‘Is my child trans?’ Research says probably not.
It is not abnormal or unusual for a child to like playing with toys and wearing clothes which are associated with the opposite sex. It is also not uncommon for such children to insist that they actually are the opposite sex. The research shows clearly that the overwhelming majority of children outgrow identification with the opposite sex during puberty and that by far the most likely outcome is that these children will turn out to be gay or lesbian, as these research studies show.
What’s Missing From The Conversation About Transgender Kids
Jesse Singal, Science of Us, July 2016
“Every study that has been conducted on this has found the same thing. At the moment there is strong evidence that even many children with rather severe gender dysphoria will, in the long run, shed it and come to feel comfortable with the bodies they were born with. The critiques of the desistance literature presented by Tannehill, Serano, Olson and Durwood, and others don’t come close to debunking what is a small but rather solid, strikingly consistent body of research.”
Do trans kids stay trans when they grow up?
James Cantor, Sexology Today, January 2016
“In total, there have been three large scale follow-up studies and a handful of smaller ones. I have listed all of them below, together with their results. (In the table, “cis-” means non-transsexual.) Despite the differences in country, culture, decade, and follow-up length and method, all the studies have come to a remarkably similar conclusion: Only very few trans- kids still want to transition by the time they are adults. Instead, they generally turn out to be regular gay or lesbian folks. The exact number varies by study, but roughly 60–90% of trans- kids turn out no longer to be trans by adulthood.”
Read the full study results here
Published Transgender Research Studies Into Outcomes For Children Diagnosed With ‘Gender Identity Disorder’
Paper by Nancy Bartlett et al, published in the journal Sex Roles ( 2000)
A comprehensive research study of ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ in children, this paper is a meta-study of numerous small-scale studies. It demonstrates clearly that:
- The most likely outcome for children with GID, with or without treatment, is homosexuality and that the prevention of homosexuality remains a significant reason for referral of children with GID.
“Regardless of the fact that homosexuality is not officially considered a disordered outcome, the prevention of homosexuality remains a significant reason for referral of children with GID. It would be naive to believe that prevention of homosexuality is not a motivating factor for at least some of the clinicians who work with children referred for gender-atypicality.”
- There is a lack of empirical evidence to support the notion of distress caused directly by GID as opposed to factors associated with it (situations that are secondary to the condition, such as social disapproval or rejection due to one’s nonconformity to societal norms.)
- Child distress does not seem to be a common reason for referral of children with GID. Rather, the basis for clinical referral is more often parents’ or teachers’ concern regarding the child’s “intense involvement in overt cross-gender play.”
A Follow-Up study of Boys With Gender Identity Disorder (2012)
“At follow-up, 17 participants (12.2%) were judged to have persistent gender dysphoria. Regarding sexual orientation, 82 (63.6%) participants were classified as bisexual/homosexual in fantasy and 51 (47.2%) participants were classified as bisexual/homosexual in behavior. The remaining participants were classified as either heterosexual or asexual. With gender identity and sexual orientation combined, the most common long-term outcome was desistence of GID with a bisexual/homosexual sexual orientation followed by desistence of GID with a heterosexual sexual orientation.”
Psychosexual outcome of gender-dysphoric children (2008)
Conclusion: Most children with gender dysphoria will not remain gender dysphoric after puberty. Children with persistent GID are characterized by more extreme gender dysphoria in childhood than children with desisting gender dysphoria. With regard to sexual orientation, the most likely outcome of childhood GID is homosexuality or bisexuality.
Gender Identity Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence (2008)
Conclusion: Only 2.5% to 20% of all cases of GID in childhood and adolescence are the initial manifestation of irreversible transsexualism. As children with GID only rarely go on to have permanent transsexualism, irreversible physical interventions are clearly not indicated until after the individual’s psychosexual development is complete. The identity-creating experiences of this phase of development should not be restricted by the use of LHRH analogues that prevent puberty (ie. ‘puberty blockers.’)
A follow-up study of girls with gender identity disorder (2008)
Conclusion: At follow-up, 3 participants (12%) were judged to have GID or gender dysphoria, 8 participants (32%) were classified as bisexual/homosexual in fantasy, and 6 (24%) were classified as bisexual/homosexual in behaviour. The remaining participants were classified as either heterosexual or asexual.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care Document (2012)
Conclusion: In follow-up studies of prepubertal children (mainly boys) who were referred to clinics for assessment of gender dysphoria, the dysphoria persisted into adulthood for only 6–23% of children (Cohen-Kettenis, 2001; Zucker & Bradley, 1995). Boys in these studies were more likely to identify as gay in adulthood than as transgender (Green, 1987; Money & Russo, 1979; Zucker & Bradley, 1995; Zuger, 1984). Newer studies, also including girls, showed a 12–27% persistence rate of gender dysphoria into adulthood (Drummond, Bradley, Peterson-Badali, & Zucker, 2008; Wallien & Cohen-Kettenis, 2008.)
Early Medical Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Gender Dysphoria: An Empirical Ethical Study
Journal of Adolescent Health (2015)
This most recent study also finds that only in a minority of prepubertal children, GD will persist and manifest as an adolescent/adult GD. The percentage of “persisters” appears to be between 10% and 27%
This is a qualitative study to identify proponents and opponents of early treatment of children, based on questionnaires and interviews of professionals from 17 treatment teams worldwide. Questions are based on 7 areas, including the nature of gender dysphoria and the competence of children in making decisions.
Although The Endocrine Society and the WPATH guidelines recommend the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists in adolescence to suppress puberty, in actual practice “no consensus exists whether to use these early medical interventions. Strikingly, the guidelines are debated both for being too liberal and for being too limiting. Nevertheless, many treatment teams using the guidelines are exploring the possibility of lowering the current age limits.”
Conclusions: As long as debate remains on these seven themes and only limited long-term data are available, there will be no consensus on treatment. Therefore, more systematic interdisciplinary and (worldwide) multicenter research is required.