(Reuters Health) – Transgender preschoolers are no less confident than their peers about their gender, a new study found.
They were just as likely as non-transgender children to say their gender as grownups would be the same as their gender in preschool.
“These new findings show that, for example, transgender girls believe they will grow up to be women just as much as other girls believe they will grow up to be women,” said senior author Kristina Olson, of the University of Washington in Seattle. “Same thing for transgender boys. Our groups were equally confident about their future gender being stable.”
People who are transgender do not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. A person born with the anatomy of a female may identify as male, or vice versa. Sometimes, people don’t identify with either gender. People whose gender identity and anatomy do match are known as cisgender.
Writing in the journal Child Development, Olson and her co-author Anne Fast quote a previous study from New Zealand that estimates about 1.2 percent of people are transgender.
Olson’s previous research found that transgender and cisgender elementary school students reach gender-related milestones at a similar pace.
The new study focused on preschoolers. Researchers interviewed children between the ages of 3 and 5 years, including 36 who were transgender, 24 who were cisgender with a transgender sibling and 36 cisgender children without transgender siblings.
Along with observing how the children dressed, the researchers also asked how they saw themselves as adults, what they thought of the adult or childhood genders of people in pictures, what toys they’d like to play with and who among people in pictures would be their friends.
Overall, transgender children answered similarly to their cisgender peers of the same gender.
For example, children who identified as male were likely to gravitate toward objects that are stereotypically masculine, like an orange tool set or red barbecue set. Meanwhile, children who identified as girls gravitated toward stereotypically feminine objects, like a pink and sparkly dress.
Transgender children did differ from their cisgender peers when asked about their gender as babies. For example, a transgender child identifying as female would say she was a boy as a baby, while a cisgender preschooler identifying as female would say she was a girl as an infant.
Olson’s team isn’t sure why transgender children view their gender in infancy as different from their gender in preschool. The children may be parroting what they’ve heard from adults about their birth, Olson said in an email.
“They might also hear this question as being about how people used to treat them versus how they treat them now,” Olson added. “More research is necessary to figure out exactly what is happening here.”
The new study shows transgender children demonstrate the same developmental gender hallmarks as children who are not transgender, she said.
“So this paper, like our past study, shows that from the perspective of the child’s identified gender, these socially-transitioned transgender children look just like most other kids,” said Olson.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2pf6lKf Child Development, online April 25, 2017.
(In paragraph 12, corrects to Olson from Olsen)