Background : The inclusion of sexual identity measures in large scale national surveys have added to our knowledge regarding mental health disparities faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning youth (LGBQ). The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey highlighted adverse mental health indicators among LGBQ students including greater depressive symptoms, increased rates of seriously considering suicide, and higher rates of attempted suicide (Zaza et al., 2016). Currently, there is a lack of nationwide data on risk factors and negative outcomes associated with transgender and gender diverse youth in the U.S. (diGiacomo et al., 2018). Despite areas of overlap between gender and sexual identities, they are distinct constructs and should be examined in ways that consider their common and unique risk factors and outcomes. The goal of the current study is to better understand the mental health of transgender and gender diverse youth.
Methods : The Trevor Project conducted a national cross-sectional survey between February and September 2018 to examine the experiences of over 25,000 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24. Youth were recruited via targeted ads on social media, with no direct recruitment conducted via websites affiliated with The Trevor Project. Gender identity was assessed with a question asking, “What is your current gender identity?”
Results : A third of the sample indicated a gender identity other than cisgender male or female. Among cisgender LGBQ youth, more than 60% reported they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row compared to more than 80% among transgender and gender diverse youth. Among gender expansive youth, more than 70% stated that their feelings of sadness or hopelessness were directly related to their gender identity. Rates were lower for cisgender LGBQ youth, with less than half reporting that their feelings of sadness or hopelessness related to their sexual identity. Additionally, more than half of transgender and gender diverse youth reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide compared to less than a third of cisgender LGBQ youth.
Conclusions : Results of this study show even greater mental health disparities for transgender and gender diverse youth compared to their cisgender LGBQ peers. A novel finding was the increased influence of gender identity in youth reported sadness or hopelessness. These results highlight the need for increased attention to the mental health of transgender and gender diverse youth in research, policy, and practice.