C.Children who begin identifying as transgender at a young age tend to maintain that identity for at least several years, suggests a study published Wednesday.
The research involved 317 young people between the ages of 3 and 12 when they were recruited for the study. Five years later, at the end of the study, 94% were living as transgender, and nearly two-thirds were using puberty-blocking drugs or sex hormones for medical transition.
Most of the children in the study were from high-income white families who supported their transitions. On average, children started identifying as transgender around age 6.
It is not known whether similar findings would be found among young people from less advantaged backgrounds or those who begin to identify as transgender as teenagers. The study was published online in Pediatrics.
Politicians seeking to ban or criminalize medical care for transgender youth have cited evidence suggesting that many children change their minds or “retransmit”.
Some doctors say that’s why transgender medications or surgery shouldn’t be offered until affected children reach adulthood, but rigorous research on the numbers is lacking. The Pediatrics study is one of the largest to look into the problem, although not all children have started treatment and none have undergone transgender surgery.
The study is “incredibly timely … and absolutely necessary,” said Coleen Williams, a psychologist who works with the Multi-Specialty Gender Service at Boston Children’s Hospital, a clinic that treats transgender children.
“If you’re in the trenches doing this day-to-day work with trans kiddos and their families, this is what we see,” said Williams, who was not involved in the study. “Most transgender young people and children who make a social transition continue to live in their established gender.”
Families were recruited to participate in the study from trans child social media groups, camps, conferences, and word of mouth in approximately 40 states.
Kristina Olson, a Princeton University psychologist who led the study, said some of the children went back briefly during the study, but ultimately most had reverted to a transgender identity.
“It suggests that our model of thinking about people as X or Y, cisgender or transgender … is an antiquated way of thinking about gender,” Olson said.
He noted that when the study began in 2013, “non-binary” was not a common term and the children studied used either masculine or feminine pronouns. That may change as researchers track them through their teens. The young people were on average about 12 years old at the end of the study.
The Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, a nonprofit group of healthcare professionals concerned about the risks of medical transition for children, said other evidence shows that large numbers of children outgrow transgender identities by puberty or later. ‘adulthood. Some researchers point to flaws in those data.
Dr William Malone, a consultant to the group, said the new study appears to reinforce concerns “that early gender social transition may cement a young person’s transgender identity and lead children on the path to eventual medicalization, with all its inherent risks and uncertainties. ”
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