1.8 million LBGTQ youth (13-24) in the US seriously consider suicide each year. The numbers for trans people in particular are even more staggering. According to the UCLA Williams Institute report, 81.7 percent of those surveyed by the National Center for Transgender Equality had seriously thought about killing themselves in their lifetimes, and 48.3 percent had done so in the last year. 40.4 percent of transgender people attempted suicide sometime in their lifetime.
Suicide happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. This report adds evidence to that assertion. The following statistics are pulled directly and paraphrased or quoted from this report.
- Those who had been discriminated against in the last year because of their gender identity in education, employment, housing, health care, or public accommodation were twice as likely to have attempted suicide (13.4% v. 6.3%).
- Those who had been rejected by their family of origin were twice as likely to have attempted suicide (10.5% v. 5.1%).
- Those who had been rejected by their religious community were twice as likely to have attempted suicide (13.1% v. 6.3%).
- Those who were physically attacked in public were four times as likely to have attempted suicide (30% v. 7%).
You get the drift.
Does it help to reverse course, to "de-transition?" Nope. Nearly 12 percent of those who "de-transitioned" attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 6.7 percent who did not.
These are pains piled on top of pains, and may give pause to parents who are having to confront the reality of their transgender child.
But read that description of suicide more carefully.
So what about the resources? The same report examined those as well.
- Those with supportive families were half as likely to have past-year and lifetime suicidal thoughts and attempts.
- Those who wanted and received hormone therapy and/or surgical care had substantially lower prevalence of past-year suicide thoughts and attempts than those who did not receive them.
- Those who lived in a state with gender identity nondiscrimination statutes had lower suicide thoughts and attempts than those who lived in states without protection.
So what's a parent to do?
First step is pretty easy. Love your child.
Jo Ivestor's book, Once a Girl, Always a Boy describes a family that transitions even as one of its members, Jeremy, transitions from uncomfortable girl to confident young man. Giving both parents, Jeremy, and his brothers and sister each a turn to tell his/her story, the book provides a roadmap, navigating through misinterpretation, misunderstanding, misgiving, honest doubt, grief, and concern, and on to support, advocacy, and political action.
The road is love. From Jo's perspective, that's a pretty easy road. Parents love their children. Take it from there.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy gives specific advice to parents that honestly acknowledges the difficulties, encourages positive steps, and points to the joy that is found in making the journey to authenticity. It includes a glossary, because, gosh there are new words to learn in this journey. And it identifies organizations working to make this world more just and safer for all of our children.
We are used to reading the headlines of horror stories. We expect a story about a transgender young man to be sad. But it doesn't have to be that way. The Ivestors give testimony to a different narrative.
If you are the parent, friend, teacher, coworker, spiritual leader of somebody who is transgender, you get to help write the script. Will you write pain? Or will you be a resource? Will you write love?
graphics from thetrevorproject.org/
scales graphic by Belfius, used under Creative Commons license