Alberta transgender youth concerned about safety, violence and discrimination: survey

The trans flag was raised at provincial buildings around Alberta Sunday. Global News

A new study has found Alberta’s transgender youth live in fear of being victims of violence and discrimination.

The Canadian Trans Youth Health survey found 75 per cent of youth under 18 years old who took part in the study reported being discriminated against because of their lived gender, with 70 per cent reporting experiences of sexual harassment and 35 per cent of younger trans youth being physically threatened or injured in the past year.

LISTEN: Kristopher Wells with the details of the first-ever survey of Alberta’s trans youth

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READ MORE: Special report on LGBTQ youth launched by Alberta child and youth advocate

The survey showed 73 per cent of the 114 trans youth who participated said they had self-harmed and 67 per cent of younger trans youth had seriously considered suicide, with 41 per cent making at least one attempt.

Over 80 per cent of younger trans youth said their family didn’t understand them or only understood them a little, according to the report.

“I think this research is not surprising to those who work closely with trans youth because we’re hearing about these experiences every day in their schools, communities or families who continue to struggle to find support for their children,” said Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority studies at the University of Alberta.

The report also found 62 per cent of trans youth under 18 years old don’t get access to mental health services, with the primary reason for the majority (91 per cent) being not wanting their parents to find.

Wells said when trans youth don’t get mental health services, their likelihood of ending up homeless, suffering from depression and anxiety or battling drug and alcohol abuse increases.

READ MORE: ‘We’re not there yet’: Kris Wells on sexual equality

Based on the results, researchers have made four recommendations to improve life for trans youth in Alberta:

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  • Increased support for families of trans youth
  • Safer schools
  • Knowledgeable and inclusive health care services
  • Engage trans youth and their families in the solutions for change

“What we can do is begin to open up doors and provide pathways and provide guidance for these young people because when they’re reaching out they’re asking us for support,” Wells said.

“What we want to do is ensure that there are no barriers for them to become healthy, resilient, productive young people and citizens of our province.”

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan said in a statement he is deeply saddened by the results of the study.

“While trans issues have started to achieve increased awareness in recent years, this report is a sobering reminder that we still have a long way to go before trans persons – and particularly trans youth – feel safe and accepted in our society,” Khan said.

“One urgent step that we need to take in this regard is providing better health supports for the trans community.”

READ MORE: Give a Rainbow campaign collects colourful clothing for homeless LGBTQ youth 

The study’s results were based on 114 trans youth between 14 and 25 years old in Alberta.

“I think what this research does is it addresses an important data gap that we’ve had in the province, where those that resist LGBTQ inclusion have often said, ‘Well, show us the evidence that this is happening in Alberta.’ Well, the evidence is now here,” Wells said.

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The research was conducted in recognition of International Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and part of the Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey involving more than 25 academics and researchers from across Canada.

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