Using Chosen Names for Trans Youth Helps Reduce Risk of Suicide and Depression

For transgender youth with chosen names that differ from the one given to them at birth, use of their chosen name in multiple contexts is associated with reduced mental health risks, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, involved one of the largest samples of transgender youth to date. The authors measured depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation and behavior, for which transgender youth are at elevated risk, as they relate to chosen name usage in four contexts: at home, at school, at work, and with friends. Chosen name usage in more contexts predicted fewer depressive symptoms and less suicidal ideation and behavior, with increase by a single context predicting a 56% decrease in suicidal behavior.

The authors note the significance of these results; author Stephen T. Russell told UTNews, “I’ve been doing research on LGBT youth for almost 20 years now, and even I was surprised by how clear that link was.” The study also discusses the implications of the findings for families, friends, caretakers, and healthcare providers of transgender youth–especially that calling trans kids by their chosen names is an important way to support them and their mental health. “It’s practical to support young people in using the name that they choose,” Russell told UTNews. “It’s respectful and developmentally appropriate.”

There are many other ways to support trans youth; Lambda Legal’s “How to Support Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth” and the Human Rights Campaign’s page on Transgender Children and Youth provide suggestions and resources. Healthcare providers can also benefit from specialized training on trans issues, such as the services offered by QSPACES’ LGBTQ+ Competency Training and Consulting.

You can access the full text of the study in the Journal of Adolescent Health here: http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(18)30085-5/fulltext

You can access the coverage by UTNews here: https://news.utexas.edu/2018/03/30/name-use-matters-for-transgender-youths-mental-health

You can access Lambda Legal’s “How to Support Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth” here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/article/youth-trans-family-support

You can access the HRC’s page on Transgender Children and Youth here: http://www.hrc.org/explore/topic/transgender-children-youth

You can learn more about the training services offered by QSPACES here: https://www.qspaces.org/lgbtq-training/