According to a study, children generally remain consistent during their social transition.
Talbot says she’s often asked when she knew she was trans, and her answer is simple: She always knew who she was.
His mother could see him early too. Before her transition, she played with trains, but hers hosted tea parties. She swapped her Halloween elephant costume with a friend to be Cinderella. And she loved Mulan, a girl who had to pretend to be a boy to fit in.
“There’s a lot of talk about early childhood social transition, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Olson said. “Although it is widely talked about, there is surprisingly little data.”
“Hopefully, this evidence will dispel unfounded public concerns that the majority of transgender youth are not truly transgender. On the contrary, transgender children and adolescents know who they are, and the overwhelming majority of these children and adolescents retain this identity years later.”
Retransition is often used in conversations as a reason not to support a child’s transition, Olson said.
What if they change their minds? What if the transition experience is traumatic and then they go through trauma again?
“Most of the people I know personally who have retransitioned continue to feel affiliated with and/or supportive of transgender people and communities,” she added.
Olson and other researchers are delving deeper into the experience of retransition, and the data so far shows that the emotional difficulty of the experience depends on the support the individual has.
“Children in this study benefited from parental support for social transition at a young age. Not all trans+ children are so fortunate,” Devor said via email.
Trust and support
When Talbot was in fifth grade, his mother found a camp for children and families to explore gender identity. This is where Talbot said she was able to put language to how she felt all along.
But Devin Green had to take his parents on board.
Green was born into a conservative Jamaican family and his family joined a very religious group in North Carolina.
“I grew up in an environment that didn’t think it was okay for me to be different,” Green said. But in ninth grade, he felt very firm in his trans identity.
When he went out with his parents, they reacted with fear that presented as anger, he said.
“In Jamaica, people are often killed for coming out, so coming out as a member of the community in any capacity is really scary,” he said. It took a bit of convincing before the family started investigating trans support organizations.
It can be difficult to know how to support your children when you’re concerned about their physical and emotional well-being, but Talbot and Green advised families to follow their child’s lead.
“Love your kids and help them explore what gender means to them. Trust them to find the path that’s best for them,” Devor said.
To be involved
Talbot, now 20, is an advocate, singer and performer. Green, 19, is preparing to attend law school in the fall in hopes of advancing LGBTQ rights. Her family members have also become advocates, and her mother is earning a doctorate in nursing practice with a focus on LGBTQ issues.
“I never looked back,” Talbot said. “It’s not to say that before my transition and after the transition, life wasn’t difficult, but the difference is that … I deal with these things as myself.”