Anti-Victimization Programs: a Matter of Life and Death for Trans Youth

Adolescents can be cruel to one another. For teens who are part of a cultural, ethnic, or sexual minority, risk of victimization increases. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are particularly vulnerable to hostility and aggression, putting them at even further risk of deleterious mental and physical health outcomes. Although there is an abundance of work devoted to the effects of bullying and victimization among LGBTQ youth, less attention has been given to how these behaviors affect transgender youth, and in particular, their risk for suicide. Peter Goldblum, director of the Center for LGBTQ Area of Emphasis and the Sexual and Gender Identities Clinic at Palo Alto University in California, sought to address this issue in a recent study. For his research, Goldblum analyzed data from the Virginia Transgender Health Initiative Study (THIS) and reviewed information from 290 trans youth, specifically data regarding suicide attempts and in-school gender-based victimization (GBV).

The results of the study were startling. Goldblum found that nearly half of the participants had been victims of GBV, and nearly one-third had attempted suicide at least once. Even more concerning was the finding that 28.6% had attempted suicide at least twice, and almost 40% had tried to take their own lives on three or more occasions. “Participants who reported experiencing GBV were approximately four times more likely to have attempted suicide than those who did not,” Goldblum said.

These results clearly show that GBV increases the risk of suicide in trans youth and that schools need to do more in order to ensure the safety of these students. Policies and programs should focus on providing services to help trans students who are victims of GBV, and should also encourage tolerance and acceptance among all students. Identifying those students who are most at risk for negative outcomes may require psychological assistance as well, as many trans and sexual minority youth internalize their feelings and may be contemplating suicide long before they give any outward indications. In sum, clinicians, educators, and administrators should work together to increase safety and security for all students and should recognize that for some youth, GBV is a matter of life and death.

Goldblum, Peter, Rylan J. Testa, Samanth Pflum, Michael L. Hendricks, Judith Bradford, and Bruce Bongar. The relationship between gender-based victimization and suicide attempts in transgender people. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice43.5 (2012): 468-75. Print.

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  • Juno Krahn

    December 12th, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I suspect there is a typo in the “40%” for three or more suicide attempts, which should be less than the 28.6% of people who attempted suicide twice.

    One issue that make it especially diffcult for transgender youth is that gender-based bathroom and locker room segregation causes huge conflicts that are not addressed by standard anti-bullying campaigns.

  • dillard

    December 12th, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    But what happens after hours when there is no teacher or administrator around to protect these kids? They are not just victims during school hours. With today’s social networks this is something that many of them are dealing with on a continual basis. How do we stop this mindset that it is ok to pick on and bully someone just because they are different from you and I?

  • Pearl

    December 13th, 2012 at 3:58 AM

    I know that this is not the ultimate answer, but I think that if I had a child who was struggling with this kind of identity issue, I would have to take them out of regular school and home school him ir her.
    I know that in the end this is not what we want to do, and that we can’t shield them from the hate out there forever, but I want to be able to do it for as long as I can and school is where so much of this hatred begins.

  • M Bevan

    December 13th, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    There was racial discrimination, it took a movement to overcome it. There was gender discrimination, it took a movement to overcome it. Now there is discrimination against sexual minorities. Looks like it will take another movement.

    that is not something to be happy about. In fact, we should ponder over why we need a massive movement to wake us all up. Why can’t we see things for what they are and just realize that whether a person is from a racial minority or a male/female or has any sexual orientation, they are a part of society and all those things just don’t matter to 99.9999% of us???!

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