The power of 41%: A glimpse into the life of a statistic

Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2016;86(4):373-7. doi: 10.1037/ort0000200.


"Forty-one percent?" the man said with anguish on his face as he addressed the author, clutching my handout. "We're talking about my granddaughter here." He was referring to the finding from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) that 41% of 6,450 respondents said they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. The author had passed out the executive summary of the survey's findings during a panel discussion at a family conference to illustrate the critical importance of acceptance of transgender people. During the question and answer period, this gentleman rose to talk about his beloved 8-year-old granddaughter who was in the process of transitioning socially from male to female in her elementary school. The statistics that the author was citing were not just numbers to him; and he wanted strategies-effective ones-to keep his granddaughter alive and thriving. The author has observed that the statistic about suicide attempts has, in essence, developed a life of its own. It has had several key audiences-academics and researchers, public policymakers, and members of the community, particularly transgender people and our families. This article explores some of the key takeaways from the survey and the ways in which the 41% statistic has affected conversations about the injustices transgender people face and the importance of family and societal acceptance. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Family / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Discrimination*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*