Study Finds More Teens are Rejecting Traditional Gender Identities

According to a new study, more teenagers are identifying as transgender, non-binary, and genderfluid.

Published on Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the study's purpose was to examine both mental and physical health characteristics and care utilization by comparing TGNC (TransGender and Non-Conforming) and cisgender youths.The study also looked at perceived gender expressions within the TGNC group.

The group used data from the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, which interviewed close to 81,000 students who were in the 9th and 11th grades. It found that 2.7% of those surveyed reported identities that fell under the TGNC umbrella. This figure is up 385% when compared to a UCLA study from last year that found only 0.7% of students had identified as TGNC. Students were surveyed as to their gender identity and perceived gender expression along with 4 health status and 3 care utilization questions.

The results found large disparities between the TGNC and cisgender groups when it came to health measures. TGNC students reported significantly poorer health while having lower rates of preventive health checkups and more nurse office visits than the cisgender group. 62.1% of the TGNC students reported their general health as poor compared to 33.1% for the cisgender group. Members of the TGNC group who reported their gender presentation as being perceived as more congruent with the gender they were assigned at birth were less likely to report poorer health and long-term mental health problems compared to those with more diverse gender presentations.

The Project was lead by Nic Rider PhD. who is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota's Program in Human Sexuality.

(Photo: GLAAD.ORG)

In an accompanying addendum to the study, Daniel Shumer, MD, MPH, wrote, “This level of prevalence of TGNC youth supports recent findings that reveal that previous estimates of the size of the TGNC population have been underestimated by orders of magnitude and serve to inform school administrators, mental health professionals, and medical professionals that they will see youth with diverse gender identities and expressions in their schools and offices.” He also wrote that “although reports of health disparities are sobering, poor physical and mental health is not inevitable for transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) youth.”

Shumer also noted that research that is focused on well supported TGNC youth shows that simply being transgender is not the cause of poor health outcomes, citing long-term outcome data from a study in the Netherlands that demonstrates children with gender dysphoria who were treated in a comprehensive gender center with gender-affirming treatment during adolescence and young adulthood grew to become well-functioning adults with an overall mental health status similar to that of the cisgender Dutch population. He additionally cited data from the TransYouth project, which established that transgender children who have socially transitioned and are well supported have levels of depression that are similar to cisgender controls, while only having slightly higher levels of anxiety.

Though this new study focuses on Minnesota teens, researchers hope to expand it into a national study in order to get more accurate data. Dr. Rider is hoping that the study will help to improve the overall health care picture for transgender teenagers.

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