Majority of trans people first question their gender before they’re seven years old, landmark study finds

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Most trans people are seven years old when they first question their gender, scientists say.

Published on March 16 in medical journal JAMA Open Network, the authors found that three-quarters of transgender men and women first experience gender dysphoria by the age of seven.

Thought to be the first time researchers have looked at the age when gender dysphoria first presents in trans people, the authors said their study should help reassure the parents of young trans people.

“For parents, these findings should provide some reassurance that what they’re seeing in their children is natural, that it’s not a ‘phase’, as some have described it,” study co-author Maurice Garcia, a urologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told UPI.

“And, if we as parents and society respond negatively or irresponsibly to what these children are going through, it can have lasting consequences.”

The study also found that, on average, trans people took between 22 and 27 years from first experiencing gender dysphoria to coming out as trans and socially transitioning.

The researchers, who were from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California and the University of California, concluded that their findings strongly support the argument for giving gender-affirming care to young trans people with gender dysphoria, on the basis that it improves quality of life and reduces long-term healthcare costs.

“To be clear, we’re not suggesting that all children who have feelings of gender dysphoria should undergo hormone therapy or surgery to affirm their gender,” Garcia said.

“However, what our findings show is that gender dysphoria is as natural as being cisgender, and that we need to support young people who are going through this.

“That some of the adults in our study waited years before having gender affirmation procedures means that they were suffering unnecessarily.”

Scientists asked 155 trans women, with an average age of 41, and 55 trans men, average age 35, about their earliest childhood memories, the age at which they first experienced gender dysphoria and the age at which they acted on the feelings of gender dysphoria to socially transition.

Roughly half of the trans people in the study were white or non-Hispanic, and half had a recent or active history of depression. Seven per cent of the trans women were HIV positive.

The average age of “earliest general memory” and age at first experience of gender dysphoria was 4.7 and 6.2 years old for trans men, and 4.5 and 6.7 years old for trans women.

Overall, 73 per cent of the trans women and 78 per cent of the trans men in the study had first experienced gender dysphoria before their seventh birthday.

The study also found that trans men and women lived for an average of 22.9 and 27.1 years, respectively, with untreated gender dysphoria before beginning non-surgical transition.

Acknowledging the limitations of the study, which include that it only included trans people seeking gender-confirmation surgery and did not include non-binary people, the authors concluded: “When we consider that life-years spent with any untreated condition are associated with morbidity and decreased quality of life, then the high number of life-years spent living with GD [gender dysphoria] and its associated morbidities is striking.

“This large cumulative burden strongly supports the argument for early GD care, counselling, and education about transition-related options, both for patients and for their parents or guardians.

“Gender transition – related care has been shown to substantially improve quality of life and reduce health care costs.”