One In 137 Teenagers In The U.S. Identify As Transgender

“We want to make sure that policy debates are informed by actual figures."

As advocates and politicians debate the White House’s decision to rescind Obama-era protections for trans students, a new report helps paint a picture of how many young people are actually transgender.

Nearly 150,000 Americans age 13 to 17 identify as transgender, according to state and federal data analyzed by UCLA’s Williams Institute. That’s 0.7% of the teen population, compared to the 0.6% of Americans overall who indicate they are trans.

Female Instructor teaching high school class.

“We want to make sure that policy debates are informed by actual figures,” Williams Institute scholar Jody L. Herman told The New York Times. “This series of reports is our best attempt to use the best available data and the best methodology,”

Within those numbers are some interesting trends: Older teenagers, for example, are more likely to self-identify as trans than younger ones. The states with the most trans students were California (22,200), Texas (13,800) and New York (9,750). Factoring for population size, though, Hawaii and West Virginia were actually proportionally the biggest—with about 1 in 100 teens identifying as transgender.

NYT map
New York Times

The analysis is extrapolated from adult responses to a federal survey, so the actual numbers may vary. But advocates insist getting a clearer idea of how many teens are affected by bullying, bathroom bills and other issues is vital.

“It’s not about what your gut tells you, it’s not about what the news last night told you, it’s not about what you think you might have gathered from looking at a couple of internet websites,” said Kellan Baker of the Center for American Progress. “It’s about what do the data actually say, so that we can target resources where they will do the most good.”

Yet the federal government still does not incorporate gender identity into the census or other demographic studies. (The Williams Institute analysis was based on a large CDC survey on risk behaviors that happened to include optional questions about gender identity.)

“We just don’t have that same level of information readily accessible,” said Sandy James of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.