Study onthe development of transgender children and youth

by SelinGülgöz, Jessica J Glazier, Elizabeth A Enright, Daniel J Alonso, Lily J Durwood, Anne A Fast, Riley Lowe, Chonghui Ji, Jeffrey Heer, Carol Lynn Martin, Kristina R Olson

Proceedings of the National Academy ofSciences of the United States of America 2019;116 (49):24480-85 (Not open access)


Gender isone of the central categories organizing children’s social world. Clearpatterns of gender development have been well-documented among cisgenderchildren (i.e., children who identify as a gender that is typically associated withtheir sex assigned at birth). We present a comprehensive study of genderdevelopment (e.g., gender identity and gender expression) in a cohort of 3- to12-year-old transgender children (n=317) who, in early childhood, areidentifying and living as a gender different from their assigned sex. Fourprimary findings emerged. First, transgender children strongly identify asmembers of their current gender group and show gender-typed preferences andbehaviors that are strongly associated with their current gender, not thegender typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. Second,transgender children’s gender identity (i.e. the gender they feel they are) andgender-typed preferences generally did not differ from 2 comparison groups:cisgender siblings (n=189) and cisgender controls (n=316). Third, transgenderand cisgender children’s patterns of gender development showed coherence acrossmeasures. Finally, we observed minimal or no differences in gender identity orpreferences as a function of how long transgender children had lived as theircurrent gender. Our findings suggest that early sex assignment and parentalrearing based on that sex assignment do not always define how a childidentifies or expresses gender later.


Questions of nature and nurture have dominated efforts to understandhuman gender development. Today’s transgender children provide a unique windowinto gender development: They have been treated as 2 different genders (1gender before transition and 1 gender after their social transition) and arethe first sizable group of children living as a gender that differs from theirassigned sex. As such, their experiences enable insight into gender developmentthat is otherwise not possible. The current study provides the largest reportto date of the experiences of these early-transitioning children’s genderdevelopment.

VISUAL:Transcafe, by Paige Mehrer

REPORTED IN: CEEBulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, No.10 (189) 2019