News Detail

UW News recently reported about more findings on gender identity from Kristina Olson’s Trans Youth Project.

Among transgender children, gender identity as strong as in cisgender children, study shows

Kim Eckart

Children who identify as the gender matching their sex at birth tend to gravitate toward the toys, clothing and friendships stereotypically associated with that gender.

Transgender children do the same with the gender they identify as, regardless of how long they have actually lived as a member of that gender. New findings from the largest study of socially-transitioned transgender children in the world, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, show that gender identity and gender-typed preferences manifest similarly in both cis- and transgender children, even those who recently transitioned.

The study, published Nov. 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed more than 300 transgender children from across the United States, as well as nearly 200 of their cisgender siblings and about 300 unrelated cisgender children as a control group. It is the first study to report on all of the participants in the TransYouth Project, launched in 2013 by UW professor of psychology Kristina Olson.

The transgender children in this study, all of whom enrolled between the ages of 3 and 12, had socially — but not medically — transitioned when they participated: They had changed their pronouns and often their first names, as well as dress and play in ways associated with a gender other than their sex at birth.

For this study, researchers met individually with participants and their parents at participants’ homes, conferences and camps. Participants were asked about specific aspects of life that are typically connected to gender — clothing, toys and friends. The researchers also evaluated participants’ sense of their own gender identity. While the team observed some variability in how strong children’s preferences and identities were, the transgender children showed, on average, strong preferences and behaviors associated with their current gender, just as the cisgender children with whom they were compared.

“Trans kids are showing strong identities and preferences that are different from their assigned sex,” said lead author Selin Gülgöz, who did the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the UW and will start a new position this winter as an assistant professor at Fordham University. “There is almost no difference between these trans- and cisgender kids of the same gender identity — both in how, and the extent to which, they identify with their gender or express that gender.”

Read the entire article here.