Trans kids show 'strong sense of identity', says new study

Findings from a new study reveals the similarities between trans kids and cisgender children in terms of gender development.

A person holding a trans flag and smiling while walking down street.

Trans kids are no different to cisgender children in terms of how they dress and play according to their gender, as stated in a newly published study

A research study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlighted that transgender children showed a strong sense of identity from an early age similar to cisgendered children. The survey states, “Gender identity and gender-typed preferences manifest similarly in both cis and transgender children, even those who recently transitioned.”

The study is currently the largest piece of research to look at early-transitioning children in terms of gender development. Led by psychology professor Kristina Olson, the survey was conducted as part of the University of Washington’s TransYouth project. Over 300 transgender children as well as hundreds more siblings and unrelated cisgender kids took part in the control group.

Set up in 2003, TransYouth project aims to conduct leading research into trans kids globally and this study serves as its first wave of data. Olson said, “Our data thus far suggest that the act of transitioning probably isn’t affecting gender identity one way or the other.”

When both transgender children and cisgender children were asked about stereotypical items associated with gender, researchers found no difference between preferences and behaviours. Lead author Selin Gülgöz wrote, “Trans kids are showing strong identities and preferences that are different from their assigned sex. There is almost no difference between these trans- and cisgender kids of the same gender identity — both in how, and the extent to which, they identify with their gender or express that gender.”

Even though the findings are insightful, researchers have acknowledged the limitations to their results, as all the children have transitioned with the support of their parents, were from an American or Canadian background, and a majority had wealthy, white, highly-educated parents.

There was also a particular focus in the study on ‘gender binaries’, which left out the experiences of non-binary children. In the study, it was stated, “We do not know how the results may have differed if we had studied children who identify as transgender but have not yet transitioned, or children who live in less supportive environments.”

As the research concludes, children “develop a strong sense of identity at an early age, that this identity is not necessarily determined by sex assigned at birth, and that children may hold onto this identity even when it conflicts with others’ expectations.”

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