Science Just Proved Why Transgender Kids Should Be Allowed To Be Themselves

There's no question we've made some strides in representation of transgender youths over the past few years. Modern Family featured the first transgender child actor in September of 2016 and 16-year-old Jazz Jennings, who has a TLC show about what it's like to grow up trans, was made the first transgender spokeswoman for Clean and Clear in 2015. Yet, greater media representation has not dispelled some pervasive myths about transgender people — including that simply being transgender means you're more likely to be depressed. There's certainly scientific evidence that young transgender people can be at greater risk for depression and anxiety than their cisgender peers. But these studies often don't take into account whether or not their subjects have support from family or friends. For transgender children, that support is crucial, suggests a new study published in the journal American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle surveyed 63 transgender kids between the ages of nine and 14 and their parents about the kids' mental health — measuring depression, anxiety, and self-worth. Each of the kids surveyed in this study have full support from their families and had already transitioned socially. Unlike many transgender people, who may struggle for years trying to conform to the gender they were assigned at birth or face backlash from family and friends when they come out, the kids in this study are already using the pronouns and wearing the clothing appropriate to their gender, with support from their families. And it makes a huge difference. Compared to both their peers and their siblings, children who have been allowed to transition socially are at no greater risk of depression. This study confirms findings of a similar study done in February of 2016. Both studies also found that kids who are able to transition have marginally higher risk of anxiety than their cisgender peers. This isn't too surprising, since even familial support doesn't diminish the oppression transgender kids face in a world where they often can't even go to the bathroom in peace. In fact, 31 states still have few or no laws protecting people based on gender identity, according to the Transgender Law Center. Despite growing media attention for transgender children, we still have so much work to do to make sure growing up transgender is a beautiful and peaceful experience.

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