Just under 2% (1.8%) of High School students in the US identify as transgender. That’s the findings of a new survey by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The CDC surveyed students across 19 states and large, urban school districts. This included Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin. Urban districts included Los Angeles and New York City, among others.
The survey looked at how many youth identify as transgender. It also looked at what risk trans youth were to violence, substance abuse, suicide and sexual risk.
Key findings included:
- 1.8% of students enrolled in the participating 10 states and nine urban school districts identified as transgender.
- A further 1.6% responded ‘I am not sure if I am transgender’ – suggesting some will go on to identify as trans.
- 34.6% of transgender students had attempted suicide in the past 12 months. This compared against 5.5% of cisgender males and 9.1% of cisgender females.
- Transgender youth were more at risk of substance abuse for all forms of substances – from cigarettes and alcohol through to prescription opioids. The biggest differences came with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines use. Just 1-2% of cisgender youth had tried heroin and methamphetamine, compared to approximately 25% of transgender youth for each drug.
- Transgender youth were more likely to be victims of violence – from online bullying to physical violence and sexual abuse.
- Trans youth were more likely to have had sexual intercourse, and at an earlier age. Approximately 15% of trans youth said they’d had sex before the age of 13, compared with 4.5% of cisgender males and 1.5% of cisgender females. Trans youth were also less likely to have used a condom the last time they had sex.
Not all youth included as some drop out of school
The survey questioned over 130,000 high school students. Researchers noted that as questions explored high-risk activities among high school students, some of the students most at risk may have already dropped out of the school system.
They conclude: ‘Transgender youths in high school appear to face serious risk for violence victimization, substance use, and suicide, as well as some sexual risk behaviors, indicating a need for programmatic efforts to better support the overall health of transgender youths.’
The data comes from CDC’s biannual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS). The 2017 survey was the first to include questions about transgender identity.
Amit Paley is CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. He welcomed the study.
‘The CDC’s new groundbreaking report shows that transgender youth exist in much greater numbers than researchers previously estimated.
‘By collecting data inclusive of gender identity, the report shows the very real health risks faced by transgender and gender non-conforming youth. The CDC’s findings highlight the need for even more policies to protect transgender and gender nonconforming youth, as well as additional support for LGBTQ-affirming organizations like The Trevor Project.
He said the data is ‘game-changing’ but says more research is needed. He wants more states and urban school districts to ask about gender identity when the survey is next taken. In 2017, the question was optional for states to adopt.
‘Only by understanding who our youth are and how they identify can we craft policies to allow every young person to thrive.’
‘Victimization and discrimination’
Caitlin Clark is a research associate at LGBTQ student advocacy group GLSEN.
‘Trans youth don’t experience poorer mental health or higher suicidality because it’s something that comes with being trans,’ she told NBC. ‘Trans people have poorer mental health because they are at higher risk of victimization and discrimination.’
The CDC results come a week after the Williams Institute at the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) release a study exploring bullying and youth suicide. It found states with anti-bullying laws that had specific LGBTQ inclusions had lower rates of LGBTQ teen suicide.