How media helps connect transgender and gender diverse children with gender care

July 31, 2020

Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) children can often be unsure of who to turn to for compassionate gender care. A report considers whether media exposure can help TGD children get needed care.

For transgender and gender diverse (TGD) children, one of the biggest hurdles can be getting access to specialist gender service care. Previous studies have shown that many TGD children won’t disclose their gender status to primary care providers. A recent report in JAMA Network Open considered whether media coverage of transgender issues increased the number of referrals to specialist gender services.1

Investigators ran a serial cross-sectional study for 8 years, from January 2009 to December 2016, at 2 publicly funded pediatric specialist gender services: 1 in Australia and 1 in the United Kingdom. They looked at the weekly referral rates and the number of TGD-specific media programs and advertisements 1 to 2 weeks beforehand. In the UK clinic, they looked at media that occurred 1 week before the weekly referrals and in the Australian clinic, 2 weeks beforehand.

The referral data for 5242 TGD children was collected and 2614 media items related to TGD issues were identified (2194 in the United Kingdom and 420 in Australia). The investigators found that the annual number of TGD children referred to both of the clinics had a positive correlation with the number of TGD-related local media stories appearing in each year. When looking at the weekly referral rates, there was evidence of an association with the number of TGD media items in local media. However, there was no evidence linking referrals and media items that appeared 3 weeks beforehand. The amount of focus of TGD issues in the media item also had an impact. Media that was only peripherally related to TGD issues showed no effect on referral rates. Stories that were TGD-focused, however, did have an impact on the referral rates.

The investigators discussed the limitations of the study, which included the fact that that each media item was considered equal to the other ones, even though reach and accessibility were different. The level of media exposure for each referred patient was also unquantified. The study also included media from traditional sources and did not include social media, which has increasingly become one of the main sources of information for pediatric patients.

The researchers concluded that media coverage of TGD topics led to referrals that specialize in gender care. They stated that this follows known clinical experiences where TGD children and adolescents said that media had spurred them to seek clinical assistance.

Reference

1. Pang KC, de Graaf NM, Chew D, et al. Association of media coverage of transgender and gender diverse issues with rates of referral of transgender children and adolescents to specialist gender clinics in the UK and Australia. JAMA Netw Open. 2020:3(7):e2011161. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11161