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New Study: 27% Of Teens Are Gender Nonconforming

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New Study: 27% Of Teens Are Gender Nonconforming
Study: 27% Of Teens Are Gender Nonconforming GUEST: Bianca Wilson, public policy scholar, UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute

This year California became the first state in the country to offer gender-neutral options for drivers licenses and other government documents. Many Californians don't identify with the gender they were assigned at birth because they are transgender or because they are gender [ NULL ] . A new study looks at the California teens and found more than 1-4 are gender conforming. In Wilson spoke with Michael Lipkin.What does it mean for someone to be gender nonconforming?It doesn't mean that there transgender being transgender along with being gender nonconforming or forms of being a gender minority meaning that in some way they go against what is expected for gender norms in the U.S. It speaks to whether someone identifies with the gender different than their sex a sign of birth. For this study were looking at teens who express their gender in ways that go against stereotypes. It's really about gender expression. Gender expression includes things like how we act, talk, mannerisms, or appearance. It really includes a lot of those aspects of how we express our gender.You look at two different types of gender nonconforming teens. What was the difference?These are really labels that we put on two groups that we see in the data. We ask all the youth how do you think other people see you at school in terms of your gender expression on a scale of masculinity to highly feminine? They said I think people see me as equally Fadiman -- feminine and masculine. We divided those two groups. People might have an interest in trying to understand how --Why did you ask how they thought other people perceive them opposed to what they thought about their own gender?Obviously identity is important that we care about how people see themselves but when we were given the opportunity to work with the survey to think of a question to acts related to gender expression, the reasoning behind that is we only know from prior research that gender expression and nonconformity is associated with experiences with pulling and other forms of victimization, which means the reason for wanting to know whether or not they were experiencing health disparities is how people treat them. If you're interested in understanding how people are being treated, we wanted to ask anything people see you? How do they think you are seeing in the world?What did you find out about that?We looked at a few indicators of mental health including suicide attempts, suicide thoughts, severe psychological distress diagnosis. We found that gender nonconforming did not differ in terms of suicide but gender nonconforming Earth -- youth showed distress.This year California made it easier for them to get government documents and the first day to approve history textbooks. What do you think that has on this number?I would hope that the impact of our policy environment that is the first step and it ensures that rights are protected. The fact that we continue to see these mental health disparities is an indicator that we need to do more than just past the policies. We want to make sure they are implemented correctly and evaluated as well as work within schools and communities and with parents to maintain the culture for youth.Do you think there's the same breakdown for adult about 1-4 are gender nonconforming?I'm not sure. We have no large scale data. I think that's what's been interesting about this study. We had the question does this look like there is more? My answer to that is they don't know. This is a great first step and it shows why including these questions are very useful because we get a sense of the population and really doing this across several years is going to give us that information and asking those questions to adults as well. A misconception is that when we talk about gender expression and nonconformity that we are talking about sexual minority youth as well as trans. I think it's important to keep in mind that there are some between expressing oneself in ways that go against your norms and youth might be likely to do that. Will talk about gender nonconforming use, it's not at all likely that these are all trans-youth or LGBT youth. It really spans across sexual orientation and gender identity status.That was Bianca Wilson speaking with Michael Lipkin.

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.

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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."

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