TORONTO — Newly released data on the health and well-being of transgender and non-binary youth in Canada indicates that increased social support for said population could improve their quality of life and help eliminate health disparities.
Data was collected from a survey of 2,873 trans and non-binary people in 2019 by the research team at Trans PULSE Canada.
According to their study, one in five trans and non-binary youth who responded to the survey said they had avoided schools in the past five years due to fear of harassment or being “outed.” And 70 per cent said they avoided using public washrooms within the same timeframe.
“Transgender and non-binary youth face disproportionate rates of victimization, with many having experienced physical, sexual, and verbal harassment at a young age,” the study notes. “At school, trans youth are frequently targeted by bullying, which compromises school attendance and access to education.”
The survey’s respondents were all above the age of 14 and all were living in Canada when the data was collected. Beyond education, researchers also inquired about family dynamics and experiences with the health-care system.
The study found that while the majority of respondents were in good physical health, a high proportion had mental health concerns.
As many as two in five respondents indicated that they had considered suicide in the past year and one in 10 said they had attempted to take their own life.
The data indicates that trans and non-binary youth are especially vulnerable to mental health concerns that researchers say could be improved through supportive environments and family approval.
“Aceptance of trans and non-binary identities is growing and the proportion of trans youth living day-to-day in their felt gender is increasing, which also supports their well-being,” the study notes.
Among those youth who responded to the survey, only 58 per cent were told by their parents and guardians that they were respected or supported. And only half of those respondents say they were called by their correct name and pronouns.
“Family support has repeatedly been found to be protective against issues such as depression, suicidality, and self-harm in trans youth,” the study says.
According to the data, one in five youth had family members who did not let them wear clothes reflecting their gender and one in 10 said they were sent to a therapist, counsellor, or religious adviser to stop them from being trans or non-binary.
Despite the challenges, many respondents valued the sense of belonging and resilience they gained from being trans.
“I love how coming out as trans gave me a new family that I didn’t even know I needed,” said one respondent.
In light of the data, researchers say that future initiatives should consider how to promote supportive environments at home and at school in order to protect trans youth against mental health issues, discrimiation and stigma.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need to speak with someone, here are available resources:
Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7