Gender-nonconforming kids who go on to transition already have a strong sense of their gender identity, a new study suggests.
In 2013, Kristina Olson, a psychologist at the University of Washington, started a study on the well-being of transgender children.
The study also included gender non-conforming kids. Olson, in fact, has been contacted by several parents whose children defy gender roles in their everyday behavior without having transitioned or expressed willingness to do so.
How children perceive their own gender
Olson’s study included 85 non-conforming children, aged three to 12.
Researchers investigated the kids’ sense of gender asking about preferred toys and clothes.
Moreover, Olson’s team asked participants how similar they felt to girls or boys and which genders they felt they currently were or would be.
She observed that of these 85 gender non-conforming children, those who went on to transition showed a deep understanding of their own gender identity from a young age.
‘There’s a lot of public writing focused on the idea that we have no idea which of these gender-nonconforming kids will or will not eventually identify as trans,’ Olson told The Atlantic.
‘Our study suggests that it’s not random. We can’t say this kid will be trans and this one won’t be, but it’s not that we have no idea.’
‘I think this wouldn’t surprise parents of trans kids, and my findings are often “duh” findings for them. It seems pretty intuitive.’
Gender identity is the cause of transitioning
Olson’s study also dismissed the idea of differences in gender identity being the consequence of social transitions.
The team asked the same questions regarding gender identity to 84 transgender children who had already transitioned. Moreover, Olson surveyed 85 cisgender children.
None of these three groups showed significant differences in the perception of their identities and preferences.
‘Implicit in a lot of people’s concerns about social transition is this idea that it changes the kids in some way, and that making this decision is going to necessarily put a kid on a particular path,’ explained Olson.
The study suggests kids change their gender because of their identities and not the other way round.
Self-knowledge at an early age is common among trans people
Charlotte Tate explained the study reiterates something she’s found in many conversations with trans people. Tate is a trans woman and a psychologist at San Francisco State University.
‘One of the most consistent themes is that at some early point, sometimes as early as age three to five, there’s this feeling that the individual is part of another gender group,’ she said The Atlantic.
When told that they’re part of their assigned gender, ‘they’ll say, “No, that’s not right. That doesn’t fit me.” They have self-knowledge that’s private and that they’re trying to communicate.’