Introduction: Important mental and physical health disparities exist for transgender and gender diverse youth compared with cisgender youth (i.e., those whose birth-assigned sex and gender identity align), yet little is known about factors that protect transgender and gender diverse youth from health problems. The objective of this paper is to identify modifiable protective factors in the lives of transgender and gender diverse adolescents, with the goal of informing efforts to eliminate disparities in depression, suicidality, and substance use in this population. Methods: Secondary data analysis of the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey examined associations between eight protective factors (connectedness to parents, adult relatives, friends, adults in the community, and teachers; youth development opportunities; and feeling safe in the community and at school) and depression, suicidality, and substance use (alcohol, binge drinking, marijuana, nicotine) among 2,168 adolescents who identified as transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or questioning their gender. Logistic regressions assessed the role of each protective factor separately and simultaneously. Results: Each protective factor was associated with lower odds of emotional distress and substance use. When protective factors were examined simultaneously, parent connectedness was protective for all measures. Feeling safe at school and connected to adults in one's community protected against depression and suicidality; teacher connectedness buffered risk of substance use. Conclusions: Given that transgender and gender diverse youth report lower levels of connectedness and safety, bolstering an explicitly transgender and gender diverse–friendly network of caring parents, safe and supportive schools, and connections to adults in the community may support efforts to eliminate disparities in depression, suicidality, and substance use.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of NIH under Award Number R21HD088757. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH.