Research at DOGPAH includes a focus on health disparities - with an emphasis on young people who identify as LGBTQ.
Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) Youth
The small body of research dedicated to understanding the health of TGNC youth consistently shows that these young people experience substantial health disparities in comparison to their cisgender peers - they face higher levels of violence and bullying, are more likely to engage in substance use and high-risk behaviors and struggle with mental health.
Download a short fact sheet here. Feel free to distribute widely.
Definitions: What is TGNC? What is cisgender?
"Transgender" or "gender non-conforming" means that someone identifies as a gender that is different from what they were assigned at birth. Our research team uses the phrase "transgender/gender non-conforming" or "TGNC" to succinctly refer to this group, in keeping with recent scientific studies and based on input from a group of young adults who are part of this community. (In contrast, "cisgender" means identifying as the same gender that was assigned at birth.) However, individuals in the LGBTQ community express and name their identities in a variety of ways. To make Minnesota a place that welcomes and embraces these members of our community, we honor their definitions and use language they recommend. Check out these useful resources:
National Center for Transgender Equality
Trans Student Educational Resources
Recognizing the significance of these disparities, in 2016 Minnesota included questions on the Minnesota Student Survey permitting students to identify themselves as transgender or gender non-conforming. With this information, UMN researchers now have some idea of how many young people identify as TGNC. This research can also help the youth serving community to better understand the health and experiences of TGNC youth in school and community. A study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health is the first large-scale, population-based study of TGNC youth. Until now, large population-based datasets regarding the health and well-being of TGNC youth were nonexistent; most research relied on small or non-representative samples. This data was also analyzed and published in Pediatrics, 2018.
- 2.7% of Minnesota 9th and 11th graders identified themselves as transgender, genderqueer, gender fluid or unsure about their gender identity (TGNC) on the survey.
- This percentage was consistent among young people in the Twin Cities metro area and across the state.
- Disparities for TGNC young people were significant:
- 2/3 of TGNC youth reported thoughts of suicide: 3 times more than their cisgender peers.
- 1/3 of TGNC youth reported a suicide attempt: 5 times more than their cisgender peers.
- Over 1/3 of TGNC youth reported prejudice-based bullying about their gender: 7 times greater than their cisgender peers.
- TGNC youth had important strengths and assets, although fewer than their cisgender peers:
- 71% of TGNC youth reported that they could talk to at least one parent about their problems (compared to 90% of cisgender youth).
- 59% of TGNC youth reported that teachers or other school adults cared about them (compared to 77% of cisgender youth.)
The research makes it clear that a sizeable number of Minnesota students identify as TGNC; knowing this is a first step in determining how best to adjust, adapt and prioritize the investments we make to support young people. For example, we have customized learning environments for the 1.5% of Minnesota High School students who have autism, and we have established food safety policies for the 3.9% of students who have food allergies. In the same way, we can improve Minnesota's efforts to make schools safe and supportive for young people who identify as TGNC.
To learn more about how you - as an individual, a parent, a friend or in your professional capacity - can make Minnesota a welcoming, supportive place for TGNC (and all) young people, take a look at the resources provided below. Our own short list of recommendations includes:
- Make TGNC students and their voices a priority: Data and news reports demonstrate the prevalence of discrimination and violence against TGNC people - particularly TGNC people of color. Barriers in education, employment, housing, public accommodations, identification documents and health care are pervasive. Violence increases every year - 2017 is on record to have the most murders of TGNC people to date. When we open our eyes to how severe and widespread the experience of stigma, bias and violence is for TGNC youth, it is clear that action is urgent.
- Evaluate policies and practices: By looking through a TGNC lens, we can identify policies and structures that exclude and harm young people. Consider how we have exclusively gendered bathrooms or questionnaires and school records that provide only two possible options for gender. Schools can better prevent bullying and harassment by writing and enforcing policies that identify TGNC youth as a protected class and clarify that prejudice-based harassment IS bullying.
- Build strong relationships: Our history of research on how to best support young people consistently recognizes the importance of caring, connected adults. Minnesotans who work with young people - doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, coaches, faith leaders, mentors, youth workers - have a particularly important role to play. Overcoming our discomfort and addressing our lack of understanding is a good first step on the road to engagement and ally-ship.
- Be explicitly inclusive: Learn what it means to "share pronouns" and recognize our own reliance on gender norms and gendered language.
This is a partial list - for a more complete list of quality resources, visit the website of our colleagues at the University of Minnesota Program in Human Sexuality.