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.

Some trans children want to begin a social transition at a young age, where social factors like their name, clothing, and appearance match their gender identity. But some families are hesitant to support social transition, especially given the possibility of retransition, when a child transitions to a non-binary gender or to the gender that matches the sex they were assigned at birth, said Kristina Olsonprofessor of psychology at Princeton University.

“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.”

Olson and a team of researchers supplemented data from a study published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics. They found that of more than 300 transgender children who transitioned socially from age 3 to 12, only 7.3% made the transition again within the next five years.
“These findings reiterate the need for children and adolescents (and adults) to believe when affirming and sharing their gender with the adults in their lives,” said Russ Toomey, professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona, via email. Toomey did not participate in the study.

“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?

“Only a small number will socially transition to another gender. Only a small number of that small number will change their minds – and most of those who retransmit will do so before they have made any permanent changes,” said Aaron Devor, professor of sociology and chair of transgender studies at the University of Victoria in Canada. Devor did not participate in the study.
Some may ultimately see their transition as a “mistake,” but others may see it as a step in their continued exploration of gender, said Julia Serano, trans activist and author of “Whipping Girl: A trans woman on sexism and the scapegoat of femininity.”
Why kids turn to genderless pronouns

“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.

“Adolescence and early adulthood are characterized as transitional periods in our development; it’s the exact time when we learn who we are and how we adapt to the rest of the world. Sometimes that means trying new things and see if they fit,” said Myeshia Award, Principal Investigator for the Trevor Project. Price did not participate in the study.

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.

Devin Green, 19, said his parents initially reacted with fear, presenting themselves as anger, when he came out to his family.
Young people need us to see them as they are, and adults are missing out, study finds

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.

Trevor Project Research showed that “transgender and non-binary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected”, Price said.

To be involved

“If you don’t understand your child’s feelings about gender, learn about gender identity and the issues facing trans youth with resources like The Trevor Project’s Guide to being an ally of transgender and non-binary youth is a great starting point,” added Price.
Transgender children and their parents struggle to cope with restrictive laws

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.”

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