The Largest Yet Study of Trans Children Debunks Some Myths
Yesterday Newsweek published an article about a new study of trans kids. Some of the findings were interesting, though not surprising to those of us who know any trans kids. The article, as well as an article from University of Washington News, and a listing of the study’s findings appear below this story.
According to Newsweek,
To conduct the study, the researchers met families across North America, study co-author Selin Gülgöz, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, told Newsweek. They spoke to children and parents about the former’s gender identity. That included showing kids toys and asking which ones they preferred, and quizzing them on how similar they felt to boys or girls. The cisgender control group followed the same steps.
The results were pretty clear. There was virtually no difference in answers between the trans kids and the cisgender control group. One of the authors of the authors of the study remarked that the data looked similar from one group to the other and that they would not be able to tell the difference in the data without knowing which group it came from.
What Does This Mean?
Although the study was not designed to determine whether kids should be raised in the gender of which they identify, several of the findings seem to counter popular arguments against allowing children to transition.
For instance, there is this from the study’s co-author:
“Within both transgender and cisgender children, we find a wide range in the strength of their identity and preferences. For example, we had some ‘tomboy’ transgender girls in the study, just as we had ‘tomboy’ cisgender girls.”
In other words, this blows out of water the idea that a trans boy might be “just a tomboy,” or that gender presentation plays a part at all.
Likewise, gender stereotypes.
From co-author Selin Gülgöz again:
“This study does show that in fact not all trans girls (or cis girls) want to wear frilly pink dresses or play with dolls. We in fact see plenty of trans kids violating these stereotypes, just as we see cis kids do so,” said Gülgöz.
“Other work in our lab has shown that trans kids either endorse gender stereotypes at equal rates or less than cis kids so the idea that trans kids are perpetuating stereotypes does not appear to hold up.”
The findings also seem to indicate that children’s gender identity is not caused by early social transition. Most of this who know transgender children already realize this, of course. We know that gender identity can be strongly pronounced enough that some children realize — even at an early age — that they are a gender different from the one assigned at birth.
Let me be clear that you do not need to feel this way as a child to be considered transgender. I was 45 by the time I figured everything out. This study, combined with what we already know about transgender children, merely validates the gender identities of these children.
Why I am Telling You This
I am writing this on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day on which we commemorate those who have been killed because they were transgender. Many of these people were victims of hate and bigotry, but some were also victims of ignorance and apathy.
The more we as a society learn what it really means to be transgender, the more understanding there will be.
I can only hope this increased understanding will lead to fewer burials.