Transgender and Nonbinary Youth in America: The Struggles and Triumphs

Transgender and Nonbinary

Today, many young people in the United States identify as transgender or nonbinary. Yet, many challenges persist even as society becomes more aware of their existence. This article explores these struggles. It updates the current landscape and offers resources for parents and educators.


Transgender and nonbinary youth are those whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. Around 1.6% of U.S. adults identify as such, which will likely rise as societal acceptance grows. Despite this, youth faces challenges that extend from the schoolyard to the halls of the government.

Current Situation

While the U.S. has made strides in recognizing the rights of transgender individuals, the picture remains mixed. On the one hand, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects transgender people in employment. But, no federal law demands equal treatment for transgender people.

At the state level, the landscape varies dramatically. Some states have laws that protect transgender individuals from discrimination. Yet, others have passed or are considering laws that limit these rights.

These challenges extend into schools, where much transgender youth feel unsafe. They may face hostility from peers and discrimination from staff. There are even restrictions on using facilities that match their gender identity.

People that identify as transgender or nonbinary in the U.S.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that approximately 1.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender or nonbinary. It includes people who describe themselves as a man, a woman, or nonbinary. Others use terms such as gender fluid or agender to express their gender. Furthermore, 44% of U.S. adults say they know someone transgender, an increase from 37% in 2017​.

Personal Stories

Transgender and nonbinary youth across the country face these challenges every day. They experience the stress of navigating their identity in a society that doesn’t understand or accept them. But they also celebrate victories and validation in expressing their true selves.

“It wasn’t until maybe I was 20 or so when my friend started his transition where I was like, ‘Wow, that sounds very like the emotions and challenges I am going through with my own identity.’… My whole life from a very young age I was confused, but I didn’t really put a name on it until I was about 20.”

– Nonbinary person, late 20s

“When I took a human sexuality class in undergrad and I started learning about gender and different sexualities and things like that, I was like, ‘oh my god. I feel seen.’ So, that’s where I learned about it for the first time and started understanding how I identify.”

– Nonbinary person, mid-20s

Advice for Parents

Parents are crucial in supporting transgender and nonbinary youth, encouraging open conversations, practicing empathy, and advocating for their child’s rights. These can make a significant difference in their lives. Online resources can help parents navigate these challenges.

Advice for Educators

Educators are also crucial in creating safe and supportive environments for transgender and nonbinary youth. It includes respecting students’ gender identities and incorporating inclusive language and resources into the classroom. Educators can advocate for school policies that protect transgender students. Professional development programs can help educators gain skills and knowledge.

What are some of the challenges they face? 

Transgender and nonbinary individuals face several challenges in the U.S., including:

Discrimination (in various forms)

These include access to public facilities that align with their gender identity—participation in school and sports, and healthcare, especially for transgender youth​.

Legal challenges

There is no federal law designating transgender as requiring equal treatment. At the state level, regulations vary. Some states provide protections. But others enact or consider legislation that would limit their rights​​.

Social challenges

Many transgender and nonbinary youth reports feeling unsafe at school. They experience lower academic performance due to hostile environments. School officials sometimes contribute to challenges by refusing to respect students’ gender identities. There are instances of punishing students for expressing their gender identity​​.

How is the U.S. government addressing these challenges? 

The U.S. government’s approach to addressing these challenges varies at the federal and state level.

  • At the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends protections to individuals who are transgender in employment. It means that discrimination based on transgender status is a form of discrimination based on sex. But, no federal law requires equal treatment for transgender people. Still, attempts to pass such legislation have not yet succeeded as of 2021​.
  • At the state level, some states have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in either employment, housing, or public accommodations. In contrast, others have passed or are considering laws that limit the rights of transgender and nonbinary people. For instance, 22 states and over 225 jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, had legislation as of 2018. It prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, or public accommodations​​.

The importance of equality and acceptance

Consider the following to emphasize the importance of equality and acceptance.

Mental Health and Healthcare Challenges 

Transgender and nonbinary people often face barriers to accessing appropriate healthcare. It includes general healthcare, mental health services, and gender-affirming care such as hormones and surgeries. Trans individuals have higher rates of mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are often due to societal discrimination and lack of acceptance. It’s important to highlight how these challenges affect their quality of life. It is why improving access to healthcare services is crucial.

Importance of Supportive Environments

Studies show that when we support transgender and nonbinary individuals in their identities, it can improve their mental health and well-being. Discuss the role of supportive family, friends, workplaces, and schools.


Transgender and nonbinary people are not a monolithic group. Their experiences can differ based on race, religion, socioeconomic status, and age. It’s important to acknowledge this intersectionality in your article.

Positive Developments and Role Models

While discussing the challenges is essential. It’s also crucial to highlight positive developments and role models. These include the increasing visibility of trans and nonbinary individuals in the media and public life—policy changes to be more inclusive. Share stories of communities or organizations making strides in equality and acceptance.

Advocacy and Activism

Discuss the role of advocacy groups, legal organizations, and activists in pushing for trans rights. They play a crucial role in education, shaping policy, and providing support. They aim to generally further the cause of equality.


Supporting our youth is more than a matter of personal rights—it’s a matter of human rights. Educating and advocating for change can contribute to a more inclusive and accepting society. Remember, every step, no matter how small, brings us closer to a world where all youth can live without fear of discrimination.

A writer and mother working to provide the best advice and support for navigating the internet in a safe and secure manner.