A new study suggests the number of American teens who identify as trans or gender-nonconforming is significantly higher than previously believed.
A University of Minnesota survey published in the February issue of Pediatrics found that, of more than 80,000 9th and 11th graders, nearly 3% of respondents—or about 2,2000 teens—identified as transgender, genderqueer, gender fluid, or “unsure.”
That’s more than four times higher than the .7% cited in a 2017 Williams Institute study, which used data about America’s adult transgender population to extrapolate estimates for trans youth. (To date, the government has not included questions about gender identity on the U.S. Census or other demographic surveys.)
“Diverse gender identities are more prevalent than people would expect,” lead researcher Nic Rider told AP News.
Rider says increased visibility of the trans community has created a safer environment for youth “to come out and talk about gender exploration.” However, they cautioned that findings depend almost entirely on how questions are phrased. (Respondents in the UM study, for example, were not asked if they had begun transitioning medically.)
The survey also indicated gender-nonconforming teens report worse mental and physical health than their cisgender peers, something Rider says could be attributed to bullying or discrimination. Pediatricians should feel comfortable asking teens how they identify, and if they’re experiencing any harassment.
Just starting the conversation, says Rider, “conveys competence, inclusivity, and caring.”