Chosen Names Can Reduce Depression, Suicidal Thoughts in Trans Youth

A close up of hands attaching a blank name tag next to a blue tie.Names are often tied to gender. Many transgender youth prefer to change their birth name to one that matches their gender identity.

Trans young people who can use their chosen names at work, home, and school have fewer symptoms of clinical depression, according to new research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. They are also less likely to have thoughts of suicide.

A 2017 study by the same researchers found 34% of trans youth have suicidal thoughts. This rate is nearly double that of their peers (19%). Many trans students experience bullying at school, increasing their risk of suicidal feelings. Trans adolescents are also four times as likely to abuse substances.

Chosen Names Improve Trans Mental Health

The study followed 129 trans youth between the ages of 15 and 21. The study spanned three cities in the United States. One city was in the Northeast, one was in the Southwest, and one was on the West Coast. The research team partnered with LGBTQ+ organizations to reach a representative population. Participants came from socioeconomically, ethnically, and geographically diverse backgrounds.

Researchers asked youth if they were able to use their chosen names with friends, at school, at home, and at work.

Youth who could use their names in all four contexts often had better mental health. Compared to youths who could not use their chosen name in any context, name-using youth had:

  • A 71% reduction in symptoms of severe depression
  • A 34% decrease in self-reported thoughts of suicide
  • A 65% decrease in suicide attempts

Even youth who could only use their chosen names in one context had a 29% decrease in suicidal thoughts. The study points to the value of allowing trans youth to express their gender identity.

The Effects of Gender Transitions on Trans Youth

Parents and other adults may worry about the effects of gender transitions in children and adolescents. Some may view gender transitions as a sign of confusion or a temporary phase. A 2015 study undermines this notion. The study found trans children are as confident in their gender identities as cisgender children.

A second study published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health may allay parental concerns about hormone treatments. That study followed 101 trans youth (ages 12-23) for two years. The study found no serious health problems associated with gender-affirming hormone therapy.

The study authors suggest hormone therapy is likely safe for young people. Frequent lab tests during treatment may be less necessary than previously thought.


  1. Olson-Kennedy, J., Okonta, V., Clark, L. F., & Belzer, M. (2018). Physiologic response to gender-affirming hormones among transgender youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(4), 397-401. Retrieved from
  2. Using chosen names reduces odds of depression and suicide in transgender youths. (2018, March 30). UT News. Retrieved from
  3. Victimization of transgender youths linked to suicidal thoughts, substance abuse. (2017, September 18). UT News. Retrieved from

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