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Study Finds Association Between Gender Identity Conversion Efforts And Suicide Attempts

A study out Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry finds transgender people have significantly increased risk of attempting suicide if they've been exposed to efforts to convert their gender identity.

The study was authored by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital and The Fenway Institute.

They found transgender individuals who experienced gender identity conversion efforts by a therapist or religious adviser were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide.

"And we found that if those conversion efforts were during childhood that there was even a stronger, more dramatic association between having a professional try and change the person's gender identity and later having a suicide attempt," says Dr. Jack Turban, a resident physician in psychiatry at MGH and McLean Hospital.

When the efforts to change someone's gender identity from transgender to cisgender happened before age 10, the chances of the person later attempting suicide more than quadrupled, the researchers found.

The study's senior author, Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, is a psychiatrist at Mass. General Hospital and directs the National LGBT Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute. He hopes the findings will lead to better care of transgender people.

"It's critically important that gender-affirming care is part of standard training of clinicians across the country so that we can avoid these really dangerous practices and potentially fatal health outcomes," Keuroghlian says.

The researchers say most leading medical societies, including the American Medical Association, have called gender identity conversion efforts unethical. But prior to this study, there wasn't concrete data to solidify an association between exposure to conversion efforts and negative mental health outcomes.

The study analyzed data from a prior survey of more than 27,000 transgender adults.

The same researchers recently published a study that found nearly 200,000 transgender people in the U.S. had experienced efforts to convert their gender identities.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a ban on the practice in April. Seventeen other states have also banned sexuality and gender conversion efforts.


Resources: You can reach the Trevor Project's Lifeline at 1-866-488-7385 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Lynn Jolicoeur Twitter Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.

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