When transgender youth are called by their chosen names, it significantly reduces their risk of depression and suicide, according to a new study out of the University of Texas.
Researchers interviewed 129 transgender Americans ages 15 to 21, asking if they were able to use their chosen names when at school, home, work, and with friends. Controlling for personal characteristics and social support, the teens who reported being able to use their chosen name in all four areas experienced 71% fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34% decrease in suicidal thoughts, and a 65% decrease in suicide attempts.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, also found that having just one context where a chosen name was used was associated with a 29% decrease in suicidal thoughts. “Many kids who are transgender have chosen a name that is different than the one that they were given at birth,” said lead researcher Stephen T. Russell. “We showed that the more contexts or settings where they were able to use their preferred name, the stronger their mental health was.”
He added that, even after nearly two decades of research on LGBT youth, “I was surprised by how clear that link was.”
The UT Austin team’s study prior research on the issue, which remains relatively nascent:
A 2016 study out of the University of Washington found prepubescent transgender children in supportive households had happiness levels equal to or above their cisgender peers.
“It’s practical to support young people in using the name that they choose,” Russell said of his findings. “It’s respectful and developmentally appropriate.”
Russell’s previous research showed one in three transgender youths, or twice the rate of their peers, reporting suicidal thoughts. A In a 2017 Harris Poll most American adults said they would support their teenage child if they decided to transition.