According to the most latest nationwide figures of this population, about 1.6 million persons in the United States are transgender, with 43 percent of them being youngsters or teenagers.
The study indicated that 1.4 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds and 1.3 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were transgender, as opposed to around 0.5 percent of all adults, related to government health surveys done from 2017 to 2020.
These results revealed a large increase in the number of young people: The number of transgender people aged 13 to 25 has roughly doubled since the investigators’ past findings in 2017, despite the fact that the methodology utilized in the two analyses was distinct.
According to the statistics, there is a significant generation gap. Experts say that young individuals now have more communication and social acceptance to explore their gender expression, but older individuals may feel more restricted. However, the figures, which vary greatly from state to state, raise questions about the significance of peer pressure or the community’s political context.
Dr. Angela Goepferd, medical officer of the Gender Health Program at Children’s Minnesota Hospital, who was not involved in the new study, said, “It’s developmentally acceptable for teenagers to explore all elements of their identification; that’s what teenagers do.” “And, generation to generation, gender has become a more socially acceptable component of someone’s identification to explore.”
Goepferd, who identifies as nonbinary, believes that, unlike previous generations, many teenagers do not desire or require medicines or surgery to shift to a different gender.
“The investigations, which were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not question young teenagers about nonbinary or other gender expressions, which have also been on the rise in recent years.” However, roughly a quarter of transgender adults in the surveys described as “gender nonconforming,” which meant that they did not identify as a transgender man or woman.
“All we have to do as a society is a tilt into the fact that we have gender diversity,” Goepferd remarked. “And that doesn’t mean we have to treat it medically in every case, but it does mean that as a culture, we have to create room for it.”
Researchers at the Williams Institute, a research center at UCLA Law School that publishes highly recognized publications on the demographics, behaviors, and policy issues of LGBTQ people in the United States, reviewed the new data.
According to the survey, teenagers make up a disproportionately big fraction of the transgender population. While younger teens made up only 7.6% of the total population in the United States, they represented around 18% of transgender people. Similarly, whereas 18- to 24-year-olds made up 11% of the general population, they made up 24% of the transgender community.
Transgender people aged 25 to 64 made up only 47 percent of the entire population but accounted for 62 percent of the total population. While 20% of Americans are over the age of 65, transgender people in this age bracket account for only 10% of the overall number of transgender people in the United States.
The Williams Institute used data from two national sources: the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is provided to adults across the country, and the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is given to high school students. The assessments, which were either performed over the phone or in person, gathered demographic information as well as medical and behavioral data such as smoking habits, HIV status, diet, and exercise.
Since 2017, high school surveys have included an optional question about whether or not the student is transgender. Between 2017 and 2020, 15 states asked about this issue in high school assessments, whereas 41 states asked about it at least once in adult polls during the same time period.
The Williams Institute based its estimates of the transgender population on these data, as well as statistical modeling of demographic and geographic characteristics.
“It’s important to keep in mind that trans people reside all over the country and are a part of communities all over the country,” said Jody Herman, a senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute and the report’s primary author. “We use the greatest available data, but we need more and better data.”
The year before, as part of the new information-gathering initiative, the US Census Bureau began to ask questions about sexual orientation or gender identity. Even national suicide statistics, which are crucial for studying this susceptible demographic, lack knowledge of the sexuality or gender identity.
“No one knows how many trans people, gay people, or bisexual people attempted suicide this year,” said Amit Paley, the executive director of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization that released recently its own report associated with social media polling that found that young LGBTQ people have high levels of mental health issues and thoughts of suicide.
“That data does not exist since the administration does not collect it in death records,” Paley explained. “It’s something we’re attempting to change.”
The Williams Institute researchers did not have actual survey data for younger kids when their last report was released in 2017, instead, they used statistical modeling to extrapolate based on adult data. They calculated that there were 150,000 transgender youths in the country at the time or around 0.7 percent of all teenagers.
With the addition of the new high school survey data in 2017, that figure has risen to 300,000.
It’s unclear if the increase reflects past estimate mistakes, an actual increase in the number of transgender adolescents, or both.
“That’s the perplexing question of why all of this is happening,” Herman explained.
Transgender adults and transgender teenagers shared a similar racial composition. About half of each group was white, which was slightly less than the overall community’s white population, and a disproportionately significant amount of each group identified as Latino.
The data indicates the state-by-state dispersion of trans persons. With a population of 3 percent, New York has the highest estimated population of transgender youth, while Wyoming has the lowest, at 0.6 percent. Transgender adults had a narrower range, with only 0.9 percent of adults in North America reporting as transgender in North Carolina and 0.2% in Missouri.
Studies were taken in 15 states: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The survey results were then used to build a model of how state and individual attributes influence the likelihood of becoming transgender. They estimated the population of the other 35 states and Washington, D.C., to use that model and census data.
Professionals who work with transgender youth acknowledged that some social variables will undoubtedly influence their identification, just as they did generations earlier when gay and lesbian people first came out in huge numbers.
“It represents a new era’s conviction in their gender identification,” said Phillip Hammack, a psychologist professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Lab. “I believe we had seen something very comparable in the nineties when there was more visibility surrounding declaring oneself as gay, lesbian, or bisexual — we simply didn’t have the specific numbers to back it up.”
According to recent Gallup polling data analyzed by the Williams Institute, young adults make up a disproportionately big fraction of the total LGBTQ population in the United States, which differs state by state as well.
Teenagers today are increasingly doubting their gender identities as a result of social media.
Indigo Giles, a 20-year-old student in Austin who has protested the state of Texas’ abuse inquiries of parents of transgender children, stated, “I think a large part of it is absolutely the internet.”
After meeting a network of like-minded people on Tumblr, Giles stated they understood they were nonbinary. “People who have had these emotions for a long period of time but haven’t had the vocabulary to express them can now realize, in such an easily available manner, people who share their feelings,” they said.
On the other hand, exploring one’s gender identity later on in life may be far more challenging for elderly people.
“We look around, and everyone’s so young,” Hammack said of a person he encountered who said it was tough to come out as nonbinary in their 50s because “everyone’s so young.” Others who identify as macho or butch lesbians have informed him, “If I had been that young, then I might have gone down that path, but it wasn’t accessible,” he said.
Another reason for a low number of older transgender persons, according to Goepferd of Children’s Hospital Minnesota, is that transgender people are much more likely to die at an earlier age due to lack of access to health care, as well as high rates of violent crime and suicide.
They explained, “The awful reality is that we don’t have trans elders because they didn’t live.”