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Kristina Olson discusses the inspiration that led to her research on transgender children in this Seattle Times article

Nicole Brodeur / Columnist

UW researcher wins $1 million National Science Foundation grant to study transgender youth

Kristina Olson , who runs the TransYouth Project at the University of Washington, was awarded The National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award — the U.S. government’s highest honor for an early career scientist or engineer.

It all started 10 years ago at a dinner party at a friend’s house, where Kristina Olson met a young boy who made it clear that he wasn’t planning on staying that way.

He was going to live as a girl. And that was pretty much that.

“This is a kid who says, ‘I’m in this category, but the whole world thinks I’m over here,’ ” Olson explained the other day. “This is a kid who was saying, ‘No. Everybody’s calling me a boy and I am a girl.’ And I just thought that was interesting.”

Olson, a psychologist, was inspired to start researching issues of gender identity in prepubescent children — and found that very little had been done.

So she made those children the focus of her work, while delving into how people see themselves, how they see one another, and how those ideas form early in life.

“I’m interested in the experience of feeling that you are in a social category that other people don’t think you’re a part of,” she said.

Olson, 36, runs the Social Cognitive Development Lab at the University of Washington, where she arrived in 2013 and where she created the TransYouth Project , the nation’s largest longitudinal study of transgender children.

Her lab is made up of three staff members, 12 undergrad students, seven grad students and one postdoctoral student — a handful of them transgender.

The Project will follow a cohort of 300 children from 45 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces for 20 years.

Read the entire article here .