Study: the trans kids are alright when they have family support

In a new study, the first to look at the mental health of transgender children, University of Washington researchers found that trans kids with family support had levels of depression and anxiety comparable to their cisgender peers. The limited research on trans people that exists has shown high levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidality. So this research confirms what many of us already know: letting trans kids be themselves is good for their health. And conversely, forcing them to live as the gender assigned at birth instead of letting them be themselves is bad for their health.

While this may seem obvious to many of us, there are still those even on the left who support the trans version of ex-gay therapy. It is only recently that Kenneth Zucker’s government supported clinic in Canada, where this cruel and abusive approach to trans kids was championed, was closed. Last month, NYMag published an article and series of blog posts by Jesse Singal that painted Zucker as a scientist who’s work was ended not for legitimate reason but as the result of political pressure. When Singal was criticized by trans activists for his writing (including in an article here), he and other members of left-leaning media pushed back, expressing a belief that they were defending science against activists run amok.

There is a deeply ingrained notion that kids can’t know that they are trans when they’re young, an idea that even leads those who think they support trans people – like Singal – to stand on the side of an abuser like Zucker. How could a child as young as 3 know they’re a different gender than the one all the adults around them say they are? According to Kristina Olson, who led the UW study:

“It’s kind of an unfair question,” she said. “Why should we believe any other kid knows their gender if these kids aren’t allowed to know theirs?”

Clearly, we should be thinking about this differently. Kids should get to say what their gender is, and we need to recognize that sometimes adults get it wrong. We need to recognize the cruel punishment of not letting kids be themselves as what it is. Hopefully, the implication of this study that lack of family support leads to negative mental health outcomes helps more people finally understand.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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