Contradicting beliefs that transgender children are going through a “phase,” researchers from the University of Washington found that these children are just as likely to associate with the trappings of their chosen gender as their cisgender counterparts.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at more than 300 transgender children between the ages of 3 and 12, as well as nearly 200 of their cisgender siblings. An additional 300 cisgender children were included as a control group.
The average age of the children in the study was eight, with two-thirds of the transgender participants being girls. There were just slightly more boys than girls among their cisgender counterparts.
The researchers were attempting to compare the children to look for any differences between both group’s gender development. They looked at toy preferences, playmates, and choice of attire among both trans and cis children.
What they discovered was that both transgender and cisgender children appeared virtually identical when it came to their interests.
“The most surprising finding is, overall, just how similar transgender and cisgender kids looked,” said Selin Gülgöz, the co-author of the study, to Newsweek. “What this means is that, if I saw the data of any random participant, I would not be able to tell if that child is transgender or cisgender.”
Gülgöz added, “Within both transgender and cisgender children, we find a wide range in the strength of their identity and preferences. For example, we had some ‘tomboy’ transgender girls in the study, just as we had ‘tomboy’ cisgender girls.”
The transgender children in the study had all socially transitioned, living in the gender they identify with. As is typical for their age, they haven’t undergone any medical treatment. By and large, all of the children in the study had initially been raised in their birth gender, but this fact didn’t seem to affect their gender-based choices now in any obvious way.
The new research builds on previous work done at the University of Washington, showing that these children’s gender identity is fully consistent regardless of their social transition.
“Our data thus far suggest that the act of transitioning probably isn’t affecting gender identity one way or the other,” said Kristina Olson, head if the TransYouth Project as the University of Washington, to the UW News.
Added Gülgöz, “We’re not seeing any increases or decreases over time in how strongly transgender children identify with their current gender.”