Winning and Losing Transgender Hearts and Minds

Created by Billie Burton

for the lights we have lost in the dark

Hi! I’m Billie.

I investigate human rights abuses and make maps. I also happen to be transgender.

I am going to tell you the story of mental health and gender identity in America and Britain today. In this StoryMap, I combine maps, data, and discussion to bring the mental health crisis and (trans) moral panic to life. Yet I don’t think that is enough. To help you truly understand and feel this perilous moment, I am sharing myself with you, too. You will follow my journey and you will experience my joy and pain. In so doing, I sincerely hope that it helps you relate to those living with mental health conditions, and to those with different gender identities. I thus hope that you will approach this story – my story – with gentleness, grace, and an open mind. I would never claim to represent my community, but I want you to know that this is more than just my story – for many of us, this is our story.

On both sides of the Atlantic, there is growing recognition of a mental health crisis that has taken root in both countries. In the US, 1 in 5 Americans are accessing mental health services – more than ever before – and some 50 million Americans have some form of mental health condition. More than half do not receive treatment – some 27 million people. As the mental health of society declines, the strain on the mental healthcare system increases. In the UK, the National Health Service (the UK’s universal healthcare system) demand is vastly outstripping supply. 1.2 million Britons are waiting for support, whilst acute inpatient facilities do not have enough beds to meet demand. The vacancy rates for mental health staff are above 20%. In both countries, the statistics of youth mental health are horrifying. Make no mistake, a serious mental health crisis is here.

In both countries, the transgender community is exceptionally vulnerable to mental health concerns. As the rights and lives of trans people have been politicized and weaponized on both sides of the Atlantic, hatred both online and in person has grown exponentially. Unsurprisingly, the self-harm and suicide rates for both trans adults and youth are frightening.

This StoryMap explores the mental health crisis as a transatlantic phenomenon before engaging with the challenges faced by the transgender community in a traumatic time.