Story at a glance
- Transgender children who socially transition are unlikely to “detransition” after five years, new research has found.
- Roughly 7 percent of youth reported “retransitioning” at least once in the five years since they began their social transition, including 1.3 percent who said they only temporarily retransitioned.
- The results come as lawmakers in dozens of states consider measures to restrict access to gender-affirming care for minors.
Transgender children who socially transition are unlikely to “detransition,” or come to identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, later in life, new research has found.
In a study published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at Princeton University, the University of Washington and the University of Victoria in Canada concluded that transgender youth are unlikely to “detransition” five years after their social transition, which may include a name or pronoun change or a decision to wear more gender-affirming clothing.
Five years after socially transitioning, 94 percent of youth said they continued to identify as transgender, while just 2.5 percent said they identified as cisgender, according to the study, which used data collected from 317 “initially-transgender” youth as part of the Trans Youth Project, a longitudinal study. About 3 percent said they identified as nonbinary after five years.
Roughly 7 percent of youth reported “retransitioning” at least once in the five years since they started their social transition, including 1.3 percent who said they briefly retransitioned to another identity but ultimately returned to their transgender identity.
“These results suggest that retransitions are infrequent,” the study’s authors wrote Wednesday. “More commonly, transgender youth who socially transitioned at early ages continued to identify that way.”
Retransitioning, according to the study, was most common among youth whose social transition began before the age of 6 and often occurred before their 10th birthday.
The results come as lawmakers in dozens of states consider passing legislation to prevent transgender and nonbinary minors from accessing gender-affirming care, although those efforts have mostly focused on barring access to medical treatments like puberty blockers or gender-affirming hormones, which some conservative officials have equated to child abuse.
Already, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee have passed laws that ban or heavily restrict gender-affirming care for minors. In Alabama, doctors who provide their young patients with puberty blockers or hormones could face up to a decade in prison.
In guidance released last month, Florida’s Health Department said children younger than 18 years old should not be permitted or encouraged to receive any form of gender-affirming care — including “social gender transition.”
“Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18,” Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said last month in a statement. Ladapo also accused the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of “injecting political ideology into the health of our children” by publishing a fact sheet which outlines the merits of gender-affirming care.
The study’s authors on Wednesday acknowledged that more research is needed to understand the “gender trajectory” of gender-expansive children, and they plan to “follow this cohort into adolescence and adulthood.”
“This continued follow-up is necessary because it is possible that as more youth move into adolescence and adulthood, their identities could change,” they wrote. “As we already saw, some youth will retransition more than once so the present identities should not be interpreted as final.”