Most transgender children retain their gender identity 5 years later: study – Consumer Health News


WEDNESDAY, May 4, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Children who feel their true gender identity does not match the sex they were given at birth sometimes have the opportunity to adopt the lifestyle and characteristics of opposite sex, in a process known as “social transition”.

It doesn’t involve any treatment or surgery, but some people wonder if children who make a social transition at a very young age might end up regretting the decision, increasing the risk of a traumatic retransition. But new research reveals that this is rarely the case: among children under 12, surveyors found that more than nine in 10 stuck with their original decision to transition until age five. And the few people who have re-transitioned have generally not found the process traumatic.

“Social transition refers to a change in pronouns, first names, hairstyles and clothing,” explained study author Kristina Olson, a professor of psychology at Princeton University in New Jersey. It’s “the ‘social’ part of the genre.”

Such transitions can be the first step families take to address the distress often experienced by children who feel their gender identity does not match their assigned gender.

Social transitions are distinct from medical transitions “which may involve the use of hormones or gender-affirming surgeries,” Olson explained.

Olson said only one other small study – involving just four children – had explored the risk of long-term retransition. This study revealed that none of the children had regained their birth sex.

But to dig deeper, Olson and his team focused on more than 300 children who had undergone social transition.

About two-thirds were transgender boys, that is, boys who were assigned a female sex at birth; about a third were transgender girls.

All were enrolled in the TransYouth project between 2013 and 2017. The project tracked transition experiences over a five-year period, with children aged 3 to 12 when they made their first social transition.

Although Olson focused on social transition, she noted that some of the children had also embarked on a medical transition, although she pointed out that this was only the case with older children, given that “young people are not eligible for medical transition until the end of the onset of puberty.”

Specifically, almost 12% had started taking puberty blockers during the study period. (After the study period ended, however, 190 children eventually started taking blockers; nearly 100 of those children also started taking gender-affirming hormones, Olson noted.)

On the social transition front alone, Olson noted that over five years, only about 7% of children have returned at least once.

At the end of the study period, 94% of the children continued to identify with the gender they had adopted during the first social transition. (This figure includes just over 1% who at some point reverted to their birth sex, only to later revert to the sex they originally transitioned to.)

Of the 6% who did not meet their initial transition, just over 3% described themselves as non-binary at the end of the study period, while just under 3% said they identified to their birth sex. (Identification with one’s birth sex was significantly more common among children who had made the social transition before the age of 6.)

“Interestingly, we are do not finding that youth who re-transitioned in our study experience this as traumatic,” Olson noted. “We found that when young people are in supportive environments — supportive in the sense of being okay with exploring the initial transition and later retransition is acceptable. »

The study results were published online May 4 in the journal Pediatrics, but Olson said his team plans to continue following study participants.

Meanwhile, a couple of experts not involved in the study praised the effort so far.

The findings are already “significant,” said Dr. Jack Turban, a research fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California.

“The main takeaway here is that gender identity, for binary transgender children, appears to be quite stable,” he said.

And Turban – whose research focuses on the mental health of transgender youth – stressed that “social transition has value, regardless of the ultimate gender trajectory”.

This, he said, is because “prohibiting a social transition can send the message to a child that their identity is false or invalid. And this can lead to shame and damage relationships at within a family”.

Indeed, “young people in social transition are [simply] make the same “decisions” that cisgender children make, in that they seek out clothes, hairstyles, names, accessories, activities, and playmates that reflect their gender identity and the resources of their community said Matt Goldenberg, an adolescent medicine psychologist. with the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic.

And empowering children to explore their gender identity in an environment that “honors their authenticity and wisdom” is a “healthy and normative aspect of human development,” Goldenberg added.

More information

There is more on the process of transitioning to Planned Parenthood.

SOURCES: Kristina Olson, PhD, professor, department of psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ; Matt Goldenberg, PsyD, psychologist, adolescent medicine, Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic; Jack Turban, MD, MHS, Principal Investigator, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Investigator, Mental Health of Transgender Youth, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA; PediatricsMay 4, 2022, online

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