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Transgender youth who start socially transitioning at a young age still identify as transgender years later, a new study published Wednesday suggests.
For about five years, researchers with Princeton University’s TransYouthProject followed 317 children who had already socially transitioned — a process that typically involves a change in first names, pronouns, hairstyle and clothing — to examine their rate of “retransition” as well as their current gender identities.
Participants were between the ages of 3 and 12 when they enrolled in the study, and all of them had made a complete social transition. On average, kids began identifying as trans around the age of 6.
Most children in the study come from high-income families who “went to college at higher rates than the general population,” and who supported their transitions, researchers said. It’s unknown whether similar results would be found among kids of different backgrounds.
Based on the data collected, researchers found that 94% of the kids still identified as transgender five years later, while 2.5% of them went back to identifying as cisgender, and 3.5% began identifying as nonbinary.
Among the 94% of youth who identified as trans at the end of the study, 1.3% of them “retransitioned to another identity” before returning to their trans identity.
Nearly two-thirds of kids who identified as trans at the end of the study were using either puberty-blocking medication or hormones to medically transition.
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“These results suggest that retransitions are infrequent,” the authors wrote in study, adding that “understanding retransitions is crucial for clinicians and families to help make them as smooth as possible for youth.”
Kristina Olson, a Princeton University psychologist and the study’s lead author, told The Associated Press that the findings suggest that “our model of thinking about people as they’re either X or Y, they’re either cisgender or transgender … is kind of an antiquated way of thinking about gender.”
The study comes at a time when a record number of state legislatures are passing laws designed at stopping trans kids from seeking gender-affirming care.
Legislatures in 22 states have introduced bills to ban best-practice medical care for transgender young people in 2021, according to the Movement Advancement Project. That means that an estimated 64,700 young trans people, ages 13-17, are at risk of losing access to critical medical care.
In Alabama, for example, Senate Bill 184, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey last month, punishes parents or legal guardians for making decisions about their children’s care, and threatens criminal prosecution and jail time to doctors and other healthcare providers for offering — or even suggesting — medically necessary care to trans youth under the age of 19.
“I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl,” Ivey said in a statement when signing SB 184 into law.
The study, entitled “Gender Identity Five Years after Social Transition,” was published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.