A poll released January 10 by the Trevor Project shows that over two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth say their mental health has been negatively impacted by the Republican-led efforts to curtail the rights of trans and non-binary people.
The 24-page analysis “Issues Impacting LGBTQ Youth,” which was done in concert with Morning Consult polling, shows 7 in 10 LGBTQ+ youths report closely following recent news about issues that impact the trans community. “Unsurprisingly,” states the report, “transgender and/or non-binary youth are most likely to be following news about issues that impact their community.”
Concomitant with that, two-thirds of LGBTQ youth report that recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of trans people have impacted their mental health negatively. This impact is even more dramatic among trans and/or non-binary youth, where 85% report it has impacted their mental health negatively.
“These results underscore how recent politics and ongoing crises facing the globe can have a real, negative impact on LGBTQ young people, a group consistently found to be at significantly increased risk for depression, anxiety and attempting suicide because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society,” Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, said in a statement.
The Human Rights Campaign had previously released data and analysis concluding that “2021 has officially surpassed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.”
HRC said, “The previous record — set six years ago in 2015, when 15 anti-LGBTQ bills were enacted into law — was broken as the seventeenth anti-LGBTQ bill was enacted into law. In addition, 11 anti-LGBTQ bills are on governors’ desks awaiting signature or veto and several more are continuing to move through state legislatures across the country.”
On January 5 Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, tweeted, “It is January, which means states will be starting legislative sessions soon and we will again see gratuitous attacks on trans people, particularly trans youth.”
The “2021 Data in Review” report from the Williams Institute of the Law School at UCLA, explains why LGBTQ+ youth feel so much anxiety and depression related to these laws. The Williams Institute report states: “During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers in 21 states introduced legislation to ban gender-affirming medical care for trans youth, putting more than 45,000 trans minors at risk of being denied critical care.”
Judy Morrissey, LCSW, Director of Behavioral Health at Mazzoni Center told PGN, “We’re witnessing the rights of TGNCNB people being challenged in various ways across the country and, unfortunately, it could get worse according to those closely monitoring the legislative situation.” Morrisey said, “This creates an ominous cloud of fear and uncertainty for many LGBTQ+ people, especially as we all try to cope with the rapidly-changing pandemic world in which insecurity and change have become the hallmarks. Collectively, our mental health is fragile. These restrictions to rights and proposed limitations compound anxiety and fear about the future. We’ve witnessed a theme of hopelessness emerge in our work with many LGBTQ+ clients and patients who worry, ‘What could happen next? What else will be taken away?’”
Other key findings from the Trevor Project were illuminating, particularly with regard to how LGBTQ+ youth viewed different issues. The race and gender of the respondents defined what they considered most important to them. For LGBTQ+ youth, racism is the most important issue impacting the world. But how issues were prioritized differed in intensity by race and gender identity.
Black LGBTQ+ youth were significantly more likely to report racism as the most important issue to them while white LGBTQ+ youth were almost equally as likely to report racism as an LGBTQ rights issue. Trans and/or non-binary youth were almost nearly four times more likely to cite transphobia as the most important issue to them.
Black and white LGBTQ+ youth suffered varying levels of stress and anxiety from different issues. For example, Black LGBTQ+ youth are significantly more likely than white LGBTQ+ youth to say the following cause them stress and anxiety very often: racism, police brutality, and gun violence. White LGBTQ+ youth are significantly more likely than Black LGBTQ+ you to say the following cause them stress and anxiety very often: transphobia, anti-LGBTQ hate-crimes, and efforts to restrict access to abortion.
Overall, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and homophobia often give LGBTQ+ youth stress and anxiety. Other issues that cause stress and anxiety for LGBTQ+ youth are not having enough money and police brutality.
The Trevor Project’s data showed “COVID-19 has created unique challenges for transgender and/or non-binary youth,” particularly with regard to health care. Data revealed “Trans and/or non-binary youth are nearly 1.9 times more likely than cis-LGBQ+ youth to report having difficulty getting mental health care. Additionally, transgender and/or non-binary youth are 1.76 times more likely to report having difficulty getting physical health care compared to cis-LGBQ+ youth.”
The pandemic has also caused significant anxiety for LGBTQ+ youth. Three in five LGBTQ+ youth (60%) report feeling scared about the future while nearly half report feeling anxiety about in-person learning amidst the pandemic. LGBTQ+ youth also reported feeling mostly stressed and nervous about the 2021-2022 academic school year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Issues specific to trans and/or non-binary youth were examined in detail. The poll showed trans sports bans were most likely to evoke anger and sadness across key demographics. Trans and/or non-binary youth were more likely to feel most of the emotions tested than cisgender LGBQ+ youth, particularly emotions like stressed (+24), anger (+23), and scared (+20) regarding trans sports bans.
LGBTQ+ youth, across key demographics, are most likely to report feeling angry and sad at any policy that would ban doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormone replacement to trans and/or non-binary youth, but trans and/or non-binary youth disproportionately report feeling stressed and scared.
Yet Morrissey said gender-affirming treatment is essential for trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming youth. She explained, “We know that access to gender-affirming care helps people feel better about themselves. A positive self-image and sense of belonging in the world eases depression and enables us to find fulfillment in life. As advocates, we need to continue to be mindful of this connection and take measures to ensure LGBTQ+ people, especially our youth, POC and those experiencing increased stress continue to have access to care that affirms and protects life.”
The poll also indicated any policy that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or identify as LGBTQ+ at school predominantly evoked anger, nervousness, and stress among LGBTQ+ youth.
According to the Trevor Project, the methodology used was polling 820 LGBTQ youth ages 13–24, including 318 transgender and non-binary youth and 340 LGBTQ youth of color, surveyed online from Sept. 14 to Nov. 5. The interviews were conducted online. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.The Trevor Project offers “A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth” on their website. Their hotline and chat lines are open 24/7: 1-866-488-7386.