Transgender youth struggling to navigate coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 11:19 AM, Dec 30, 2020

For the better part of nine months, Randall Leonard has spent countless hours counseling transgender youth as best they can through Zoom chats and video conferencing, but nearly a year into the pandemic, they're worried about the long-term effects COVID-19 is having on some of this nation's transgender community.

"There’s a lot right now that we’re unable to control," Randall said from their apartment in Baltimore, Maryland.

Randall serves as a staff therapist for Chase Brexton, a health care collaborative in Maryland that has a staff dedicated to helping those in the trans community. Randall also identifies as non-binary, which gives a unique insight into what some of the clinic's patients are experiencing right now.

"There are so many people, especially trans people who were practicing going outside, and being visible and now so many of them are insulated in their homes," Randall added.

Dr. Elyse Pine is a physician who specializes in trans youth issues and works with Randall Leonard. She's seen this school year present its own problems for her patients. Many trans youth are more comfortable at home, away from school environments where they might be bullied. But, for others, the isolation of virtual learning has been tough.

"They’re home and isolated and can’t meet with friends and it’s been very difficult in terms of depression and anxiety and struggling," Dr. Pine said.

One of the biggest concerns though for Dr. Pine is an increase in patients dealing with severe depression. The CDC says one in four young adults have struggled with suicidal thoughts since the coronavirus hit.

Her advice to anyone struggling right now is to find someone to talk to. And if you're a parent with a child struggling with gender issues, make sure they have an outlet where they feel safe.

"Having so much isolation is very difficult. There aren’t other people who have an eye on you to say, ‘You look different or you don’t look the same, are you okay?’ We have to try to keep people connected however we can."

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article used an incorrect pronoun while referring to Randall Leonard. The article has been updated to reflect the appropriate pronoun.