Age of Gender Identity Outness and Suicide Risk

Mar 29, 2023
  • Description

"Coming out" is everyday language for the process of sharing one's sexual orientation or gender identity with other people. The decision of when and how to come out – or not – is deeply personal, and can change over the course of an individual's lifetime. For transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) individuals, sharing the details of one's gender identity or history with friends, family, and acquaintances can be complex. On a basic level, TGNB people do not always have the option to come out to others — sometimes they are forcibly outed by their documentation, medical records, or physical appearance (Beemyn & Bauer, 2015). TGNB people may also only be out about their gender identity in certain spaces or spheres of their life where they feel safe being open with others (Klein et al., 2015). While little research has specifically examined gender identity outness, outness of ones' LGBTQ identity more broadly is associated with mixed mental health outcomes among young people. Sexual orientation outness is associated with high levels of suicide risk among LGBTQ young people, despite society becoming more LGBTQ-affirming over time (Meyer et al., 2021). This is likely due to increased exposure to anti-LGBTQ language, discrimination, and violence after one comes out as LGBTQ. Indeed, LGBTQ young people who are more out about their sexual orientation report higher levels of victimization in school, compared to their peers who are less out (Kosciw et al., 2015; Poteat et al., 2022). Furthermore, given that coming out earlier places young people at greater risk for anti-LGBTQ victimization, it has therefore been  associated with increased risk for suicide, as documented in our previous research brief, "Age of Sexual Orientation Outness and Suicide Risk". However, being out about one's LGBTQ identity can also be protective, as LGBTQ young people with higher levels of outness also report higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression (Kosciw et al., 2015). It is unclear if similar findings hold true for TGNB young people coming out about their gender identity. Using data from The Trevor Project's 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, this brief examines the association between a TGNB young person's age of coming out about their gender identity and suicide risk.