New Study Shows That Gender Variance in Youth Isn’t a Phase


Trans YouthA new study to soon be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows that gender variance in youth is not a phase or a choice, but is however an identity as valid and consistent and those in cisgender children.

The study, led by psychology professor Kristina Olson of the University of Washington, tested 32 gender variant youths (aged 5 – 12) against cisgendered siblings and other children of a similar age. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is designed to explore “the unconscious roots of thinking and feeling.” The test is based on the theory that people are faster to respond to pairings that are more strongly associated in memory, so someone who identified as male would respond faster to, for example, football rather than princesses.

However, the IAT test has had mixed reviews from psychologists and has been a subject of debate. It has been criticised for having inconsistent results when repeated and having (in many studies) very broad result categories (such as slight, moderate and extreme, which provides little information to the client). Although, as it tests unconscious thinking, it is extremely useful for gender studies, but less useful in, for example, testing racial bias in doctors working in hospitals.

In the recent study comparing gender variant youth with cisgender siblings and children of a similar age, the pattern of data showed that the results of the transgender children were indistinguishable from those of cisgender children, which shows that transgender youth identify with their gender in the same, consistent way as cisgender youth do. For years trans allies and advocates have been saying that being transgender is not a phase or a choice, that it is a consistent and very valid gender identity, but there is now scientific proof to show this to the rest of the world.

Lead researcher, Kristina Olson, acknowledges that this study is preliminary, and there is still a long way to go for the trans* community, however, she hopes that other researchers will use her study to carry out similar tests to further prove and further increase the general acceptance of the trans community.

“While future studies are always needed, our results support the notion that transgender children are not confused, delayed, showing gender-atypical responding, pretending, or oppositional—they instead show responses entirely typical and expected for children with their gender identity, the data reported in this paper should serve as further evidence that transgender children do indeed exist and that this identity is a deeply held one.”

With each study, protest, and unfortunately every death, more and more people are knowing about us. We are here, and we are every day one step closer to equality.


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A developing photographer, artist, musician and journalist. An ally and activist for trans rights.

1 Comment

  1. Dee Marshall on

    Eventually someone is going to want to turn this into a diagnostic tool. When that happens we have to be ready to remind them that, like other, similar tests, it will likely lead to a number of “false negatives”. In other words, just because someone doesn’t come up trans on a test doesn’t mean that they’re not trans. That being said, for those who do test positive, and really for all of us, this is a significant vindication once someone replicates the study.

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