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A West Virginia University study found that the population of young people who do not identify with their gender at birth may be much higher than previous estimates.
“Young people of diverse gender identities are amazing young people and, as our study revealed, many of them live in rural areas,” said Dr. Kacie Kidd, a researcher at the WVU School of Medicine, l one of the study’s co-authors. out Monday. “It’s important that we make sure they have access to support so they can thrive.”
Kidd’s comments come after university researchers anonymously surveyed nearly 3,000 students in grades 7 through 12 at public schools in the Appalachian region, finding that more than 7% of respondents identified with a sex other than their sex at birth.
The findings follow a 2017 UCLA study that found West Virginia had the highest per capita rate of young transgender people in the country, estimating that just over 1% of young people in the state identified with a sex other than their sex at birth. The WVU findings suggest that the 2017 study may have severely underestimated that number, which the researchers say may be due to a lack of ability to reach young people in rural areas.
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Kidd pointed to research she had previously worked on with young people in Pittsburgh, which found that nearly 10% of young people in the Appalachian city had a “gender diverse identity.”
“Despite the high prevalence of diverse gender identities found in our Pittsburgh study, information about rural areas was still unknown,” Kidd said. “We suspect that many young people in rural Appalachia who shared their gender identities with us in this study could benefit from additional support, especially if they do not feel seen and supported at home and in their community.”
Kidd pointed out that the numbers could raise issues for public health officials, noting that young people of diverse gender identities are at increased risk for mental health disorders, suicide and depression.
“Adolescent mental health is at a critical point, according to the Centers for Disease Control,” Kidd said. “We have an access problem because so many young people need mental health services nationwide and we just don’t have enough mental health professionals to meet that need. It’s a problem. growing and young people of diverse gender identities are certainly at even greater risk.”
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The research also comes as the state battles a 2020 lawsuit against the state’s ban on using Medicaid for transgender surgeries.
According to a ruling last week by District Court Judge Robert C. Chambers, the state’s exclusion of gender transition surgeries for the treatment of gender dysphoria “unduly discriminates on the basis of gender and gender.” transgender status”.
West Virginia is one of nine states whose Medicaid rules exclude transgender medical procedures, though Ohio officials say their state’s ban is not enforced and a ban on transgender ‘Arkansas only applies to minors. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is currently considering a similar exclusion on coverage for transgender medical procedures such as puberty blockers, hormones, gender transition surgeries, or “any other procedure that alters the characteristics primary or secondary sex,” according to The Hill reports.
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Contacted for comment by Fox News Digital on Tuesday, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Communications Director Allison Adler said the agency is “committed to administering the Medicaid program, while maintaining the responsibility for the use of resources, in a manner that ensures access to appropriate, medically necessary and quality health care services for all members.”
Adler declined to comment further, citing ongoing litigation.