Kids who transition to a new gender before age 6 almost always maintain their new gender after five years, according to a new study.
The researchers followed a cohort of 317 transgender youth who all socially transitioned — such as by adopting new pronouns, names, clothing, and haircuts but not taking any medical transition steps — between the ages of 3 and 12. The average age of the group when starting to transition was 6.5 years, according to the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics and used data collected from Princeton University’s Trans Youth Project.
For the longitudinal study, the researchers examined the rate of retransition, or reverting to the child’s original gender, after five years. They found that only 2.5% of the group had reverted to the gender that they were assigned at birth (social transition is entirely reversible). Ninety-four percent of the group identified as binary transgender and 3.5% as nonbinary.
The results of the study, which is the first of its kind, suggest that detransitioning is uncommon in children, just as it is in adults, and the majority of kids who are allowed to socially transition stick with their transgender identity over time. The researchers plan to follow the group for a total of 20 years.
More than 60% of the study participants are white children from financially comfortable families who are supportive of their transitions, according to the New York Times. Also, since the study began almost 10 years ago, when fewer children were coming out as trans, it may not wholly reflect the population of transgender children today.
The data comes as a storm of anti-LGBTQ and specifically anti-trans legislation is being proposed and passed across the nation. At present, more than 300 LGBTQ-discriminatory bills have been introduced in 2022 alone, many attacking transgender children’s access to gender-affirming medical care, but some are taking aim at social transitions as well. A newly published report from advocacy group The Trevor Project found that 93% of transgender youth are concerned about their ability to access gender-affirming medical care, which the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both consider life-saving care.
The Trevor Project report also found that nearly 20% of transgender youth had attempted suicide in the past year, but those who felt supported by their families and communities were 50% less likely to attempt suicide. “The most common supportive actions taken by parents or caregivers included being welcoming to their LGBTQ friends or partners, talking with them respectfully about their LGBTQ identity, using their names and pronouns correctly, supporting their gender expression, and educating themselves about LGBTQ people and issues,” Dr. Myeshia Price, Senior Research Scientist at The Trevor Project, previously told Fatherly in an interview about the report, adding, “We encourage all parents to treat all LGBTQ youth in their lives with dignity and respect — because affirming them for who they are can be life-saving.”