What if there were a psychological test to tell if someone was transgender? Would the controversies over trans youth disappear if there was a clear way to sort out which children would grow up to be transgender adults and which ones would not?
In an upcoming paper for Psychological Science, as reported by the Atlantic, researcher Kristina Olson and her team found differences between children who would later go on to transition (by changing the pronouns that they used) and those who did not. Their longitudinal study found that the future transitioners were similar on measures of gender identity and gender-nonconforming behavior to trans children who had already changed their pronouns, and that both the future transitioners and the trans youth were similar to a control group of cisgender children of the opposite sex. Importantly, the gender-nonconforming kids who transitioned differed significantly from the ones who did not—think a boy who often wore dresses, but still felt himself to be a boy after the 12- to 18-month follow-up. The study also found that the behavior of these children did not change further after they transitioned; they did not become more masculine or feminine as a result of changing the pronouns that they used. (This runs contrary to the anti-trans hypothesis that imagines gender nonconformity as being like a progressive illness that starts small and ends in transitioning if parents fail to nip it in the bud.) The result builds on Olson’s previous research, which showed that transgender youth in an affirming environment have no more mental health issues than their cisgender peers, and that the gender identity and expression of trans youth is similar to that of cisgender peers of the opposite assigned sex.