Much is said about the struggles young transgender people face. But there’s less information about what makes them happy. The Trevor Project is adding to that info, however, with a new research brief, “Affirming Actions and Gender Euphoria Among Transgender and Nonbinary Young People,” released Wednesday for Transgender Awareness Week.
“Gender euphoria is defined as satisfaction or joy caused when one’s gendered experience aligns with their gender identity,” the brief notes. The term “gender euphoria” has been around since 1976 but has been studied little. The Trevor Project has drawn on its 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People “to examine actions other people can take to help transgender and nonbinary young people feel euphoric about their gender identity,” the brief says.
Survey participants were asked an open-ended question, “What are things that others do that make you feel happy (or euphoric) about your gender?” The Trevor Project sorted responses into four categories: affirming communication, inclusivity and belonging, appearance affirmation, and support and respect.
Under affirming communication, many respondents said they felt euphoric when people used their pronouns correctly, especially if they did so without being told. “Honestly, just calling me by the proper name and pronouns makes me so happy,” one respondent said.
Several respondents said they were happy when others used gendered terms and descriptors that aligned with their gender identity, such as “pretty” for women and “handsome” for men. Those who identify outside the gender binary, however, were pleased when others used gender-neutral terms.
In the realm of inclusivity and belonging, many “reported feeling euphoric when they were treated in ways that aligned with their gender identity,” according to the brief. This could include being compared to male or female actors or characters, “when cisgender friends ‘treat me like one of the guys and talk to me like it,’” or not being treated differently because of their gender identity, the document notes.
Appearance affirmation could include either gendered or gender-neutral compliments or provision of appropriate clothing. One respondent reported feeling happy when “my mom [bought] me boxers instead of panties.” Some said they experienced euphoria when onlookers couldn’t determine their gender; one found it affirming “when a stranger looks at me and doesn’t know what gender I am.”
Actions involving support and respect included general respect for one’s gender identity, empathy, promises of acceptance, quickly correcting mistakes about pronouns, and demonstrating open-minded curiosity. One respondent reported feeling euphoria when “someone asks about my gender identity actually wanting to try and understand.”
Going forward, the brief recommends “greater societal awareness and education to promote affirming communication”; an end to policies that marginalize trans and nonbinary youth, such as barring them from the sports teams comporting with their gender identity; “supportive environments that affirm the appearance choices of transgender and nonbinary individuals”; and open-minded communication that includes “thoughtful questions” and correct pronouns.
“These findings provide a roadmap for allies and adults to support transgender and nonbinary young people, which can foster feelings of happiness and confidence about their gender,” the brief concludes. “Using affirming language, treating young people in alignment with their gender identity, complimenting their appearance, and expressing support can help transgender and nonbinary young people feel euphoric about their gender and potentially have positive impacts on their mental health.”
The Trevor Project provides training for adults on allyship and offers several online resources, including the Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Young People and Understanding Gender Identities. Also, the brief notes, the organization’s research team “is committed to the ongoing exploration of factors related to mental health among LGBTQ young people and dissemination of evidence that can help everyone to better support and accept LGBTQ young people.”