By Robin Lempel
We often hear the same excuses when "adults" don’t accept transgender kids: the kids are confused, it’s just a phase, they’re pretending, they’re just kids. Well, now we can throw those excuses out the window.
A new study that’s set to be published in Psychological Science shows what we should already know: transgender kids are as sure about their gender identity as cisgender kids (cisgender means you identify with the sex you were assigned at birth).
There’s a lot of controversy over whether children can be transgender before going through puberty, but this study proved that transgender kids are completely capable of understanding their own gender identity from an early age.
The study, which was run by the University of Washington’s Kristina Olson, Stony Brook’s Nicholas Eaton, and Aidan Key from Gender Diversity, assigned the same tasks to 32 trans children, 18 of their siblings, and 32 cisgender children ages 5 to 12. The tasks measured their gender identity both with self-report measures and implicit measures such as checking the speed they used to associated "male" and "female" to “me” and “not me.”
And what did they find? Transgender children’s responses were “indistinguishable from those of two groups of cisgender children.”
“While future studies are always needed, our results support the notion that transgender children are not confused, delayed, showing gender-atypical responding pretending, or oppositional – they instead show responses entirely typical and expected for children with their gender identity,” the researchers wrote. “The data reported in this paper should serve as further evidence that transgender children do indeed exist and that this identity is a deeply held one.”
Olson would also like to study a group of transgender kids into adulthood to see how support they receive affects their development. This is really the first generation of transgender kids who are expressing their gender identity so young, and Olson is calling them “the pioneers.”
But this current study in and of itself is so important to trans kids who are so often doubted by adults who don't understand or are unwilling to accept them. It proves that a person’s gender identity really is such a deeply personal and important one, and transgender kids are just as sure of their identities as cisgender kids are and should be respected for it.