New Data: Schools And Communities Are Failing Transgender Students

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms what we’ve been hearing from young people for decades: transgender students face many challenges to health and safety, in school and outside of school.

Analysis of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data found that transgender students are:

  • Four times as likely to feel unsafe at school as cisgender male and female students
  • Twice as likely to have experienced sexual violence as cisgender females and six times as likely as females
  • Three times as likely to have experienced dating violence as cisgender females and four times as likely as males
  • More likely to have experienced bullying at school or online
  • At least three times as likely to have attempted suicide as cisgender students.

Since experiencing violence is a risk factor for substance use, transgender students are also more likely to have used drugs including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.

“This data shows a stark reality for transgender students – too many face toxic environments and overwhelming challenges with little or no support from family, community, and schools. And the Trump Administration is actively making it worse by rolling back protections for transgender young people in schools. Transgender students should be valued and celebrated for who they are, not treated as outcasts or threats. At home, in school, in government, and at every level of society, we all have work to do to protect trans young people’s safety, dignity, and future,” said Debra Hauser, President, Advocates for Youth.

“My educational experience has been greatly impacted by my trans identity. What many don’t  realize is that a lack of access to restrooms, frequent misgendering, and the perpetuation of trans stereotypes, are acts of violence that inhibit trans people from having safe and healthy school experiences. I’ve often felt isolated and alone when not protected under school, local, or federal policies and class curricula. No student should have to choose between a having quality education and affirming your identity.” Ose Arhegan, college student and nationally recognized trans activist.

“Being in an unsupportive high school environment made it impossible for me to come to terms with my gender identity, and my being trans, until well after graduation.  If I so much as wore a hint of makeup or walked a little femininely, I would be the target of stares, rude comments (both behind my back and to my face), and even threats of violence – and teachers and staff knew about it, either ignoring it or contributing to the school culture that made any kind of gender deviancy worthy of punishment by my peers. It got to the point where I had to transfer schools after being assaulted at the start of my junior year, just for wearing makeup, because it was clear that my school staff and administration was unwilling to address the unsafe environment they were contributing to. To prevent situations like mine, schools have to actively work to educate their students about trans issues and combat harassment and bullying as it occurs – otherwise, their inability to act risks the safety and lives of their transgender students.” Chad Gasman, student activist.

Previously, CDC data found that LBG students also experienced more bullying and had higher rates of suicidality than straight students.

Said Debra Hauser, “The stakes are incredibly high – we as a society can’t keep failing these young people. We’ve got to break out of this pattern and ensure that young people have all the tools they need to protect their physical and mental health and to thrive.”