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J Adolesc Health. 2019 Nov 2. pii: S1054-139X(19)30421-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.08.011. [Epub ahead of print]

Transgender Adolescents' Uses of Social Media for Social Support.

Author information

1
Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Electronic address: eselkie@med.umich.edu.
2
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
3
Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.
4
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Oakland University, Auburn Hills, Michigan.
5
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Transgender adolescents are at higher risk for negative mental health outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality, compared with cisgender adolescents. Social media may be an effective venue for addressing these health disparities because most adolescents have access to online information and socialization. This study used qualitative inquiry to explore transgender adolescents' uses of social media for social support.

METHODS:

Transgender adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 years with a social media profile were recruited from a pediatric gender clinic in the Midwestern U.S. A 30- to 60-minute semistructured interview assessed ways participants used social media to access transgender-related support. Thematic analysis was used to develop categories and code the transcripts. Coding discrepancies were resolved by two researchers following initial coding.

RESULTS:

Results represent data from 25 interviews comprising 13 transmasculine, 11 transfeminine, and one nonbinary participant(s), with 68% of the sample identifying as white, non-Hispanic. Categories emerged regarding forms of support participants received from transgender-related online communities including emotional support through peers and role models, appraisal support for validating their experiences, and informational support for navigating health decisions and educating family and friends. Participants also referenced negative experiences, including harassment and exclusionary behavior online.

CONCLUSIONS:

Social media platforms represent hubs of community for transgender adolescents. These communities provide emotional, appraisal, and informational support that transgender youth may not otherwise be able to access. Future research should use the affordances of social media to identify approaches to addressing health disparities and improving the well-being of transgender adolescents.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescent; FTM; Internet; MTF; Mental health; Qualitative; Social media; Social support; Transgender; Well-being; Youth

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