Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues
Currently, there is debate among scientists and clinicians as to whether a child who identifies as transgender, the gender “opposite” their natal sex, should be allowed to socially transition before puberty (a social transition is the process of changing one’s name and pronouns to live full time in one’s felt gender). Previous reports of clinical samples of gender dysphoric children who had not socially transitioned indicate that such children have high rates of anxiety and depression as well as low self-worth. Very little work exists reporting on the mental health of children who have socially transitioned. The present work examines self-reported anxiety and depression (n = 63, mean age 10.8) and self-worth (n = 116, mean age 9.3) in a community sample of socially transitioned transgender youth who are supported in their identities. When comparing transgender youth to siblings of transgender youth and age- and gender- matched controls, we found no significant group differences on measures of depression (F2,161 = 1.18, p = .311) or self-worth (F2,300 = 1.96, p = .142), and a marginal difference between groups on measures of anxiety (F2,161 = 2.62, p = .076). These rates stand in stark contrast with the high rates of mental health issues and low self-worth reported in gender dysphoric children who did not socially transition. Because this study did not randomly assign children to social transitions, these data cannot speak to whether social transitions caused these comparatively low rates of mental health issues, nor can they speak to which children social transitions may be beneficial for. However, these data illustrate early evidence that childhood social transitions can be associated with positive outcomes.