Metro Weekly

Less than a quarter of transgender teenagers feel safe expressing their gender identity

Gender-variant youth report higher levels of harassment or mistreatment at home and at school

School Lockers, Photo: SickestFame / Flickr

A new report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation finds that less than a quarter of transgender or gender-nonconforming youth feel that they are able to be themselves at home or at school.

The 2018 Gender-Expansive Youth Report finds that gender-variant and gender-expansive youth often face numerous challenges and severe discrimination and harassment.

The findings, drawn from HRC’s 2017 LGBTQ Youth Survey, are drawn from the experiences of 5,600 transgender and gender-expansive youth.

At home, many youth say that their family members are hostile to the idea of not conforming to gender norms, with 72% saying they’ve heard their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

At school, they can be subject to bullying or harassment, which is why only 16% of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth report feeling safe at school.

“I have been taught to believe my whole life by my parents that being LGBTQA+ is a sin and should be hidden,” one survey respondent recounted.

“I simply am not comfortable with coming out because I am scared I will be persecuted for it,” wrote another.

Digging down deeper into the results from the survey, 42% of transgender youth have received physical threats due to their gender identity, and 51% never use restrooms at school that align with their gender identity. 

The report finds that transgender and gender-expansive youth are more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment, with 69% reporting that they have been the target of unwanted sexual comments, jokes, or gestures.

Most troubling, those same youth are also twice as likely than their cisgender peers to be sexually assaulted or raped because of their gender identity.

The report also outlines steps that families, schools, and lawmakers can take to support and better protect transgender and gender-expansive youth, such as advocating for LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws at various levels of government, adopting transgender-friendly policies regarding school records, pronouns, name changes, or access tor restrooms and locker rooms, and providing comprehensive training for school faculty and staff.

“Amidst an onslaught of political attacks on the rights and dignity of transgender people, these harrowing results reinforce that transgender and gender-expansive youth need action and need it now,” Jay Brown, the acting senior vice president of the HRC Foundation, said in a statement. “No child should have to wake up in the morning fearful of rejection, bullying or discrimination, but for far too many transgender and gender-expansive youth that remains an everyday reality.

“All of us must meet these young people’s perseverance with our own persistence as we fight to build welcoming schools and affirming communities for youth of all gender identities.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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