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Invited Commentary
July 28, 2020

Media Coverage and Care-Seeking for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Youth

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Texas at Austin
JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e2015373. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.15373

The health and well-being of transgender children and adolescents have been a growing concern in the fields of health and medicine as well as in public discourse and media. Only a decade ago, there was little scientific evidence regarding the health of transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) youth. Since then, media coverage has dramatically changed public awareness and understanding of TGD individuals, and this new public attention has disrupted the silence that had characterized the lives of TGD youth. At the same time, research has begun to clearly document the mental and behavioral health risks of TGD youth.1,2

Demand for specialized treatment and care for TGD individuals has grown dramatically. What had been unclear is the degree to which media attention could be a contributing factor to that demand. The new study by Pang and colleagues3 creatively investigates increases in weekly referrals to gender clinics that specialize in the care and treatment of TGD children and adolescents during an 8-year period. The investigators individually coded nearly 8000 local media items (from newspapers, online news sources, and television programs) and matched them with weekly referrals to 2 publicly funded gender clinics on opposite sides of the world. Increases in weekly referrals were associated with TGD-relevant media items with a 1- to 2-week lag. The investigators showed that the associations were stronger based on the relevance of media coverage: referrals were greater when media mentioned the 2 clinics being studied compared with coverage that was predominantly or only peripherally related to TGD issues.

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