On the Science of Changing Sex

Child’s Play

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on February 9, 2015

critical-thinkingFor years, critics of transkids’ identities have made claims that transkids are either “confused”, “delayed”, or “pretending”.  Many papers describing feminine boys from the 1960’s would describe them as being “talented mimics”, explicitely taking the position that men and women, boys and girls, do in fact have in-born differences in behavior, mannerisms, and motor-movements, but that these feminine boys were NOT exhibiting natural behavior, but were consciously, or “subconsciously”, observing girls and women, and learning to “mimic” these behaviors.  Of course, those of us who were such and grew up to transition, have long begged to differ!

Today, we have a published paper that demolishes these notions.  At the core of the paper is the ability to determine implicit associations between concepts.  If you are not familiar with this tool, it may be useful to review the Wiki page on Implicit Association Testing .  One of it strengths is that it cannot be “faked”.  It is impervious to Social Desirability Bias or other impression management distortions.  It is also impossible for someone to be “pretending”, as the cognitive load to evaluate the test set-up, determine the “right” answer, etc. would create an obvious delay in the test.  Further, if a child were “confused” as to the meaning of sex and gender, there would be an obvious anomalous signature in the test results.

ImplicitThe study involved 32 transkids, ages 5-12, 12 FtM, 20 MTF, who have already transitioned full time, with the full support of their families.  This would obviously include “early onset” transkids.  However, and this is critical, we know, or at least suspect, that some of these kids will “desist” being gender dysphoric before puberty, if they follow the trend already seen in other studies, most especially the Steensma study from the Netherlands.  Yet, for all of that, the results of the study show that these kids are completely consistent in their implicit gender identity and preferences as their opposite sex, non-trans, controls and siblings.  They are NOT pretending, nor confused.

The folks who conducted this recent study are continuing their work, looking at these kids as they grow up.  They are looking for additional transkids to join the study.

Study on Gender Nonconformity in Children

Hi from the TransYouth Project at the University of Washington! We are researchers interested in gender development in children and have a new research project we are currently recruiting families for. The project aims to better understand gender development in gender nonconforming and transgender children.  Our new study takes 30-60 minutes and includes children ages 3-12. We are running the study all over the U.S. and Canada so please let us know if you are interested and we can let you know when we’ll be in your area. We are hoping to recruit gender nonconforming children as well as their siblings (where applicable). All data collected as part of this study are confidential. Payment is $10 per parent and $10 plus a small toy per child. There is an optional longitudinal component that we can tell you more about as well if you are interested. To sign up for the study, please visit: http://www.transyouthproject.org. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Dr. Kristina Olson, via email (krolson@uw.edu) or phone (206-616-1371). Thanks for considering being a part of this research or telling someone who might be!


Kristina R. Olson, Aidan C. Key, Nicholas R. Eaton, “Gender Cognition in Transgender Children“, Psychological Science

Thomas D. Steensma, Roeline Biemond, Fijgie de Boer and Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, “Desisting and persisting gender dysphoria after childhood: A qualitative follow-up study”

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