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Gender Identity Conversion Efforts Linked With Adverse Mental Health Outcomes

September 18, 2019

Gender identity conversion efforts were associated with higher odds of attempted suicide and severe psychological distress in a survey of 27,715 transgender adults, according to a study published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

“The findings suggest that lifetime and childhood exposure to gender identity conversion efforts are associated with adverse mental health outcomes in adulthood,” researchers wrote. “These results support policy statements from several professional organizations that have discouraged this practice.”

The cross-sectional study was based on a survey of transgender adults living throughout the United States. Among the respondents, 71.3% had at one time spoken to a secular or religious professional about their gender identity. Of those respondents, 19.6% said they were exposed to gender identity conversion efforts.

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Exposure to gender identity conversion efforts was linked with severe psychological distress during the previous month as well as lifetime suicide attempts, compared with talking with a professional about gender identity without conversion efforts, according to the study. Gender identity conversion efforts before age 10 were associated with even greater odds of lifetime suicide attempts.

The study found no significant differences between gender identity conversion efforts conducted by secular professionals and conversion efforts by religious advisors.

—Jolynn Tumolo

References

Turban JL, Beckwith N, Reisner SL, Keuroghlian AS. Association between recalled exposure to gender identity conversion efforts and psychological distress and suicide attempts among transgender adults. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 September 11;[Epub ahead of print].

Gender identity conversion efforts associated with adverse mental health outcomes [press release]. Chicago, Illinois: JAMA Psychiatry; September 11, 2019.

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