Transgender youth are more likely to show support for “violent radicalization” compared to biological women and other groups, according to the findings of a study by researchers in Canada.
The study, titled “Meaning in Life, Future Orientation and Support for Violent Radicalization Among Canadian College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was published in 2022 in the Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Researchers aimed to examine the association of a “positive future orientation” (defined as the extent of one’s positive attitudes toward the future), the presence of and search for a meaning in life, and support for “violent radicalization” (VR) among a sample of Canadian college students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased levels of uncertainty and social polarization in our societies, compromising young people’s capacity to envision a positive future and maintain a meaningful sense of purpose in life,” the authors wrote. “Schools and colleges are in a privileged position to implement preventive interventions to support a positive future orientation and the presence of a meaning in life among young people during these challenging and uncertain times and reduce the risk of violence related to extreme ideologies in our rapidly changing society.”
For their study, researchers examined surveys submitted by a total of 3,100 college students between the ages of 16 and 25 from 18 different colleges in Quebec, Canada, during the second wave of the pandemic.
Of the 3,100 students that completed the study, 68 percent identified as women, 27.5 percent identified as men, and 2.5 percent identified as “transgender or gender-diverse.”
An additional 2 percent of participants chose not to report their gender, the authors said.
The study found that “transgender and gender diverse students reported higher support for VR compared to students who identified as women,” before authors later concluded that “transgender and gender-diverse youth emerge as the group at the highest risk of support for VR.”
“This is in line with results of a recent survey conducted during the pandemic that highlighted high levels of support for VR as well as psychological distress among gender minorities,” the study authors wrote, referring to a 2021 study by separate Canadian researchers titled “Conspiracy Theories, Psychological Distress, and Sympathy for Violent Radicalization in Young Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Study.”
That study, conducted among 6,003 participants aged 18–35 years old residing in four major Canadian cities between Oct. 16, 2020, and Nov. 17, 2020, found that biological women were less likely to support VR, as were older participants and first-generation immigrants.
The authors of that study noted that prevention and intervention programs to reduce support for VR need to support “young adult men and gender minorities.”
Nashville School Shooter Had ‘Emotional Disorder’
“Such results point to the importance for future research to focus on this often-overlooked population who may be suffering more in the present context of social adversity,” the authors of the 2022 study wrote. “This also confirms prior studies that observed rapid shifts in gender roles in Western societies in recent years and underlines the important role of gender in VR studies.”
“Although the association between support for VR and violent action is not linear, population-wide attitudes toward legitimizing some forms of violence may increase social polarization and fuel the emergence of extremist groups, thus providing a narrative to channel despair and rage in vulnerable individuals,” they wrote.
The study authors did, however, note several limitations with the research, including that the data was collected only in Quebec, in the stressful context of the pandemic, and cannot be generalized to other cultural or social contexts.
They also noted that the associations between future orientation, meaning in life, depression, and support for VR are “likely very complex.”
The study findings come as police in Nashville, Tennessee, continue to investigate the shooting of six people—including three young children—at Covenant Christian Academy by a former student who identified as transgender and used male pronouns.
Police said on Tuesday that the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, was being treated for an “emotional disorder” prior to the shooting. Officials did not provide further details regarding the emotional disorder or the treatment she was receiving.
Hale entered the school at around 10 a.m. by shooting her way through glass doors on the side of the building. She then opened fire on a common area, killing victims Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs, all aged 9, and Mike Hill, 61, Cynthia Peak, 61, and Katherine Koonce, 60, who was the head of the school.
Police said that the attacker had written a detailed “manifesto” prior to the shooting, which along with other materials, revealed that the attack had been “calculated and planned.”
The Nashville Police Department and FBI are investigating the shooting.