How Are Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Youth Affected by the News? A Qualitative Study

J Adolesc Health. 2020 Apr;66(4):478-483. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.11.304. Epub 2020 Jan 18.


Purpose: News stories about transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people have become more common in recent years and TGNC youth may be disparately affected by this information compared with their cisgender peers. The aim of this study was to understand how TGNC youth react to news stories about TGNC and other gender and sexual minority (GSM) identifying persons.

Methods: As part of a larger study, 23 TGNC youth were recruited from the Seattle Children's Gender Clinic to participate in a semistructured interview. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed.

Results: Participating youth ranged in age from 13 to 19 years (mean = 16.9 years). Of the 23 participants, 43% identified as having a transfeminine gender identity, 39% transmasculine, and 17% nonbinary/gender fluid. Four main themes were identified: (1) news coverage of current political climate affects gender transition; (2) negative news coverage of GSM people contributes to concerns about mental well-being and safety; (3) geographical location affects perception of news; and (4) positive news coverage of TGNC people increases visibility and hope.

Conclusions: Exposure to negative news about GSM people may contribute to increased levels of stress among TGNC youth. With increased visibility, participants described frustration associated with inaccurate portrayals of the TGNC community in the news; however, with increased visibility, there is also a growing sense of shared community and opportunity for acceptance of TGNC people. Given the scope of responses to negative and positive news on GSM people, TGNC youth may benefit from increased support to promote resilience when interpreting the news.

Keywords: Gender nonconforming; Media; News; Transgender; Youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Mental Health
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • Transgender Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Washington
  • Young Adult