Surveys Overlook Sexual- and Gender-Diverse Teens

Surveys Overlook Sexual- and Gender-Diverse Teens

Demographic surveys given to teenagers at schools and intake forms handed out at doctors’ offices don’t offer options that match the ways many adolescents now define their gender identity and sexual orientation, according to new research published on March 21 in the journal Pediatrics.

As a result, the study authors say, teens who may benefit from specialized mental health support may not be getting screened for these services.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Minnesota, included more than 60 percent of students in Minnesota public schools in grades 8, 9, and 11 — almost 100,000 teens in all. The researchers found that 9.4 percent identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer (any orientation besides heterosexual and cisgender), or pansexual (attracted to all genders).

The researchers discovered that 1.4 percent of students identified as transgender, genderqueer (identities outside the strict female/male gender binary), or genderfluid (gender identities that may change over time), with almost half of those identifying as nonbinary (an expansive term that can mean identifying as both male and female, neither, or somewhere in between). Another 2.1 percent said they were unsure of their gender identity.

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