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LGBTQ+ Faces New Challenges After New Study Questions Gender Affirmation for Minors

Source: Human Rights Watch

New research is calling into question common practices surrounding transgender youth. A massive 15-year study tracking nearly 3,000 adolescents in the Netherlands found that the majority of those experiencing confusion about their gender identity eventually grew out of it.

The findings raise important questions about whether rushing to provide gender-affirming care like hormone blockers for minors is the right approach.

Overview of the Groundbreaking Dutch Study on Gender Dysphoria

The Dutch study followed nearly 3,000 adolescents for 15 years and found that gender dysphoria typically diminishes over time.

Source: Everyday Health

The majority of participants ended up identifying with their gender assigned at birth. The study began tracking participants at age 11 and followed up with them every two to three years.

Most Outgrow Gender Dysphoria by Adulthood

The study found that the vast majority of adolescents in the Netherlands who experience gender dysphoria eventually come to identify with their biological sex.

Source: Jonathan Kirn

Researchers tracked nearly 2800 teens for 15 years, from ages 11 to 26, and found that 78% of participants reported no issues with their gender identity as adults.

Gender Questioning Common in Youth

The study revealed that questioning one’s gender identity is quite common in adolescence, with 11% of participants reporting a desire to be the opposite sex at the start of the study.

Source: Transfamilies

However, for most teens, this was a temporary phase. The percentage dropped steadily throughout the study, with only 4% still wishing to be another gender at age 26.

Connection to Mental Health

The study suggested a connection between gender dysphoria in youth and poorer self-concept and mental health.

Source: Fountain House

The researchers hypothesized that the high percentage of teens initially reporting issues with their gender identity could be linked to difficulties in other areas of development and adjustment during the teenage years.

Implications for Clinical Practice

The findings raise important questions about the use of hormonal and surgical interventions for minors with gender dysphoria. Some argue that gender-affirming medical treatments should not be provided until a child is older and their gender identity has become clear and consistent over time.

Source: CancerConnect

However, others counter that early medical intervention is crucial for the health and well-being of transgender youth. The debate is complex with valid arguments on both sides.

Implications for the LGBTQ+ Community

The study comes amid growing acceptance of transgender youth. However, its findings pose difficult questions about medical interventions for minors.

Source: Shutterstock/Rawpixel

Many experts argue that gender dysphoria during puberty is temporary for most youth. The study seems to confirm this, showing that 78% of participants did not report gender non-contentedness by age 26.

Questioning Early Medical Interventions

The study calls into question the growing practice of providing puberty blockers and hormones to minors. Some experts argue these interventions are too drastic for what may be a temporary condition.

Source: Saniel Szastok

“This study shows that gender dysphoria during puberty is often fleeting,” said psychology professor Lisa Littman. “We should be very cautious about making irreversible changes to a child’s body and brain during this period.”

Impact on Transgender Youth

However, other experts argue the study does not prove being transgender is a “phase.” Epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz said, “The study shows some youth reported gender dysphoria that changed over time, but not that being trans or nonbinary is temporary for most people.”

Source: Wikimedia/Daydreamerboy

For transgender youth, access to gender-affirming care can be lifesaving. Withholding treatment risks depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Critiques and Counterarguments to the Study

The study was not without its detractors. Critics argued that the research did not actually prove being transgender is a “phase” for most children.

Source: Skepticon 2023

Epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz said the study showed gender dysphoria decreased for some, but not all, participants. For a small minority, feelings of gender incongruence intensified or persisted into adulthood.

Methodological Issues

Some experts took issue with the study’s methodology and conclusions. London School of Economics professor Patrick Sturgis said the research demonstrated gender dysphoria diminishes for most children around puberty but not for all.

Source: Facebook/National Centre for Research Methods – NCRM

The study followed subjects for 15 years, but Sturgis argued longer follow-up periods are needed to draw definitive conclusions, especially for those who transitioned later in life.

Nuanced Reality

In reality, gender identity development is highly complex and personal. For some, feelings of gender dysphoria intensify over time, while for others, they fade or fluctuate.

Source: AdobeStock/Ekaterina

There is no one-size-fits-all experience. Parents should avoid rushing to label their child’s experience as either “just a phase” or assume they will persistently identify as trans into adulthood. The best approach is openness, patience, and allowing the child to explore their identity at their own pace.

Rising Rates of Transgender Youth

The results of the Dutch study come amid the growing number of transgender and nonbinary children and young adults.

Source: AFP

According to a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, about 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender. The population of transgender youth is also rising, with a 2020 survey estimating that about 150,000 teens aged 13 to 17 identify as trans.

Affirming Care Controversy

The study’s findings appear to challenge guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2022.

Source: Vladimir Vladimirov

The guidelines state that early gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, is essential to the health and well-being of trans youth.

Guidance for Parents Navigating Gender Identity Issues

With the growing number of transgender and nonbinary youth, parents face difficult questions about the best way to support their children.

Source: ACLU

The most important thing parents can do is offer their children unconditional love and acceptance. Speaking with a counselor or support group can help parents process their feelings and find the best way to support their child.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

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