About 27 percent — or 796,000 of California’s youth, ages 12 to 17, report they are viewed by others as gender non-conforming at school, according to a UCLA study released this week.
Gender nonconforming refers to people whose behaviors and appearance defy the dominant cultural and societal stereotypes of their gender.
The study also assessed differences in mental health among gender nonconforming youth and gender conforming youth in the state, and found no significant difference in the rates of lifetime suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts between gender nonconforming youth and their gender conforming peers.
However, gender nonconforming youth were more than twice as likely to have experienced psychological distress in the past year, according to the report.
“The data show that more than one in four California youth express their gender in ways that go against the dominant stereotypes,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
“However, the heightened psychological distress we see among gender nonconforming youth indicates that we must continue to educate parents, schools and communities on the mental health needs of these young people and reduce known risk factors, such as bullying and bias,” Wilson said.
The study, released by the Williams Institute and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, analyzed data collected from nearly 1,600 California households in the 2015-2016 California Health Interview Survey. It is the first time this survey has included questions about gender expression among teens.