WVU researchers collecting data on gender-diverse identities

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — The number of teenagers living in Appalachia who identify as transgender, nonbinary or other diverse gender identities may be higher than previously thought, according to a survey conducted by West Virginia University researchers.

More than 7% of young people who participated in the survey said they had a gender identity that didn’t fully align with the sex they were assigned at birth, a research letter published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found.

A 2017 study by UCLA Law’s The Williams Institute estimated that West Virginia had the highest per capita rate of transgender youth in the country at just over 1%.

Close to 3,000 students in grades 7-12 in Appalachian public schools were anonymously surveyed, according to researchers. They were asked about their internal sense of being male, female or having another identity, like nonbinary.

Gender-diverse youth are at an increased risk of suicide and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We need to better understand how to support these young people, especially now that we are increasingly recognizing that they are here and would likely benefit from the support,” said WVU School of Medicine researcher Dr. Kacie Kidd, who co-authored the study.