maladaptive strategies that we identified, social isolation and maladaptive cognitions concerning gender and transition were the most-reported maladaptive coping strategies Clinical implications: The results indicated that transgender individuals may experience significant stress, both transgender-specific and non-specific, prior to and following gender-affirming treatments and, as a result, use many coping strategies to adapt. Increased awareness of stressors and (mal)adaptive coping strategies may help to improve mental healthcare and overall support for transgender individuals. Strengths and Limitations: This is the first (pilot) study to provide insight into the range of stressors that transgender individuals experience during and after gender-affirming treatments, as well as the variety of coping strategies that are used to adapt. However, since this was a pilot study assumptions and generalizations of the evidence should be made cautiously. Conclusion: Results of this pilot study showed that transgender individuals may undergo significant stress during and after gender-affirming medical treatment related to the treatments and the social experiences that occur during this period, and as a result, use a range of coping strategies to adapt to the stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number89
JournalHealthcare (Switzerland)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • adaptation
  • coping strategies
  • gender-affirming treatments
  • mental health
  • transgender persons

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