Researchers at The Trevor Project, an organisation focused on LGBTQ+ young people suicide prevention, found in a new peer-reviewed American study that access to gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) is significantly correlated with lower rates of depression and suicidal ideation among transgender and nonbinary young people.

Buoyed by the ‘moral panics’ of the ‘culture wars’, a global debate around children and young people's access to puberty-blocking medication has erupted in recent years.

In September, the UK Court of Appeal overturned a ruling restricting children and young people’s access to puberty-blocking medication, determining that it should be doctors, not courts, who make medical decisions in the best interests of young patients. Although, this ruling has proved to be controversial, as the previous High Court judgment argued that children under 16 are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo such treatment.

Debates around restrictions to gender-affirming treatment have been even more pronounced in the US, which this year has seen a record number of anti-transgender bills debated in state legislatures, including a ban on gender-affirming medical care in Arkansas.

Acceptance and affirmation and their link to mental wellbeing

However, asides from the political and legal wranglings and onto the mental wellbeing of the affected young people. The Trevor Project study of more than 9,000 young people demonstrated a link between affirmation and acceptance of a person’s gender identity and positive mental wellbeing. Key findings included:

  • Half of all transgender and nonbinary young people said they were not using GAHT but would like to, 36% were not interested in the treatment, and 14% were already receiving treatment.
  • Young people receiving GAHT reported less depression and suicidal ideation. Especially for those under 18, which was associated with nearly 40% lower risk.
  • Parental support for their child’s gender identity correlated strongly with the likelihood of GAHT (80%).
  • Young people of colour had the lowest rate of accessing GAHT when they wanted it.

Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, commented: “The Trevor Project is proud to publish the first large-scale study to examine hormone therapy among transgender and nonbinary youth. It’s clear that gender-affirming care has the potential to reduce rates of depression and suicide attempts while banning this vital care and exposing young people to harmful political rhetoric can cause real harm.”

“It’s critical that all transgender and nonbinary youth across the country have access to medical care that is affirming, patient-centred, and evidence-based.”