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New Study: 27% Of Teens Are Gender Nonconforming

Study: 27% Of Teens Are Gender Nonconforming


Bianca Wilson, public policy scholar, UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute


More than one-in-four California teens are gender nonconforming, according to a recent UCLA study, the first large-scale scientific look into teens' gender expression.

Researchers asked teens whether they identified as male or female, and then asked how masculine or feminine they thought their classmates thought of them. Teens were considered gender nonconforming if they said their peers thought of them as equally masculine or feminine or if they were seen as masculine women or feminine men. Twenty seven percent of teens were gender nonconforming, according to the study.

Gender nonconforming teens were much more likely than their peers to report severe psychological distress in the past year, according to the study.

Lead author Bianca Wilson, a public policy scholar at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, says being gender nonconforming is not the same as being transgender or gender nonbinary.

"Being transgender really speaks to whether or not someone identifies with the gender different than their sex assigned at birth," Wilson said. "We're looking at teens who express their gender in ways that go against stereotypes about how masculinity and femininity are supposed to look. Gender expression includes things like how we act, how we talk, our mannerisms, our appearance."

Earlier this year, California became the first state in the country to offer gender-neutral options for drivers’ licenses and other government documents. It also was the first to approve LGBTQ-inclusive history textbooks.

"A progressive culture opens up the space for youth to talk about how they’re being seen and be open enough to admit it," Wilson said. "It is similar to how we’ve seen higher rates of identification of sexual minorities in large-scale surveys. We expect that’s in part because of being willing to disclose and not that all of a sudden there are more gay people. We’re in a culture that has a language to talk about it."

Wilson joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on her findings.


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