November 14, 2022 | Faye Seidler, LBGTQ+ Advocate and Activist
North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, for 2021, was released earlier this year and is the first time we’ve asked about or were able to collect data on transgender students. While we long suspected these youth were struggling, we now have an accurate glimpse into their life.
According to the survey data 3.7% of our highschool youth identify as transgender or questioning their gender identity. If we apply this number to total school populations then we get approximately 4,318 gender diverse students within North Dakota. We have approximately 20,086 total LGBTQ+ students within our North Dakota school system by the data. These statistics are consistent with national survey data and other local state data, and points to at least 1 in 6 youth identifying as LGBTQ+.
The data show only 10% of trans middle schoolers and 5% of trans highschoolers will talk to their parents if they feel sad, empty, hopeless, or angry. They’re approximately ten times more likely to run away, be abandoned, or kicked out. About 3 in 4 were swore at by their parents, as many were struggling with mental health, and they disproportionately experience suicidality. They’re also getting disproportionately bullied at school, turning to illegal substances, experiencing sexual violence, missing school due to feeling unsafe, and carrying weapons for protection.
These youth are experiencing the impacts of hostile climate and minority stress through targeted bullying, discriminatory legislative efforts, religious intolerance, and parental rejection. The sparse support structures and community opportunities that exist are often targeted by hostile local and national influencers. Harassment tactics that include weaponizing words like groomer, attacking school boards, spreading misinformation, and threatening to fire or cut funding to entities working to help these youth have isolated and devastated trans youth throughout this state. Anti-trans hate groups have started targeting hospitals and recently one in Chicago went into lockdown after a bomb threat.
While the world is a scary place, there are data-driven solutions to give these youth hope: strong anti-bullying policies, LGBTQ+ representation in classrooms, affirming and accepting youth for who they are, training and having affirming staff and administration, using preferred pronouns and name, and LGBTQ+ support groups in school. We sometimes hear that this sort of intervention will confuse kids, but YRBS data shows 99% understand gender identity and 95% understand sexual orientation, it may be the adults who are confused on how any of this works.
The fact is, these kids just exist. And when adults attempt to harm or erase LGBTQ+ youth through legislation, bullying at home, or in communities, we are that much more likely to lose them. When these youth are meaningfully included in schools, respected, see positive representation of happy and successful queer adults, and so forth – they feel safe and see a future for themselves. That is what we should strive for for all of our youth.
If you’d like to help prevent suicide for LGBTQ+ youth, please email at email@example.com
As submitted to Prairie Action ND