A quarter of Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported a suicide attempt in the previous year, according to a new study, more than double the rate of suicide attempts among Black cisgender LGBQ youth.
The new research by the Trevor Project, which surveyed nearly 34,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the United States in fall 2021, also found that Black and nonbinary young people reported higher rates of anxiety and depression than their Black cisgender LGBQ peers.
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“Simply put, the mental health of Black transgender and nonbinary young people is a public health crisis,” said Dr. Myeshia Price, director of research science at the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth.
Price says this “sobering data” shows how Black trans and nonbinary young people are “an especially vulnerable group, as they hold multiple marginalized identities that place them at higher suicide risk.”
Suicide rates among Black youth have risen faster than in any other racial or ethnic group over the past two decades, increasing 37% between 2018 and 2021, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared with White transgender and nonbinary peers in the new study, suicide rates among Black transgender and nonbinary young people were significantly higher: 16% and 25%, respectively.
In addition to elevated suicide risk, the survey found that Black transgender and nonbinary young people experience discrimination, violence and homelessness at alarmingly high rates.
Nearly 80% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 40% reported having been physically threatened or harmed due to their sexual orientation or identity – double the rate of Black cisgender LGBQ peers.
The study’s authors say social support can help mitigate the negative effects of the challenges facing Black transgender and nonbinary youth. Those who reported high social support from family were half as likely to attempt suicide in the previous year.
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“Black families should not only be encouraged to support their transgender and nonbinary young people by interweaving overtly supportive messages around gender identity into their existing family support structure, but they should also be provided with the necessary structural and educational resources to empower them to show up as best as they can for the young LGBTQ people in their lives,” the authors wrote.
More than 330 bills have been introduced in state legislatures targeting LGBTQ rights, especially among young people, in 2023, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The study authors call for interventions to reduce suicide risk among this especially marginalized group.
“Immediate steps must be taken by educators, youth-serving adults and mental health professionals to ensure that Black trans and nonbinary young people feel seen, supported and protected against a world that so often brings them harm,” Price said.