Transgender Youth at Risk

Transgender youth are among the most misunderstood and most overlooked members of our society. There are very few research studies of transgender youth, and even fewer resource documents that social service providers can use to educate themselves on the subject. When the very same people who have the responsibility to protect our children are constantly denying their identity, a variety of stress-related problems can develop. However, it must be emphasized that many psychosocial difficulties that transgender youth experience are typically not because of his or her gender identity. It is because of the social environment that the youth experiences, including at school and on the streets, and the lack of acceptance of the youth's gender within that environment. However, with a supportive environment within the family, foster home or social service agency, many of those risks can be avoided.
    Risks at School 

Excerpts from The GLSEN 2001 National School Climate Survey: The School-Related Experiences of Our Nation's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (click here for complete report)

"Hearing homophobic, racist or sexist remarks in school, regardless of whether these remarks are aimed at any particular student, can create a hostile environment for the students. LGBT youth may feel unsafe in their school particularly because of their sexual orientation or their gender expression... Youth most commonly reported that they felt unsafe in their school because of their sexual orientation or their gender expression; with over two-thirds of youth (68.6%) reporting that they felt unsafe in their school because of their sexual orientation and almost half reporting that they felt unsafe because of their gender expression (45.7%)." p.12

"Almost two-thirds of [LGBT] youth (65.4%) reported having been sexually harassed during the past school year. The frequency of sexual harassment was higher for female and transgender youth in the sample: 74.2% of female youth and 73.7% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed during the past school year compared to 57.8% of male youth." pp.14-15

"The percentage of transgender youth who reported feeling unsafe in their school because of their gender was significantly higher than for females and males and the percentage of females who reported feeling unsafe because of their gender was significantly higher than males — 36.6% of transgender, 16.6% of females and 3.5% of males. Transgender youth were also significantly more likely to report feeling unsafe in school because of their gender expression — almost all of the transgender youth reported feeling unsafe in school because of their gender expression (89.5%) compared to less than half of males and females." p.21

"There were significant differences by gender in reported experiences of verbal and physical harassment and physical assault because of sexual orientation, gender and gender expression (see Figure 40). Transgender youth tended to report higher frequencies of harassment and assault overall; males tended to report higher frequencies of harassment and assault related to their sexual orientation, and females tended to report higher frequencies of harassment related to their gender." p.22

 

Homeless LGBTQ Youth in Illinois

Thrown out of their homes by parents or running away to escape abusive families, the number of unaccompanied homeless teenagers in Illinois has been estimated at over 12,000 . Nearly 35% of Illinois' homeless youth population self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. These youth often find their access to homeless services limited by service providers who are indifferent, fearful, or not educated about this population. Left with no place to turn, homeless youth often find themselves neglected, invisible, and forgotten; at increased risk for drug addiction, prostitution, violence, HIV infection, and suicide.

Excerpts from Towards Healthier Transgender Youth by Richard Haynes ( click here for the complete report)

"Recent studies of homeless youth, unsurprisingly, show many pressing health care needs. Because of the exposure they endure on the street, these youth are particularly susceptible to many negative health conditions. Violence, rape, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, poor nutrition, poor hygiene, chemical dependency and a host of other health-related issues that are the result of surviving on the street are not uncommon. However, one study also showed that when youth on the street have a respectful, trusting and meaningful relationship with an outreach worker they are more likely to seek health care services - both acute services (like STD treatment) and preventive services (like immunizations). Also, when connected to a respectful outreach worker or team offering referrals, they are apt to seek social and psychosocial services from youth-serving agencies. They are even more likely to access care when those health and social services are appropriate to their needs, respectful, and accessible on all levels (no cost, easily reachable location, culturally competent staff).

Many youth expressing non-gender conforming behavior or identifying as transgender find themselves rejected by family, school, church, peers and other communities of origin. They often become homeless and unemployable, and are forced into the street economy - very often into sex work. Compared to their gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) peers, transgender youth are often far more marginalized and disenfranchised, often finding themselves unwelcome even at GLB youth-serving agencies. 'Traditional' housing alternatives, drug treatment programs, health centers and other services are ill-prepared to work with transgender youth in any kind of affirming, supportive manner. The educational system, while slowly moving towards a more GLB friendly environment is still transgender-ignorant and -phobic. These places for youth refuse to deal with young people who do not fit their 'norms.' Youth who present these challenges are often just left out."

Risks on the Streets

  Additional Resources

Social Sevices with Transgendered Youth, Gerald P. Mallon, DSW, Editor, Harrington Park Press, 1999 ( Haworth Press, Inc.)
   "Through personal narratives and case studies, Social Services with Transgendered Youth explores the childhood and adolescent experiences of transgendered persons. Addressing the differences between male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM) individuals and identifying the specific challenges of transgendered persons from diverse races, cultures, and religious backgrounds, this compelling book offers suggestions that will help social workers and the youths’ families learn more about the reality of transgendered persons’ lives." http://www.haworthpressinc.com

Our Trans Children, A Publication of the Transgender Network of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Third Edition, 2001. Avialable online at: http://www.transproud.com/pdf/transkids.pdf

Why Don't You Tell Them I'm a Boy? Raising a Gender- Nonconforming Child, by Florence Dillon. A mother's experience with raising a transgender (FtM) son. Available online at: http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/whydontyoutellthem.pdf

Mom I Need To Be a Girl, by Just Evelyn. Copyright 1998
Walter Trook Publishing, 276 Date St. , Imperial Beach, CA 91932.
Out of print but available online at: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Evelyn/Evelyn.html