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Research/Study

LGBTQ+ youth with eating disorder had higher rates of attempting suicide

Healthcare providers working with LGBTQ youth must assess risks for mental health concerns such as eating disorders/suicidal thoughts

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NEW YORK – The National Eating Disorder Awareness Week started Monday February 21st, and in conjunction with the event, The Trevor Project released the results of a study that showed LGBTQ+ young people experience significantly greater rates of both eating disorders and attempting suicide compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers.

Key Findings: 

  • LGBTQ youth who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder reported nearly four times greater odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who never had, or suspected they had, an eating disorder.
  • Overall, 9% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had been diagnosed with an eating disorder. An additional 29% of LGBTQ reported that they haven’t been medically diagnosed, but suspect they might have an eating disorder.
  • LGBTQ youth who are Native/Indigenous (12%) or Multiracial (10%) reported the highest rates of being diagnosed with an eating disorder, with an additional one in three (33%) of both groups suspecting they have an eating disorder.
  • Black LGBTQ youth suspected they had an eating disorder at four times the rate of actually being diagnosed. 

“The strong relationship observed between eating disorders and suicide risk among LGBTQ youth underscores the need to create more inclusive, non-judgmental environments in which young people can feel comfortable discussing these experiences. Encouraging open, honest conversations around both eating disorders and mental health will help reduce stigma and improve suicide prevention efforts,” said Dr. Amy Green, Vice President of Research for The Trevor Project. “Health care providers working with youth should routinely assess their risk for these potential mental health concerns and be cognizant of the ways the presentation of symptoms and underlying causes may vary based on gender identity and race/ethnicity.”

Cisgender LGBQ boys/men reported the lowest rates of both being diagnosed with or suspecting they have an eating disorder. Transgender boys/men and nonbinary youth assigned female at birth (AFAB) had the highest rates of both being diagnosed with and suspecting they have an eating disorder.

Cisgender girls/women, transgender girls/women, and nonbinary youth assigned male at birth (AMAB) had similar rates of being diagnosed with or suspecting they have an eating disorder.

LGBTQ youth who are Native/Indigenous 12%) or Multiracial 10%) reported the highest rates of being diagnosed with an eating disorder, with an additional third 33%) of both groups suspecting they have an eating disorder. LGBTQ youth who are Asian Pacific Islander 5%) or Black 4%) reported the lowest rates of being diagnosed with an eating disorder.

However, Black LGBTQ youth reported comparable rates of suspecting they have an eating disorder to White LGBTQ youth 28% Black vs. 27% White), despite White LGBTQ youth being diagnosed at more than twice the rate of Black LGBTQ youth 9% White vs. 4% Black)

LGBTQ youth who have ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder had nearly four times greater odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who have never suspected nor had an eating disorder diagnosis. Suicide risk is also higher among those who suspected they had an eating disorder, despite never being diagnosed.

These youth reported more than two times greater odds of a suicide attempt in the past year compared to those who have never suspected they had an eating disorder.

Although transgender and nonbinary youth reported higher rates of attempting suicide than cisgender youth overall, the strength of the relationship between eating disorder diagnosis and attempting suicide was similar for both cisgender LGBQ and transgender and nonbinary youth.

In alignment with results on studies of LGBTQ adults, the data showed that LGBTQ young people reported being diagnosed with an eating disorder at higher rates than those found in previous general U.S. population studies of lifetime prevalence for both adolescents ages 13–18 3% and young adults ages 18–29 5%.

Rates of eating disorders were even greater for transgender and nonbinary youth – particularly among transgender boys/men and nonbinary youth assigned female at birth. Multiracial and Native/Indigenous LGBTQ youth also had high rates of suspecting or being diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Further, Black LGBTQ youth suspected they had an eating disorder at four times the rate of actually being diagnosed. The relationship between eating disorders and suicide risk in LGBTQ youth suggests providers must do more to close the gap between youth suspecting they have an eating disorder and receiving a clinical diagnosis in order to receive care.

