A study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin found that when transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops.
One of the largest studies of transgender youths to date, findings were publishing the Journal of Adolescent Health this week in advance of Saturday’s annual Transgender Day of Visibility.
International Transgender Day of Visibility is marked every year on March 31. According to the Humans Right Campaign, it is "a time to celebrate transgender people around the globe and the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also raising awareness around the discrimination trans people still face."
“Many kids who are transgender have chosen a name that is different than the one that they were given at birth,” said author Stephen T. Russell, professor and chair of human development and family science. “We showed that the more contexts or settings where they were able to use their preferred name, the stronger their mental health was.”
Researchers interviewed transgender youths ages 15 to 21 and asked whether young people could use their chosen name at school, home, work and with friends. Compared with peers who could not use their chosen name in any context, young people who could use their name in all four areas experienced 71 percent fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34 percent decrease in reported thoughts of suicide and a 65 percent decrease in suicidal attempts.
Earlier research by Russell found that transgender youths report having suicidal thoughts at nearly twice the rate of their peers, with about 1 out of 3 transgender youths reporting considering suicide.
In the new study, having even one context in which a chosen name could be used was associated with a 29 percent decrease in suicidal thoughts.
Because many names are common to one gender, allowing transgender youths to use a chosen name is one simple step that institutions such as schools, hospitals, financial institutions, workplaces and community organizations can use to help young people affirm their gender identity, Russell said.