Family and social supports can make a huge difference in the health of transgender and non-binary teens, says a new study providing insight into the lives of B.C. youths.
Gender-diverse students are typically invisible in surveys of this kind, says lead author Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, who leads UBC’s Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre.
They are also bullied at disproportionately high rates compared to their cisgender classmates, something researchers at the University of British Columbia had already suspected.
Data accounted for 38,000 youth between ages 12 and 19 attending B.C. schools, of whom around a thousand identified as transgender, non-binary or gender-questioning.
Eight in 10 trans boys and six in 10 trans girls reported having been bullied the previous year. One-quarter of non-binary youth said they’d been bullied online.
Bullying linked to health issues
Co-author, UBC professor Dr. Annie Smith says the high rate of violence reported by gender-diverse is concerning.
“Young people who are bullied are at higher risk for extreme stress and health problems,” says Smith. Overall data put gender-diverse students as six times more likely than their cisgender classmates to report experiencing extreme stress.
However, family and school support can go a long way. Students who felt connected were more likely to report good or excellent mental health and less likely harm from substance use or thoughts of suicide.
“They are telling us that family and community support, and opportunities to fully participate in society make a difference for their health, even when they face discrimination,” Saewyc says.
“It’s important for health care providers, educators and policymakers to understand their challenges and their strengths if we are to help them thrive.”
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