Almost one in 10 teenagers identify as gender-diverse, new study finds

·3-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Nearly one in 10 teenagers consider themselves gender-diverse, according to a new study, which found the number to be much higher than previously thought.

The new study, which was published this week in the journal Pediatrics, came to the findings after analysing 3,168 student surveys from 13 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania high schools, with 9.2 per cent of respondents identifying themselves as “gender diverse”.

To accurately gain a measure of the number of youth who identify as gender diverse, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the UCLA School of Medicine, amended a risk behaviour survey to include a two-part gender identity question.

The first question asked the students: “What is your sex (the sex you were assigned at birth, on your birth certificate)?” while the second question followed-up with: “Which of the following best describes you (select all that apply)?” with the teenagers able to choose from the options: “girl,” “boy,” “trans girl,” “trans boy,” “genderqueer,” “nonbinary” and “another identity.”

Previously, a 2017 version of the survey only asked respondents if they identified as transgender, with the teenagers only able to answer “yes,” “no,” or “I’m not sure,” according to NBC News.

Dr Kacie Kidd, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine fellow at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the study’s lead researcher, said that she and her colleagues decided to amend the survey because “of course, not everyone who is gender-diverse identifies as transgender”.

“We worried that that language didn’t encompass the breadth of gender-diverse identities we see, particularly in young people,” she added.

After analysing the updated survey, the researchers found that, of the 9.2 per cent of young adults who reported “incongruities between their sexes assigned at birth and their experienced gender identities,” 30 per cent expressed transmasculine identities, while roughly 39 per cent expressed transfeminine identities, and people with nonbinary identities made up 30 per cent of the total, NBC noted of the results.

The findings prove the inaccuracies in the commonly cited national average of just two per cent, a number that Kidd said came from using the wrong “terminology or methodology”.

“Our goal was to understand the prevalence of gender-diverse identities among high school students in our Pittsburgh school district by asking what we considered to be, and what many scholars consider to be, a more inclusive question about gender identity,” Kidd said, according to CNN. “We came in suspecting that this two-step gender identity question would demonstrate a higher prevalence of gender diversity than in prior studies.”

In addition to showing a broader scope of young adults who identify as gender-diverse, the study, which analysed high schools that were racially and economically diverse, also highlights the importance of representing this population more accurately in regards to access to gender-affirmative care.

According to Kidd, who noted that most of the youth seen at the university’s gender and sexual development clinic are “masc-identified and white,” the study “makes us question why we’re not seeing more gender-diverse young people of color or who are nonbinary or femme-identified”.

Gender diversity refers to “the extent to which a person’s gender identity, role, or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex,” according to the American Psychological Association.

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