Alberta's first survey of transgender youth reveals 'disturbing and alarming' trends
Lead author says the results highlight the importance of not 'outing' kids to their parents.
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The first survey of transgender youth in Alberta highlights the importance of not “outing” kids to their parents, according to one of its lead authors.
The Alberta Trans Youth Survey, released Wednesday to coincide with International Coming Out Day, showed many trans youth age 14-25 are facing violence, discrimination and significant healthcare barriers.
Almost two-thirds of teenage trans youth reported they could not access mental health services, and 91 per cent of those said it was because they did not want their parents to know.
More than 80 per cent of trans teens surveyed said their family members did not understand them or only understood them a little, while almost one in three reported having run away from home.
“Many of them don’t access mental health services because they don’t want their parents to find out. So we see a big barrier here,” said Kristopher Wells with the University of Alberta, one of the report’s lead authors.
Wells said the numbers underscore that trans youth should not not be “outed” to their parents if they disclose their gender identity or join a Gay-Straight Alliance at school.
The report brings other “disturbing and alarming” issues to light as well, Wells said.
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed reported having self harmed, while 67 per cent under 18 had seriously considered suicide – and 41 per cent made at least one attempt.
Almost 70 per cent of those surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment, and 35 per cent of those under 18 reported they had been physically threatened or injured in the past year.
Adebayo Katiiti, a transgender man from Uganda who was granted asylum in Canada after getting death threats in his home country for being transgender, knows what it's like to not have an accepting family.
The 23-year-old said life has been better during his first year in Edmonton, thanks to a strong queer community and support from social workers.
But he still faces discrimination – Katiiti said a man recently approached him on a bus to make racist comments and then repeatedly called him a woman.
Katiiti said he stood up for himself, but wonders whether it was the right decision.
“It still gives me headaches – if I did the right thing, if it was right for me to talk back, how my safety was, what if this guy could hit me,” he said.
Katiiti, who came to Edmonton for an international swimming competition and has since founded an LGBTQ soccer team and started teaching autistic kids to swim, is also familiar with healthcare barriers.
He said he recently got into a “small fight” with a psychologist who would not recognize his gender identity.
He’s also experienced long wait times for therapists and gender specialists, which “makes you doubt a lot, and it makes other people doubt you.”
The report makes four main recommendations, including: increased support for families of trans youth, safer school environments, knowledgeable and inclusive healthcare services, and directly engaging transgender youth and their families when developing policies and programs to help them.
Katiiti said the last recommendation is especially important, and that people need to treat trans youth equally and exercise patience when listening to them talk about their experiences.
“The few who are disrespecting, (it is) because actually they don’t know who I am,” he said. “They don’t know how capable I am, what good things I have to offer.”
The survey was taken online and 114 Alberta youth participated.