A new study is currently underway that should soon provide new insight for transgender children and their parents. Conducted by Kristina Olson, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology, the study involves 32 transgender children from around the U.S. between the ages of 5 to 12, and who are living as their identified gender in loving, supportive environments. Once completed, the study’s initial results will be published in Psychological Science, co-authored by Nicholas Eaton of Stony Brook University and Aidan Key of Gender Diversity.
News of children coming out or being identified as transgender seems to be growing in recent years. Many say that this is not only due to us now having a better understanding of what gender dysphoria is, but also due to it being more out in the open as well. However, skeptics say, when it comes to young children claiming to be transgender, that the child is either just confused or simply pretending to be the opposite gender.
The study is part of the TransYouth Project, an initiative based out of the University of Washington’s Social Cognitive Development Lab, which aims to help better understand gender development in gender-nonconforming children. The study is believed to be the first of it’s kind to focus on transgender children in the United States.
Olsen initially embarked on the project a year ago in order to determine just how deeply held a child’s gender identity was, or whether transgender children were, in fact, just “confused” or simply “pretending” to be the opposite gender. The research took into consideration the child’s own self-reporting about gender with tests that assessed the speed at which a child associated with different concepts of male and female gender roles. In the end, the research suggested that the gender in which the children identified with was deeply held.
Opinions vary among experts on what to do regarding children who express being transgender. Some experts are of the opinion that the child simply needs help learning to be more comfortable with the gender that they were assigned to at birth, and they should not be encouraged to live as the gender that they express identifying as. However, a growing number of experts believe that a child who expresses being transgender should be supported in their feelings, and be allowed to transition to the gender that they identify with. One of the major reasons for this is due to the tragically high number of transgender people who commit suicide due to depression. One of the major reasons for depression among transgender people is due to lack of support and acceptance among their family.
Part of Olson’s research includes tracking the children that participated in the initial study, and documenting how the children develop as they transition into the gender they identify as while moving into adulthood. Once the findings of the study are complete and published, hopefully it will give experts and parents a better understanding of transgender children, and how to better support them.