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Despite Progress, Higher Rates Of Stigma And Discrimination Reported By New Zealand LGBTQ+ Students, New Analysis Shows.

Rainbow youth still facing stigma and stress but
positive signs: new findings

Youth19, the
latest in a series of surveys focused on young people in
Aotearoa, asked 7,721 secondary school-aged students about
their experiences of school, home and

Co-investigator Dr John Fenaughty from the
University of Auckland says that around half of the rainbow
students in the study are coping well, and a sizeable number
report positive environments and experiences.

some, especially transgender and diverse gender students,
are facing stigma and stress.

“The increased amounts
of mistreatment and stress, particularly for some
transgender and diverse gender young people, are known
drivers that underpin the increased rates mental health
challenges we are seeing,” says Dr Fenaughty.

quarters (73%) of transgender and diverse gender
participants, who account for about one percent of the
students’ surveyed, said they had started to identify as
transgender or gender-diverse before the age of 14.

all measures, apart from volunteering, a greater proportion
of these students reported discrimination and a lack of
support than their cisgender peers, including at home, at
school and in community and healthcare settings.

than half (55%) reported they hadn’t been able to access
healthcare when they needed it in the past year, with 57%
reporting significant depressive symptoms and an equal
proportion reporting they had self-harmed in the past

While schools are becoming more welcoming, with
seven out of ten saying they felt part of their school,
nearly a quarter (23%) said they had been bullied at school,
weekly or more often, in the past year. Only three out of
ten (32%) said they “always felt safe” in their

Lower proportions of transgender and
diverse gender youth also reported that a parent “cared
about them a lot”. Dr Fenaughty says this might be related
to families not understanding, or accepting, the young
person’s gender.

“This perceived lack of care,
combined with a lack of belonging at school for some of
these students, means they may be particularly vulnerable to

However despite facing significant
challenges, these students’ generosity in giving back to
others, through volunteering and supporting their
communities, matches that of cisgender students, he

“Such willingness to support others is an
important strength to celebrate and nurture, and we need to
ensure that rainbow young people are supported to take on
these volunteering roles safely, given they are likely to be
facing a range of additional stressors.”

percent of Youth19 participants reported they were same or
multiple-sex attracted, not sure, or not attracted to any
sex. The majority of this group reported positive home and
family environments, and were no more likely to report
weekly bullying compared to different-sex attracted young

However, a greater proportion of same and
multiple-sex attracted students reported social and school
isolation and unsafe environments than their different-sex
attracted peers.

Just over half reported significant
depressive symptoms (53%), and a similar proportion said
they had self-harmed in the past year (50%). Almost one in
three (31%) said they were unable to access healthcare when
they needed it in the past year.

Dr Fenaughty says
adequate health care access is an urgent issue for many
rainbow students, especially given the higher rates of
mental health challenges that the survey has

And the early age at which some of these
students recognised their transgender and gender diverse
identities means there is an important opportunity for
primary and intermediate schools to turn these statistics

“Schools, at all levels, need to have a plan
for how they will create rainbow-inclusive environments and
attitudes among students and staff,” he says.


Youth19 is the latest in the
Aotearoa New Zealand Youth2000 series of health and
wellbeing surveys which began in 2001 and has involved more
than 36,000 students. The most recent survey involved 7,721
adolescents from 49 Auckland, Northland and Waikato schools
and kura kaupapa Māori.

It is being led by Dr
Terryann Clark from the University of Auckland and Dr Terry
Fleming from Victoria University of Wellington, alongside a
number of

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