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New Data Underscore Health Challenges Faced by Transgender Youth

RIDOH highlights services for transgender high school students

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is highlighting available resources for schools, families, and communities to help support transgender youth in light of recent survey data indicating that transgender youth are significantly more likely to experience violence, bullying, substance use, and poor mental health outcomes.

According to the RIDOH Data Brief, Health and Safety of Transgender High School Students in Rhode Island (https://health.ri.gov/publications/databriefs/GenderIdentityYRBS-DataBrief-4.9.24.pdf), 71% of Rhode Island high school students who are transgender say they've felt so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks during the past year that they've stopped their normal activities. This is a rate twice as high as the number of cisgender students who reported these feelings. (Cisgender students are those whose gender identity corresponds with their identified sex at birth).

"Every student in Rhode Island has a right to feel healthy and safe," said Dr. Philip Chan, a Medical Director for RIDOH and the Chief Medical Officer of Open Door Health, an LGBTQ+ dedicated healthcare clinic in Providence. "It is critical that schools, communities, healthcare professionals, and public health professionals continue working to ensure that we all have the awareness, skills, and training to create environments that support all students in Rhode Island. This is especially important for those students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community."

"All children deserve to learn, grow, and thrive in welcoming and supportive environments that allow them to reach their highest potential," said Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green. "RIDE will continue to work with our government, community, and health partners to ensure we meet the needs of all students including those who identify as members of our LGBTQ+ community."

The report also noted that transgender students were:

* Four to five times more likely than cisgender students to seriously consider suicide. * More likely to be bullied in person at school (38% vs. 12%) and bullied online (42% vs. 12%) than their cisgender peers. * Significantly more likely than cisgender students to have been forced to ever have sex in their lifetime (27% vs. 6%) and to have experienced sexual dating violence in the past year (24% vs. 7%).

Historically, little research has been conducted on transgender youth outcomes as separate from lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth outcomes. While gender identity itself is not a cause of poor mental or physical health outcomes, transgender youth experience heightened risks due to experiencing societal rejection, bullying, discrimination, lack of family support, and violence at higher rates than their cisgender peers.

The State, healthcare organizations, and advocacy organizations provide a number of programs and services for transgender youth.

* RIDOH has a list of local and national LGBTQ+ partner organizations posted online (https://health.ri.gov/partners/sogi/). Many of these organizations have resources available to support students, families, schools, and communities. * The Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) is implementing two programs tailored to the LGBTQ+ youth population: Proud & Empowered, and AFFIRM. Proud & Empowered is a 10-session school-based intervention for LGBTQ+ youth that works to strengthen mental health and increase coping skills for stress, with the intention of lowering rates of substance use and misuse. This program will be offered in participating middle and high schools. AFFIRM is an eight-session program focused on improving coping skills and providing opportunities to develop identity cognition. This program applies to both youth and young adults and will be offered for the 18-to-25-year-old population. * The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has issued Guidance for Rhode Island Schools on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students (https://ride.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur806/files/2023-06/Guidance-Rhode-Island-Schools-Transgender-Gender-Nonconforming-Students.pdf) and promulgated Regulations Governing Protections for Students Rights to be Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression. * RIDE has "Let It Out", a mental health campaign that addresses the needs of students by connecting them with trusted members of their school community and focused mental health services throughout Rhode Island. The "Let It Out" website launched as part of the campaign showcases familiar faces in school communities that students can confide in and features classroom activities, educator toolkits, and other informational materials and resources to help students. * RIDOH has a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equity Group that works to improve LGBTQ+ public health policies and promote system and environmental changes to better support LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders, including LGBTQ+ youth. * The Rhode Island Department of Child, Youth, and Families (DCYF) will have a panel and recruitment table at the 2024 RI Trans Health Conference - Community Track (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2024-ri-trans-health-conference-community-track-registration-847865136447) at Rhode Island College on June 1. RIDOH will also have a presence at the conference.

The Data Brief uses the 2021 and 2023 Rhode Island High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (RI YRBS). The RI YRBS is a biennial survey of high school students that is conducted by RIDOH, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were no meaningful differences in the data on health outcomes and transgender youth between 2021 and 2023. The data in Rhode Island mirror national trends on health outcomes and transgender youth.

Health and Safety of Transgender High School Students in Rhode Island was prepared by RIDOH's Population Health Surveys Unit in the Center for Health Data and Analysis and RIDOH's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equity Work Group, with support from Thundermist Health Center and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).

Read the Data Brief, Health and Safety of Transgender High School Students in Rhode Island (https://health.ri.gov/publications/databriefs/GenderIdentityYRBS-DataBrief-4.9.24.pdf), to learn more about the health and experiences of transgender youth in Rhode Island. For more information and resources, visit https://health.ri.gov/partners/sogi.

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