When Kyler Asato came out as transgender, Asato’s father’s response was that he had failed as a father. Asato, a junior sociology major who uses they/them/their pronouns, said that their father has been known to be homophobic and transphobic.
“I came out to my parents the first week of interterm freshman year,” Asato said. “All my life, (my dad) asked, ‘Why aren’t you manly enough? Why don’t you play sports?’”
Kris De Pedro, a College of Educational Studies professor, said that transgender teens are more likely to be bullied. According to a study he released this summer, transgender teens are also twice as likely to have substance abuse issues than their cisgender peers.
“The disparities are really depressing,” De Pedro said. “(Transgender teens) are more likely to be bullied, more likely to face any form of harassment and any form of discrimination, too.”
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, transgender people have a high prevalence of victimization, mental health issues and suicide, and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals.
“If you’re being invalidated at every turn, then you’re going to have a skewed sense of self, and if you don’t have many support networks, you don’t have much to confide in,” Asato said.
De Pedro said that while conducting the study, it was important to identify people’s different experiences as transgender.
“It’s really important to look at the diversity within an entire group of kids. It’s weird with numbers because we have to group people artificially,” he said.“With transgender teens, when there are 5,000 teens who identify as trans in the data, I have to take a step back and tell myself, ‘Each person that identifies as trans in this moment in time has a completely different set of life experiences.’”
Callan Keeter, a junior political science major and executive council member of Chapman’s Queer-Student Alliance, said that the causes of substance abuse can go beyond bullying.
Keeter said that a contributing factor is the lack of LGBTQIA+ locations for people under 18 years old. She points out that the majority of locations in the LGBTQIA+ community are places where it is easy to abuse substances, like nightclubs and bars.
“The culture of nightclubs create an atmosphere of substance abuse,” Keeter said.
Josh Bright, a senior strategic and corporate communication major, came out as gay during his freshman year of high school. With a family history of substance abuse, Bright said that he didn’t experience bullying, and when it comes to drinking, that he likes to “enjoy himself responsibly.”
De Pedro is trying to help by more than just providing research. He’s working with the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles to help organize events to get the word out on the subject, along with teaching “LGBTQIA+ Issues and Education.”
“I have worked with quite a few trans and non binary students, but I think what’s interesting is that I actually look up to them,” he said.
De Pedro is teaming up with a researcher on the East Coast to collect narratives of non binary students transitioning from high school to college, in order to gain a better understanding of the issue.
“We’re trying to figure out what to do with the data and to sort of engage local advocacy groups to create some sort of awareness campaign,” De Pedro said.