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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

27% of kids are . . . what?

Twenty-seven percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in California identify as “nongender conforming,” according to a new UCLA survey. Take a breath. That doesn’t mean they’re transgender or gay. Most are heterosexual kids who don’t conform to gender stereotypes.

Here’s the question:

A person’s appearance, style, dress, or the way they walk or talk may affect how people describe them. How do you think other people at school would describe you?Very feminineMostly feminineEqually feminine and masculineMostly masculineVery masculine

Only 6.2 percent were “highly nongender conforming,” which means they were “very/mostly” masculine girls or “very/mostly” feminine boys. Another 20.8 percent, who called themselves equally masculine and feminine, were classified as “androgynous.”

As a tree-climbing “tomboy,” I was a gender non-conformist in my girlhood. Later, my social studies teacher warned me I might be seen as a “castrating woman” when I got to college. I was assertive. (Really.) Back in 1970, we thought gender stereotypes were obsolete. Now, having abandoned biology, they’re all we have left to define gender.

Androgyny is fashionable.

Most gender non-conformists are heterosexuals, according to Alison Gill, a consultant on gender for the nonprofit Advocates for Youth, who was interviewed by KQED’s Jon Brooks.

In a larger sample, which included youths in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago and Florida’s Broward County, gender non-conformist teens were much more likely to attempt suicide, reports Brooks. In the California-only survey, non-conformists reported much more “severe psychological distress” but no significant difference in suicide attempts.

Researchers speculated that gender-minority teens face less bullying in California, where there’s “higher levels of social acceptance and the presence of protective policies,” writes Brooks.

Some 4.1 percent of adults — including 7.3 percent of millennials — identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Gallup reported a year ago.

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