The Mental Health Crisis Among Black and Latinx Transgender Youth

The Mental Health Crisis Among Black and Latinx Transgender Youth BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of abc News.

The increasing introduction of anti-transgender legislative proposals in the United States has spotlighted the experience of Black and Latinx transgender youth, who are doubly impacted.

A study published in JAMA Network Open describes the relationship between psychosocial risk factors and mental health symptoms among these youth, demonstrating profound differences from their cisgender peers.

Through a study of data from the 2015-2017 California Biennial Survey of Children’s Health, researchers assessed demographic characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity, and the presence of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation through yes/no questions.

As explained by Psychiatry Advisor, the study cohort comprised 19,780 participants, among whom 19,424 were black and Latino cisgender youth (weighted percentage: 98%), 104 were white transgender youth (weighted percentage: 0.7%), and 252 were black and Latinx transgender youth. (weighted percentage: 1.3%). Among the latter, the estimated prevalence rates of depressive symptoms and suicide were 50% (95% CI, 44-57%) and 46% (39-52%), respectively.

Black and Latinx transgender youth were at higher risk for depressive symptoms and suicide compared to Black and Latino cisgender youth. This difference was likely due to the higher rates of bullying and victimization experienced by transgender youth of color than their Black and Latino cisgender peers. 

Specifically, transgender youth of color were more likely to experience race-based harassment, gender-based harassment, and sexuality-based harassment. However, compared to White transgender youth, Black and Latinx transgender youth experienced similar levels of harassment, victimization, and mental health symptoms.

“In [our] study, BLTY and White transgender youth had comparably high rates of mental health symptoms; however, BLTY had disproportionately higher rates than Black and Latinx cisgender youth,” the investigators wrote.

“The unique pattern of psychosocial risk and protective factors for these mental health symptoms among BLTY should be factored into clinical preventive services and school-based interventions to support them.”

This information has been corroborated by other concurrent studies, such as the report Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which indicates that multiracial trans people experience disproportionately higher levels of suicide attempt, poverty, and unemployment.

“This is a wake-up call: racism and anti-trans discrimination together are having an appalling impact on multiracial transgender people’s lives, and it has to stop,” said Darlene Nipper, Task Force Deputy Executive Director. “Transgender people deserve a fair shot at the American Dream, including access to good jobs that are free from discrimination.”

The only good news from the report is that 37% of multiracial respondents reported experiencing significant family acceptance. More than half (61%) stated that their relationships with family slowly improved over time after coming out as transgender. Respondents who were accepted by their families were much less likely to experience discrimination and reported lower rates of homelessness, suicide attempts, and HIV/AIDS.