It’s hard enough being a teenager. The realities of adult life begin to bear down on you, and what’s worse, few people seem to “get” you. All of those normal feelings can be multiplied when you belong to a subgroup that is struggling for social acceptance. When reputation, being “seen” with the right group and rumors are a real part of daily life, being transgender can present a host of issues for teenagers. The struggle to build self-esteem and a support system can be difficult for transgender teens. The feeling of isolation can lead to many problems, including being bullied or having suicidal thoughts.
Perhaps the most challenging issue facing transgender teens is whether to let family and friends know about their sexual identify. Some transgender teens can feel as though they are stuck living a lie if they don’t reveal their sexual identity to their friends and families. Transgender teens are reluctant to openly admit that they are having gender identity issues for a host of reasons. According to senior editor Stephanie Pappas at the website Live Science, many transgender teens fear their parents won’t accept them and that they will be sent for mental health treatment to try to reverse their desire to become the gender they associate with.
The website PFLAG New York City reports that in New York alone, nearly one-tenth of LGBT students face physical dangers from assault because of their "gender expression." Other students may consider transgender students to be nothing more than “confused” about who they are. The website also reports that transgender students' grades often suffer because of the physical harassment they face.
Transgender individuals likely feel that their gender does not match with how they feel inside. Medical procedures are available, but they are extremely costly and often are not covered by insurance plans. According to Live Science, hormone treatment often is not available to all because of “poor insurance coverage.” Even if the financial burden of having gender reassignment surgery is not an issue, many doctors won’t perform the procedure unless the child still suffers from “gender identity distress” after puberty.
According to a Live Science article titled “Mental Health Problems Plague Transgender Kids,” researchers note that people who consider themselves transgender have a high rate of psychiatric problems, including depression and thoughts of suicide. The article quotes Dr. Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist at Children's Hospital Boston who says that he encounters many young people who become socially and emotionally impaired because their gender identity distress goes untreated. Without treatment, Leibowitz says, “These kids are prone to psychiatric disorders, including depression, suicide, self-mutilation, anxiety …”