Transgender kids whose parents are constantly reassuring and supportive of them enjoy good mental health, without experiencing a heightened risk of suffering from depression, researchers have recently determined.
The findings were detailed in the journal Pediatrics, published on Thursday, February 25. They were based on a study led by Kristina Olson, director of the TransYouth Project and of the Social Cognitive Development Lab at the University of Washington.
Olson and her colleagues aimed to investigate the effects that social transition has on the mental well-being of transgender kids.
Social transition occurs when transgender persons becomes more in tune with their gender identity, which differs from their natal sex, and are able to express that in the presence of others.
Transgender kids undergoing social transition may wish to be addressed by a different pronoun or to go by a different name, corresponding to the gender they feel that they belong to.
Moreover, they may be more inclined to alter their physical appearance so that it can more accurately reflect their conception of themselves (as female or male).
They may express the desire to adopt an entirely different hairstyle or to wear clothes that are commonly preferred by members of their true gender.
In addition, they might also feel uncomfortable using bathrooms destined for people pertaining to the same biological gender as themselves.
Social transition takes place much more smoothly when children have a good support system, represented by family and friends.
Parents are especially important when it comes to making transgender kids feel loved and accepted for who they are, by giving them the opportunity to leave behind the gender they have been “assigned” when they were born, and instead live out their true identity.
Researchers sought to determine if this type of emotional support would translate into a positive effect on the children’s mental health.
A group of 73 transgender kids who had already undergone social transition were included in the survey, their ages varying between 3 and 12.
Also participating in the trial were 49 of these children’s siblings, as well 73 other kids whose gender identities matched the ones from the initial group.
The mental health of these prepubescent subjects was assessed based on questionnaires filled out by each kid’s mother or father.
It was discovered that transgender kids who have socially transitioned aren’t more predisposed to suffering from depression, when compared against representatives of the gender that they relate to.
It was also noticed that these children whose gender identity is fully embraced in their social circle have a slightly higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety, but that’s understandable, given the fact that transgender kids tend to be more concerned about their body and about the changes they will suffer during puberty.
Such youngsters may also be more distressed because they frequently have to conceal their gender identity from outsiders, fearing that they will be bullied or rejected.
Overall, the findings are important because they show that transgender kids can benefit from solid emotional health, as long as their loved ones allow them and even encourage them to be true to their inward gender identity, instead of trying to resist it or ignore it.
Since suicide rates are usually much more elevated among transgender adults, and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are more prevalent, it now appears obvious that such upsetting trends linked to discrimination, self-loathing and lack of inclusion could be reversed, by fostering social transitioning from an early age.
It must be noted that this new research has certain limitations, such as the fact that the answers were provided by parents, who may have been subjective when evaluating their offspring’s emotional well-being.
Another shortcoming of the study is that its sample group wasn’t heterogeneous enough, with more than two thirds of the transgender kids being Caucasian and exhibiting male anatomy.
As a result, further research should be conducted, in order to test the validity of these preliminary findings.
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