And today in things that should absolutely not come as a surprise, but which probably will for a lot of people anyway, we have this: New research published in the journal Pediatrics has found that transgender children do not experience anxiety or depression any more than other children — as long as they are out and supported by a compassionate family and community. To measure this, researchers compared the levels of anxiety and depression in 73 transgender kids with those of 73 cisgender kids. There was no difference in the level of depression; there was a slight discrepancy in anxiety, but the transgender children were still well within the range of national standards. (And when I say it was a slight discrepancy, I do mean slight. The transgender children scored, on average, 50.1 on a National Institutes of Health scale. The national average is 50.)
Obviously there are a lot of factors at work when it comes to a person's mental health, but this study rocks the notion that the mental health struggles faced by transgender people are solely internal. In fact, it supports what many of us already know: That a person's environmental conditions can strongly influence their state of happiness and self-acceptance.
The point here is not to deny or minimize the heightened struggles with mental health faced by the LGBTQA+ community; we already know this to be one of the challenges disproportionately affecting LGBTQA+ people. Studies have found, for example, that in a 12-month span, rates for major depressive disorder for gay men were at 10.3 percent, but 7.2 percent for heterosexual men. Yet another study placed the lifetime rate of depression for the non-heterosexual community at 71.4 percent, and 38.2 percent for heterosexuals.
The point is to explain, at least in part, why these struggles may exist, and to emphasize the importance that a supportive environment plays in relation to them.
The point is that we can all help fight these struggles, simply by being kind.
This isn't exactly the first study of its kind. Other research has found that transgender people who receive support and compassion are 82 percent less likely to attempt suicide. To put it in perspective, 40 percent of transgender or gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide in their lifetime, a figure which is approximately nine times the national average. One factor that dramatically upps the percentage of transgender or gender non-conforming people who attempt suicide? Experiencing discrimination or violence. And make no mistake about it: Transgender people absolutely are targeted for their gender identities. In fact, 2015 saw the most homicides of transgender people than any other year, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign; in addition, the first six months of 2015 alone held more murders than all of 2014.
It's something that should go without saying, but the acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQA+ community is essential. Openness and kindness are necessary not just for the sake of niceties, but for survival. How we behave towards each other has a palpable effect — and making that effect positive, rather than negative, will go a long way towards making our world a better place.