Teens ditching gender identity

More teens than thought are identifying themselves without using non-traditional terms. New research published in Pediatrics shows that teens don’t accept only the terms boy and girl as the only way to identify a gender. Nearly 81,000 teens were polled in 2016; the study takes a look at those numbers.

The study surveyed students in the ninth and 11th grades. It estimated that around three percent, 2,200 teens are transgender or are non-conforming to traditional gender terms. These teens don’t always identify as the sex they were given at birth or use gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they’ or ‘them’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’.

The survey asked what sex a teen was assigned at birth. It then asked if they now consider themselves transgender, gender queer, gender fluid, or if they were unsure about their identity. It didn’t ask if they had undergone surgery or medical treatment to transition to the opposite sex.

Lead author Nic Rider, a University of Minnesota postdoctoral fellow who studies transgender health, told the Associated Press he believes these numbers are an accurate representation of the country itself. “It’s a study based on a statewide population of teens in ninth and 11th grades and that the results can be used to estimate numbers of trans and gender nonconforming teens in those grades across the United States.”

The numbers were much higher than a study that UCLA released in 2016. UCLA used government data to approximate the numbers for teens between the ages of 13 and 17.

It’s suspected that these numbers are on the rise as teens find it easier to come out or to experiment with their gender identity.

“With growing trans visibility in the United States, some youth might find it safer to come out and talk about gender exploration,” Rider said.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not ask if teens identify as transgender on its youth surveys. They’ve said they don’t have the right question yet to receive a credible answer.

Dr. Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, wrote in an accompanying opinion article in Pediatrics that the study supports other research suggesting that earlier counts of the trans population “have been underestimated by orders of magnitude.” He said that the higher numbers should serve as a lesson to schools and physicians to abandon limited views of gender.

“Youth are rejecting this binary thinking and are asking adults to keep up,” he wrote.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a policy in place that recommends pediatricians use gender-neutral terms to help teens feel more at ease talking about they sexual identities.