Transgender kids not confused about identity: Study

A new study reveals that transgender children are fully capable of understanding their gender identity, even at such a young age.

“I don’t know why I am a boy—I just know it.” These words come from eight-year-old Qbdoo, seen in the video above.

Qbdoo is the face of New York’s Empire State Pride Agenda and it’s Change.org petition calling for basic civil rights for transgender people. And groundbreaking new study confirms what kids like Qbdoo already know—that transgender kids are not confused by gender and understand their identity, even at a young age.

The US-based study, set to be published in Psychological Science, is one of the first studies of its kind and reveals that transgender kids have a strong gender identity that is not the result of confusion or pretense. A team of researchers interviewed 32 transgender children between the ages of five and 12, 18 of their siblings and 32 non-trans kids (also referred to as cisgender). The children were asked questions used in previous studies to measure gender identification. They discovered the transgender kids’ answers were indistinguishable from the other children, revealing that trans kids understood that they didn’t identify with the gender with which they were born. The study courted some controversy, both in the professional and public sphere, over whether or not kids should be labeled as transgender before hitting puberty.

University of Washington psychological scientist Kristina Olson said she was inspired to conduct the study after witnessing how difficult it was for her friends with transgender children. “Seeing how little scientific information there was, basically nothing for parents, was hard to watch,” she says. “Doctors were saying, ‘We just don’t know,’ so the parents have to make these really big decisions: Should I let my kid go to school as a girl, or should I make my kid go to school as a boy? Should my child be in therapy to try to change what she says she is, or should she be supported?”

Olson wants to further the study and recruit other transgender children that she would follow into adulthood, in the hopes that she can lay the groundwork for parents and professionals in the future. “We are trying to track this first generation to see what their lives look like going forward, partly to help parents make decisions about what to do if they have a transgender child,” she explains. “Until now, the only studies that existed were based on children’s therapy to not identify that way.”

Transgender issues are in the media spotlight right now—from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s daughter Shiloh, who allegedly wants to be addressed as John, to reality TV dad and former Olympian Bruce Jennerwho is reportedly transitioning into a woman at the age of 65.

This study is for the parents and kids struggling against prejudices and misinformation. It’s for the kids fighting for their identities and those on the brink of despair, seeking acceptance and recognition from society. These kids, like Qbdoo, are true pioneers, and they need all the support they can get.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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