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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