Using a Chosen Name May Reduce Depression in Transgender Youth

Depression in transgender youth

Using a Chosen Name May Reduce Depression in Transgender Youth

In one of the largest and most diverse studies of transgender youths to date, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin has found that when transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name (a name of their choosing) in places such as work, school or home, their risk of depression and suicide drops significantly.

Many kids who are transgender have chosen a name that is different from the one they were given at birth. Researchers interviewed transgender youths from ages 15 to 21 and asked whether they were allowed to use their chosen name at school, home, work or with friends. When compared to peers who could not use their chosen name in any situation, young people who could use their name in all four areas experienced 71% fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34% decrease in reported thoughts of suicide, and a 65% decrease in suicidal attempts.

Prior studies have found that transgender youths report having suicidal thoughts at nearly twice the rate of their peers, with about 1 out of every 3 transgender youths report they are considering suicide. In the new study, having even one place where a chosen name could be used was associated with a 29% decrease in suicidal thoughts. This was true despite differences in personal characteristics and social support.

The study interviewed 129 youths in three U.S. cities located in the Northeast, the Southwest and the West Coast. Transgender youths are estimated to be only about 1% of the population and are difficult to reach, so the research team worked with community organizations serving LGBT youths and other venues to reach as diverse a population of transgender youths as possible. The youth that participated in the study were ethnically and geographically diverse and came from a variety of social classes.

Because many names are common to one gender, allowing transgender youths to use a chosen name is one simple step that institutions such as schools, hospitals, financial institutions, workplaces and community organizations can use to help young people affirm their gender identity. Research showed that supporting young people to use their preferred names was developmentally appropriate and demonstrated respect, and this strengthened their mental health.


Authored by:  Kiara Moore, PhD, LCSW

Journal Reference:  Stephen T. Russell, Amanda M. Pollitt, Gu Li, Arnold H. Grossman. (2018). Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, Retrieved April 23, 2018 from