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Trans young people are the least optimistic about their future: ‘I’ve never seen trans people thrive and grow old’

Vic Parsons April 20, 2021
Trans youth struggling to be optimistic: 'I've never seen trans people thrive'

Isaac, 21, said 'I find it difficult to imagine my future'. (Supplied/Just Like Us)

Trans youth in the UK are struggling to feel optimistic about their futures, falling behind their cisgender peers when it comes to dreaming of the life ahead of them.

Fourteen per cent of trans youth have “never” felt optimistic about the future in the past year, compared with 10 per cent of gay boys, 10 per cent of bisexual young people and six per cent of young lesbians.

Only 35 per cent of young trans people say they felt optimistic about the future on a weekly basis in the past year. This compares with around half (54 per cent) of young gay boys, half (48 per cent) of young lesbians and 43 per cent of young bisexual people.

The new figures come from independent research commissioned by LGBT+ young people’s charity Just Like Us and are set against a backdrop of rampant anti-trans hostility in the British media and a relentlessly negative focus from politicians and transphobic campaigners on trans youth.

Dominic Arnall, chief executive of Just Like Us, called on schools to show their support for trans young people.

“Trans young people need to know that they have a positive future ahead of them,” he said. “All young people should be able to see themselves as belonging and that there is a positive future ahead for them – schools can play a fantastic role in this.”

The Just Like Us figures come from a survey of 2,934 secondary school pupils (including 1,140 LGBT+ young people) in Years 7-13 (ages 11 to 18) across 375 schools and colleges in December 2020 and January 2021.

The survey found that LGBT+ young people generally are much less likely to feel optimistic about the future than non-LGBT+ young people. Forty-five per cent of young LGBT+ young people felt optimistic about the future on a weekly basis in the past year, compared to 64 per cent of non-LGBT+ young people.

Three young trans people – Joel, Isaac and Ramses – told PinkNews that they find it hard to imagine their futures, and that while their cis friends have dreams for the future related to careers, relationships or home-owning, their own hopes for the future are dominated by whether they’ll be able to access the healthcare they need to be themselves.

Isaac, 21, said it’s “difficult to imagine my future”.

“I can vaguely picture myself nine years from now at 30, but I can’t imagine what I’ll be doing, or how I’ll feel about myself,” Isaac said. “It isn’t negative or positive, it’s mostly uncertain. I try not to think about it too much.”

For Isaac to be able to feel optimistic about the future, he said that several things would need to change in his life – finding the motivation to start exercising after having top surgery, his dad using the right name and pronouns for him, his mum speaking to him again.

“And I would love to be able to reach a point where I feel comfortable being completely openly trans,” he said. “I think I feel obliged to live as somewhat privately trans, and I’m not sure that it’s good for my self esteem, so I think something needs to change.

“But I just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of being open yet. It makes thinking about my future even more complicated.”

trans youth
Joel said he ‘wouldn’t be able to confidentially and consistently feel optimistic about my future until I knew that trans healthcare, trans rights and trans inclusion were secure at the place they need to be, not the unstable place they’re currently at’. (Supplied/Just Like Us)

Joel, 26, said he finds it hard to think about the future because “I am never sure what it could possibly look like”.

Citing “unstable” access to trans healthcare, trans inclusion and trans legal rights, Joel said that they “view [the] future with quite short sightedness”.

Joel added: “I feel like when my non-trans friends think of the future they imagine themselves as they are, and their hopes typically revolve around things like new jobs, or marriage or children or a house move.

“I do have hopes for some of those things, but if you asked me to pick my one greatest wish for the future it would be to access the surgery I know I need to feel comfortable in my own body.”

trans youth
Ramses said he loves being trans but ‘I would love to be able to experience it without being afraid’. (Supplied/Just Like Us)

Ramses Oliva, 25, has been out as trans since he was 12, and also said it’s “hard to think about my future”.

“My older friends allow me to picture myself only a few years ahead at a time, but I’ve never seen trans people thrive and grow old,” he said. “I can only see a few years ahead before getting scared of what the future holds.”

Ramses added: “I am happy to be trans, it brings me so much joy but I would love to be able to experience it without being afraid, not knowing what the future holds, without feeling like I need to choose between pride and safety.

“When I was young the lack of representation was what scared me the most. There weren’t any trans role models or visible trans people, and the reasons weren’t positive. But it takes just one person, just one conversation to show that older trans people exist, can survive and thrive.”

More: trans kids

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