Attempted suicide by American LGBT adolescents


by Michael Biggs

Michael Biggs is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Cross College. He researches social movements and collective protest.

Pediatrics just published an article showing that trans-identified children are substantially more likely to report attempted suicide than the general adolescent population. When the results are examined closely, however, we find that the risk extends to kids who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Emphasis on the exceptional fragility of trans adolescents overlooks the importance of sexual orientation. Indeed, my analysis suggests that gender-nonconforming girls are the most vulnerable, whether they consider themselves to be transgender, bisexual, or lesbian.

Previous evidence on suicide attempts among trans-identified youth has been methodologically flawed, even ignoring the most egregious examples. First, surveys have recruited respondents haphazardly—rather than sampling from a population. Second, respondents have not been asked for their sex, but only for their…

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  1. MYTH Transwomen have surgery to transition.
    REALITY 80-95% of males who identify as transgender keep their penis. Source: Sex and Gender Ethics Society, from evidence given to MPs at the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry in 2015.

    MYTH Transwomen in the UK are more at risk of murder.
    REALITY Thankfully, transgender people are no more likely to be murdered than anyone else in the UK. Sources: ONS and Trans Murder Monitoring Project. Since 2008, 7 transwomen have been murdered and 12 transwomen have been convicted of murder. There were no recorded murders of transmen in that time.

    MYTH Half of transgender young people attempt suicide.
    REALITY This statistic comes from a questionnaire filled in by a self-selecting group of just 27 transgender young people, far too small a group to meet normal statistical standards. In reality, child suicide is extremely rare. A study of Serious Case Reviews found no suicides of trans children in the UK in the last 10 years. Despite this, the threat of child suicide is used regularly by transgender lobby groups to press parents into transing their children. It is irresponsible to quote the survey without highlighting the very small sample size and flouts guidelines on reporting suicide by the Samaritans.

    MYTH Transwomen pose no risk to women and girls.
    REALITY Transgender males retain the same rates of criminality as other males, including for violent crime, according to the only long-term study (Dhejne et al, 2011). Fair Play for Women found that at least 40% of transgender prisoners in England and Wales are serving sentences for sex offences, a far higher proportion than the general prison population. These figures have since been corroborated by the Ministry of Justice.

    MYTH Men would not identify as transgender to attack women and girls.
    REALITY This monitoring project documents crimes against women and girls in the UK by males who identify as women. 98% of sex offences are committed by men, including transgender males. 90% of sex crime victims are female. Source: Ministry of Justice.

    MYTH Puberty blocker drugs are harmless.
    REALITY Medical professionals are voicing serious concerns about the use of drugs like Lupron to block puberty in children. Estrogen and testosterone are not just needed for puberty, they are vital for teenage brain development. Young adults have been left with stunted genitalia after using puberty blockers. Much more research is needed. In the US, the FDA is investigating Lupron.

    MYTH You can be born with a female brain in a male body.
    REALITY There is no such thing as a male brain or female brain, especially at birth, when all but the most basic parts of the brain are undeveloped. Our brains are plastic and shaped by our experience.

    MYTH Sex is assigned at birth.
    REALITY Biological sex is observed and recorded at birth. Sex is determined at conception, when an egg from a woman (which always carries an X chromosome) is fertilised by a sperm from a man, carrying either a Y or an X chromosome. In fewer than 1 in 1,000 births there is a chromosomal abnormality that means sex cannot be determined straight away. For those other than a subgroup of intersex people, XX is female and XY is male. Sources: The Lancet and the Intersex Society of North America.

    MYTH Legal sex change is difficult and invasive in the UK.
    REALITY The UK Gender Recognition Act (2004) is one of the most liberal in the world, requiring neither surgery nor drugs for legal sex change. About a third of the countries in the world allow legal sex change and of those the vast majority require transgender people to have surgery, including many European countries and US states. Sources: GOV.UK and Transgender Law Center.

    Trans Facts


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