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Anti-trans rhetoric harms young people, drives up hate crimes

Jenifer McGuire is a professor with the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.
University of Minnesota.
Jenifer McGuire is a professor with the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

Gender identity and transitioning feature prominently in Arizona politics, from restricting youth access to gender-affirming care to adding LGBTQ+ status to city anti-discrimination ordinances. 

Studies show the heated rhetoric can hurt those most affected. 

Like anyone else, transgender youth do best in supportive communities. 

Research shows adolescents who receive ambiguous family support for their gender identity have similar mental health as those whose family rejects it. 

Jenifer McGuire of the University of Minnesota studies gender development among young people. She said political speech is just one part of the negativity encountered at school or in the media. 

“Anti-transgender legislation can enhance the environmental negativity that trans young people feel. They hear the commentary, and they know that it applies to them,” she said. 

Those slings and arrows can do real harm to the mental health and wellbeing of transgender youth. 

Trans youth are almost four times more likely to experience bullying and more than three times more likely to miss school because they don't feel safe. 

“When there are periods of anti-transgender legislation being discussed and covered in media, there's an increase in hate crime reports as well,” said McGuire. 

Feeling unsafe or fearing mistreatment can cause trans youth to avoid socializing, sports, going to the bathroom or seeking medical care.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.