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Study finds 27% of California teens say other people view them as ‘gender nonconforming’

A group of friends; these young people have nothing to do with the story, as this image is simply meant to convey youth (Flickr/hepingting)
January 02, 2018

According to a UCLA study, 27 percent of California youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are reporting that other people view them as “gender nonconforming” at school.

“The data show that more than one in four California youth express their gender in ways that go against the dominant stereotypes,” said lead study author Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “However, the heightened psychological distress we see among gender nonconforming youth indicates that we must continue to educate parents, schools and communities on the mental health needs of these young people and reduce known risk factors, such as bullying and bias.”

Males and females were asked one question about how people at school viewed their physical expression of femininity and masculinity.

“A person’s appearance, style, dress, or the way they walk or talk may affect how people describe them. How do you think other people at school would describe you?”

The options given were:

  • Very feminine
  • Mostly feminine
  • Equally feminine & masculine
  • Mostly masculine
  • Very masculine

According to the study, male youth who said others describe them as “very feminine” or “mostly feminine,” and female youth who said others describe them as “very masculine” or “mostly masculine,” are “highly gender nonconforming;” while youths who reported being “equally feminine and masculine” were categorized as “androgynous.”

“People who are seen by others as gender nonconforming, along with those who are transgender or non-binary, fall under the umbrella of ‘gender minorities’ – that is, people who are seen as resisting dominant expectations around gender expression and identity according to assigned sex at birth,” the report said.

Of the studied group, 27 percent of the participants reported that they are viewed by others as gender nonconforming at school. Of all of the participants, 6.2 percent are highly gender nonconforming and 20.8 percent are androgynous.

According to the study, there is no significant difference in rates of lifetime suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts when comparing highly gender nonconforming, androgynous and gender conforming youth.

However, highly gender nonconforming and androgynous youth reported having higher levels of psychological distress.

According to the UCLA Newsroom, “California is one of several states that expressly prohibit bullying and discrimination against gender nonconforming people in schools and public accommodations, among other arenas.”