A new study from Western University has found changes in policy and society could prevent thousands of transgender adults in Ontario from attempting or seriously considering suicide.

The study, led by Greta Bauer at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, found a connection between gender recognition being seen as a human right and a reduction in suicides amongst transgender people.

Based on the responses of 433 participants, the study found that in the past year, an estimated 35.1 per cent of trans Ontarians seriously considered suicide and 11.2 per cent reported a suicide attempt. There are an estimated 53,500 transgender adults (over the age of 16) in Ontario.

Bauer said in a statement, “People often think that it is being transgender itself that is causing suicidal thoughts or attempts, but it’s not that simple. It’s the social marginalization.”

Factors that could be changed to help reduce the rate of suicide included:

  • social support - especially parental support
  • having identity documents that match expressed gender
  • protection from transphobia - from verbal harassment to physical and sexual assaults
  • medical transition to bring hormones, anatomy or both in alignment with expressed gender

Western researcher Ayden Scheim, the second author on the study, says wait times for medical transition can be very long.

He adds, "Increasing parental support for people's gender identity, reducing discrimination and violence based on anti-transgender attitudes - those don't cost any money. And I think we're in a really unique historical moment where there's more and more acceptance and attention to these issues, which will hopefully help us to increase the acceptance that trans people face."

Data for the study was collected through the Trans PULSE Project – a community-based research project initiated in 2005 – that is investigating the impact of social exclusion and discrimination on the health of transgender people in Ontario.