Healthcare providers working with LGBTQ youth should routinely assess risk for potential mental health concerns such as eating disorders and suicidal ideation. To create an environment in which youth feel more comfortable disclosing to healthcare professionals, healthcare organizations and training programs should focus on developing and maintaining high levels of provider cultural competence regarding all aspects of youth identity, including their sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity.

Further, there is a need for greater attention to cultural competencies in the assessment and treatment of eating disorders, particularly regarding ways presentations and underlying causes may vary based on gender identity and race/ethnicity. 

Given that previous research has found significant relationships between minority stress and both eating disorders and suicide risk, there is a need to focus on policies and practices that confront LGBTQ-based victimization and aim to reduce minority stress.

This can include the creation of safe and supportive school environments, the enactment of anti-discrimination policies, and increased access to gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary youth. By reducing minority stress and improving access to culturally competent and affirming care, LGBTQ youth’s risk for both eating disorders and suicide can be reduced.

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Research/Study

New study on resilience & mental health among LGBTQ youth

LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt- 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year

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NEW YORK – The Trevor Project observing the 53rd anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a greater movement for LGBTQ+ rights and equality this week, released new data that examines resilience and mental health among LGBTQ youth.

“As we celebrate Pride Month and commemorate the Stonewall Riots, there is often discussion of the ‘resilience’ of the LGBTQ community and the ways in which members are able to bounce back in the face of adversity. These data highlight the fact that resilience is not just an admirable quality – but one that can be associated with improved mental health among LGBTQ youth,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants, Research Scientist at The Trevor Project.

“Higher resilience in our sample was consistently associated with better mental health outcomes including decreased risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts in the past year among LGBTQ youth. Moving forward, we should invest further research into understanding how LGBTQ youth can successfully develop high resilience. Additionally, we should work to dismantle systems of oppression and implement LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination protections  so that LGBTQ youth are not required to possess resilience to excel and thrive.” 

Key Findings:

  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt, and 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience reported 81% lower odds  of anxiety symptoms, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with  high resilience reported 79% lower odds of recent depression, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth who have supportive families and  are in supportive environments have higher resilience.
  • LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 reported significantly higher resilience than LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17. 

Read the report:

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Research/Study

150 people on Tennessee’s sex offender registry for HIV-related conviction

Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black

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LOS ANGELES – At least 154 people have been placed on Tennessee’s sex offender registry (SOR) for an HIV-related conviction since 1993, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Enforcement of HIV crimes in Tennessee disproportionately affects women and Black people. Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black.

Tennessee’s two primary HIV criminalization laws—aggravated prostitution and criminal exposure—make it a felony for people living with HIV to engage in sex work or other activities, such as intimate contact, blood donation, or needle exchange, without disclosing their status. Both are considered a “violent sexual offense” and require a person convicted to register as a sex offender for life.

Examining Tennessee’s sex offender registry, researchers found that Shelby County, home to Memphis, accounts for most of the state’s HIV convictions. Shelby County makes up only 13% of Tennessee’s population and 37% of the population of people living with HIV in the state, but 64% of HIV registrants on the SOR. Moreover, while Black Tennesseans were only 17% of the state’s population and 56% of people living with HIV in the state, 75% of all HIV registrants were Black.

In Shelby County, 91% of aggravated prostitution convictions resulted from police sting operations in which no physical contact ever occurred. In addition, the case files showed that 75% of those convicted were Black women. When it came to criminal exposure case files, all of those convicted except one person were Black men.

“Tennessee’s HIV criminal laws were enacted at a time when little was known about HIV and before modern medical advances were available to treat and prevent HIV,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Tennessee’s outdated laws do not require actual transmission or the intent to transmit HIV. Moreover, the laws ignore whether the person living with HIV is in treatment and virally suppressed and therefore cannot transmit HIV.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • Incarcerating people for HIV-related offenses has cost Tennessee at least $3.8 million.
  • Of the 154 people who have been placed on Tennessee’s SOR for an HIV-related conviction, 51% were convicted of aggravated prostitution, 46% were convicted of criminal exposure, and 3% were convicted of both.
  • Women account for 26% of people living with HIV in Tennessee and 4% of people on the SOR, but 46% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black people account for 17% of people living in Tennessee, 56% of those living with HIV, 27% of people on the SOR, but 75% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black women were the majority of aggravated prostitution registrants (57%), while Black men were the majority of criminal exposure registrants (64%).
  • People with an HIV-related offense are more economically vulnerable when compared to others on the state’s SOR.
    • One in five (19%) HIV registrants were homeless compared to 9% of all SOR registrants.
    • 28% of HIV registrants reported an employer address compared to about half (49%) of all SOR registrants.
  • Shelby County has one aggravated prostitution conviction for every 115 people living with HIV in the county, and Black people were 90% of all people convicted for aggravated prostitution.
    • Over 90% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County were the result of police sting operations.
    • Only 3% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County alleged any intimate contact.
    • Nearly all (95%) people arrested in Shelby County for criminal exposure were Black men, compared to 64% of people statewide.  

The Williams Institute has conducted research on HIV criminalization in numerous U.S. states.

Read the report

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Research/Study

New Pew Research Center poll: Americans at odds over Trans issues 

Strong majorities favor non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors

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Texas trans activist Landon Richie speaking at Texas Capitol against trans youth sports bill (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – A new survey from a leading non-partisan research center reveals Americans have mixed views on transgender issues at a time when states are moving forward with measures against transgender youth, with strong majorities favoring non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors and participation in school sports.

The Pew Research Center issued the findings on Tuesday as part of the results of its ongoing study to better understand Americans’ views about gender identity and people who are transgender or non-binary. The findings are based on a survey of 10,188 U.S. adults from data collected as part of a larger survey conducted May 16-22.

A majority of respondents by wide margins favor non-discrimination protections for transgender people. A full 64 percent back laws or policies that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces, while roughly 8-in-10 acknowledge transgender people face at least some discrimination in our society.

Additionally, nearly one half of Americans say it’s extremely important to use a transgender person’s new name after they undergo a transition, while an additional 22 percent say that is somewhat important. A smaller percentage, 34 percent, say using a transgender person’s pronouns is extremely important, and 21 percent say it is somewhat important.

But other findings were less supportive:

  • 60 percent say a person’s gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, reflecting an increase from 56 percent in 2021 and 54 percent in 2017, compared to 38 percent who say gender can be different from sex assigned at birth.
  • 54 percent say society has either gone too far or been about right in terms of acceptance, underscoring an ambivalence around transgender issues even among those who see at least some discrimination against transgender people.
  • About six-in-ten adults, or 58 precent, favor proposals that would require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to teams consistent with their gender identity, compared to 17 percent who oppose that and 24 percent neither favor nor oppose it.
  • 46 percent favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide transition-related care, such as hormones or gender reassignment surgery, to someone younger than 18, compared to 31 percent who oppose it.
  • Americans are more evenly split when it comes to making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools (which is favored by 41 percent, and opposed by 38 percent) and investigating parents for child abuse if they help someone younger than 18 obtain transition-related care (37 percent are in favor and 36 percent oppose it).

Young adults took the lead in terms of supporting change and acceptance. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone can be a man or a woman even if that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to about four-in-10 of those ages 30 to 49 and about one-third of respondents 50 and older.

Predictably, stark differences could be found along party lines. Democrats by 59 precent say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, while 15 percent say it has gone too far and 24 percent say it’s been about right. For Republicans, 10 percent say society hasn’t gone far enough, while 66 percent say it’s gone too far and 22 percent say it’s been about right.

Read the full report here.

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