Photo of Western University by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Study Focuses On Reducing Transgender Suicides

A Western University study says the risk of suicide for those who identify as transgender may be reduced by simple societal factors and changing policy.

Just last week the Ontario government moved to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ children. Meanwhile, high profile celebrities , such as the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner, have publicly detailed their transitions.

Greta Bauer, PhD, Associate Professor at Western’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics led the study and surveyed 433 transgender people.

The findings show an estimated 35.1% of transgender people in Ontario seriously considered suicide, while 11.2% reported a suicide attempt.

Bauer says modifiable factors directly contribute to those high percentages . They are identified as things such as social supports, having identity documents matching expressed gender, protection from transphobia and support through the medical transition itself.

“People often think that it is being transgender itself that is causing suicidal thoughts or attempts, but it’s not that simple. It’s the social marginalization,” says Bauer. “We wanted to test whether we could potentially reduce these high levels of suicide risk with increased social inclusion, protection from transphobia or through gender transition.”

The medical transition is a major contributing factor to considering suicide and attempted suicide . Bauer estimates that completing transitions as quickly as possible could save 170 people out of every 1000 trans persons from considering suicide and an additional 240 from attempting to kill themselves.

The study shows high social support from parents and peers could potentially prevent 170 out of every 1000 trans people from considering suicide. If they are protected from transphobia, 160 suicides per every 1000 trans people could be prevented. And finally, having ID that matched the expressed gender could potentially save 90 people out of every 1000.

Bauer’s study shows the first ever finding between viewing gender recognition as a human right and the reduction of suicide in that community.