by Laurel Duggan
Transgender activists often tout the claim that youths with gender identity issues have a suicide attempt rate as high as 41%, but that exaggerated statistic may encourage suicide, multiple psychiatrists have argued.
The suicide rate of youth patients at the United Kingdom’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) was 0.03% over the course of a decade, according to an analysis of about 15,000 patients, and another clinic reported that 13.4% of their referrals were considered to be at high risk for suicide prior to their initial triage appointment, according to analysis by Dr. Alison Clayton, an Australian psychiatrist. Compared to this clinical data, transgender suicide statistics that activists promote typically draw from voluntary surveys and find a much higher risk of suicide among respondents.
Surveys rely on voluntary answers from respondents, and skew the data, Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Surveys can also be plagued with bias, because people who choose to respond tend to be more passionate about the issue at hand, while more neutral participants may decline to respond.
“Every suicide is a terrible tragedy, and we’re all on the same page when it comes to protecting young people from any sort of suicidal thoughts or behavior,” Grossman said. “But the transgender suicide rate is nowhere near what those other statistics are suggesting. Those are exaggerated, and there is such a thing as social contagion.”
The exaggeration of suicide risk and emphasis on transgender suicides from activists and the media may actually increase the risk for youths with gender identity issues, according to Clayton.
“Excessive focus on an exaggerated suicide risk narrative by clinicians and the media may create a damaging … ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ effect … whereby suicidality in these vulnerable youths may be further exacerbated,” Clayton wrote.
Activists frequently claim there’s a 41% suicide attempt rate among transgender youth, relying on a 2008 National Transgender Discrimination Survey which asked respondents if they had ever attempted suicide. Since the answer options were only yes and no, it’s possible that respondents indicated “yes” to express self-harm behavior or serious considerations of suicide rather than actual attempts, according to analysis from the University of California Los Angeles Williams Institute, which conducted the survey. It’s also possible that the sampling pool wasn’t reflective of the general population.
The Trevor Project, an LGBT activist organization, claimed that about one in five transgender-identified youths attempted suicide in the past year, and one in three seriously considered suicide in a 2022 survey.
“There’s an effect on people, especially on kids,” Grossman said. “It makes an impression on you, and it can then influence your own thinking and your own behaviors. If you are questioning your gender, or you identify as transgender, and you keep hearing over and over and over again, ‘These kids are killing themselves, these kids are thinking of killing themselves,’ you’re being placed in that category.”
While we’ve made progress towards LGBTQ acceptance, our 2022 National Survey shows far too many LGBTQ young people are considering or attempting suicide. Starting a conversation backed up by comprehensive data creates change because #KnowledgeIsProgress
📊 https://t.co/urbbGUtiPV pic.twitter.com/m29oTlffpZ
— The Trevor Project (@TrevorProject) May 4, 2022
These statistics tend to obscure other causes of suicidal behaviors that transgender-identified adolescents experience, according to Grossman: this demographic experiences high rates of eating disorders and depression, both of which are risk factors for suicide, and many of them identify as gay in addition to being transgender, which is also associated with higher suicide rates, she said.
Medical professionals and advocates for cross-sex medical care often tell youth patients and their parents that, without undergoing transgender medical treatment, a child with gender identity issues will be at high risk for suicide, according to both Grossman and Clayton. Multiple individuals who came to regret undergoing medical transitions in adolescence have said doctors pressured them and their families to consent to the treatments by touting statistics about the high transgender suicide rate.
“Mental health professionals and others are using those very troubling statistics to influence parents and their decisions, and it’s a kind of emotional blackmail,” Grossman said. “But to present these statistics, when we don’t even have any definitive data that shows that the treatments themselves help with suicidal matters, we just shouldn’t be doing this.”
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Laurel Duggan is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Sad Teen” by Liza Summer.