Study: Trans people 10x more likely to attempt suicide

A new study suggests that transgender people attempt suicide at a rate almost 10 times higher than found in the overall US population.

Researchers from the American Society for Suicide Prevention, and from the Williams Institute, did a study on suicide attempts in transgender and gender non-conforming adults. The data was drawn from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). This survey was conducted by the National Gay and LesbianTask Force and National Center for Transgender Equality.

The study found that the rate for suicide attempts in the general US adult population is about 4.6%. In transgender people, the attempted suicide rate is 41%. Trans men have a 46% rate of attempted suicide while trans women are not far behind at 41%.

Other factors like: younger age (adolescents), poverty, racial/ethnic minority or multiracial, incomplete secondary education, being HIV positive, having a disability, having a mental illness, all seem to increase the risk of a suicide attempt.

Rainbow hands via Shutterstock

Rainbow hands via Shutterstock

People responding to the survey who had experienced rejection by their families, discrimination, victimization, bullying, physical or sexual abuse and homelessness, among other negative life experiences were also more likely to have made a suicide attempt.

Almost 6,000 transgender adults took the survey. Their age ranges were from 18 to 98. Most were employed and most had at least some college. The respondents were from all over the US. There were more male to female respondents than there were female to male.

The authors offer these remarks about the necessity for additional research in their discussion of the data:

“First, more research is needed into the timing of suicide attempts in relation to age and gender transition status. In regard to timing of suicide attempts and gender transition, some surveys and clinical studies have found that transgender people are at an elevated risk for suicide attempt during gender transition, while rates of suicide attempts decrease after gender transition.” (Whittle et al., 2007; DeCuypere et al., 2006; Transgender Equality Network Ireland, 2012).

Further research is clearly needed on the occurrence of all aspects of self-harm behavior, including suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-injury, in relation to gender transition and barriers to transition. Such research would provide better insight into the factors that underlie suicidal thinking and behavior among transgender people, especially those who want to transition from one gender to another, and could serve as the basis for designing better interventions and suicide prevention services for this population.

Second, further research is needed to examine the interrelationship of rejection, discrimination, victimization, and violence related to anti-transgender bias and serious mental health conditions.

In-depth studies using in-person interviews and clinical measures are also needed to determine the independent and combined effects of these two factors in creating a pathway to suicidal behavior in transgender and gender non-conforming populations. Such studies could not only provide the basis for better interventions, but could also underscore the need to address through public policy the high levels of rejection, discrimination, victimization, and violence experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming people.”

The complete study including all of the demographics, statistics and discussion, can be found here.

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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14 Responses to “Study: Trans people 10x more likely to attempt suicide”

  1. Drew2u says:

    That’s one of the dynamics that I wanted to explore, about gender conformity – that just because a boy is effete does not make him either gay or a woman inside. Same with a butch woman not being a lesbian or a man inside. I know at least one straight effete guy and one straight butch woman, so I’m not one to jump on conformity as a baseline. That’s also why I would like to see more info on that. If my brother is certain that it’s not such a case with him, then awesome. At the same time, I’m walking on eggshells trying to not be the, “Well are you sure? Could it just be [this other thing]” relative that he already has.

  2. Polterguest says:

    I don’t mind being skewered or flamed for my response to your quest. Google the writings of GallusMag (GenderTrender) and Cathy Brennan. The trans groups completely detest them, but they have a lot of excellent analysis of how the current trans movement is actually enforcing the gender binary by saying that effeminate boys and butch girls aren’t just non-gender conforming or gay, but they *must* be in the wrong body. A lot of their work is very harsh and very angry so you’ll have to wade through some of that. A lot of the time their tone and anger is pretty off putting, but I think their criticisms of the Ts is spot on for the most part.

    And, whatever you do, don’t let anyone trans find out you are reading their stuff because they will form a virtual lynch mob on you.

  3. TSPerson says:

    I am transexual and I’m not surprised at the high percentage of suicide attempts. Transitioning is incredibly stressful on a person and it is very common for people like myself to feel so beaten down by life that ending ones (often very public) ordeal is a valid escape strategy.

  4. christian_transgender says: This is absolutely tragic, and having had more dark periods than I wish, I can understand the despair. This really shouldn’t be.

  5. docsterx says:

    Why? You’re exploring your feelings, trying to learn about them and transgender issues and supporting your brother. All of those are great, not horrible.

  6. Drew2u says:

    Thank you for the kind words and to paraphrase something I heard before, “You don’t get the family [children] you want, you get the family [children] you need.”

  7. Drew2u says:

    I just got around to seeing the replies; I’ve added that to my reading list along with Dr. Thoma’s links.

  8. Drew2u says:

    Thank you for these links, sincerely. I feel like a horrible big brother some times.

  9. karmanot says:

    I appreciate your honesty and good intentions, particularly that this journey concerns a family member. Many of us go through many stages of ‘coming out’ throughout our life times. If we can’t overcome our resistance and prejudices for whatever reason it’s always best just to ‘live and let live.’ There is probably nothing more annoying than a sincere individual defining for comfort’s sake the definition of another authentic identity not in their own terms. In my case I don’t give a good god damn what anyone thinks of my gay nature and am willing to defend that to any degree. I imagine many trans folks don’t even identify with the umbrella of GLTB and if that’s so that’s OK. And, while difficult, we must accept on their terms whatever ‘language’ they use to effect a cohesive sense of community. We did—-‘queer’ comes to mind—–a term my generation finds offense, but now in common use as politically useful. ‘Cis’ drives me crazy, but if it’s common usage, I must accept it and respectfully. The bottom line for me is that I embrace our trans brothers and sisters as politically important to the drive for full and legal civil rights and most importantly, the natural right to a full and harmonious authentic identity.

  10. cole3244 says:

    i always find it interesting that the its a choice crowd can never explain why anyone would choose to be lgbt in a violent bigoted world like ours, bigots be gone.

  11. UncleBucky says:

    Drew2u writes, “I feel I am transphobic…”, and let me launch over that. I had never known anyone trans-anything prior to when I was an HRC rep to the Be-All Conference held yearly in Arlington Heights, IL. Before that, I had only seen drag shows, “drag queens” in Pride Parades and in other events. My only positive experience up to being a rep was one performance in a drag show was a youngish performer who did an opera scene in full costume with petticoats, jewelry, gloves, hair and makeup. It was a charming scene and I could not be sure if the person were a boy or girl, it was so good. Other drag performers were to me like fingernails on a chalkboard, really.

    Then I met some people at the Be-All Conference. And got to talking (mostly listening) with several folks who stopped up to our table. It was a changing event for me. After that from time to time I have (mostly) run into trans people and now, my experience is getting to be more or less neutral, as one’s reaction should be.

    We are all learning. Some more than others, some less than desirable, I guess.

    But no one should have to feel anymore that their only route is to ending it all. I urge all of you to remember, we are learning, and we are trying. It will get better. If you run into opposition, find one of us who are learning.


  12. Drew2u says:

    I feel I am transphobic, which is weird for me and not the least hypocritical. (note: I always hated drag shows; I never understood them and it feels like a relic of a previous era, and the term ‘cis’ drives me up the wall)
    With that said, I have a younger sibling who recently stated that he is trans because he never felt like a girl/woman growing up. I don’t really know what he’s going through, but I want to be supportive; it’s just something that I have to change myself for the better, for.
    At the same time, if what he feels is that he’s just not “girly”, well I know my family raised him to be assertive and not afraid to beat anyone up (lol); that when he’s right, to stand up for himself and that all the traditional girl-activities and expectations aren’t the end-all-be-all of social behavior.
    I’ve tried asking this to other people, but I usually don’t get a response, so I wonder if you guys would be able to help me find some resources – I’m looking for information about queer women and nontraditional gender roles. I want to give him an option (god, I feel really hypocritical) that societal expectations of gender normatives doesn’t necessarily mean that one isn’t a strong man/woman. If he’s insecure about “being a woman” due to social pressures, I want to show that, well, fuck social pressures. Otherwise I, the bastion of masculinity under societal expectations (a big LOL on that one) would be straight, and my bff (completely, 100% straight) would be gay.
    So, if one were to provide me with material I could show my little bro, then I’d also ask for some info that I could read up on for myself to understand trans history(?) or the biological science behind transgender identity.
    (don’t skewer or flame me too harshly, please!)

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