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Study from Netherlands: Most children outgrow transgender inclinations

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 8, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A study from researchers in the Netherlands found that nearly two-thirds of children who had wished that they belonged to the opposite sex as adolescents ultimately became comfortable with their biological sex in early adulthood.

The 15-year study, which was conducted by researchers at the Netherlands’ University of Groningen, tracked the gender unhappiness rates of 2,772 study participants from ages 11 through 26.

In the early stages of the study, 11% of participants reported the desire to have been born as the opposite gender. As they got older, the number steadily declined and it eventually dropped to about 4% of participants wishing they had been born as the opposite gender at the last follow-up, which was usually at age 26.

According to the study, 78% of participants never became discontent with their gender. About 19% grew more content over time and only 2% became less content over time.

The study also found that participants whose gender discontent fluctuated over time — both increasing discontent and decreasing discontent — were more likely to report lower feelings of self-worth and have more behavioral and emotional problems. It also noted that participants who had a non-heterosexual sexual orientation were more likely to report fluctuating levels of discontent about their gender throughout adolescence and early adulthood. 

“Gender non-contentedness, while being relatively common during early adolescence, in general, decreases with age and appears to be associated with a poorer self-concept and mental health throughout development,” the researchers explained in a synopsis of the report.

Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Person and Identity Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA that the study confirms “what most parents know intuitively.” 

“A child who experiences discontent about his or her developing body, or the prospect of maturing into a woman or man, is overwhelmingly likely to outgrow those feelings, without intervention,” Hasson said. “Puberty is not a disease — it is a natural process of growth. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, but — as the study shows — the discomfort dissipates over time.”

In the United States and throughout Europe, the prescription of transgender drugs and the availability of sex-change surgeries for minors has become a major subject of debate. Such prescriptions and procedures for children are banned in nearly two dozen states but remain legal in more than half of the states.

Hasson expressed concern that counselors are pressuring parents to provide these life-altering drugs and procedures for their children when all they need is time to grow more comfortable with their bodies. 

“Unfortunately, what our children are not being given today is time — time to experience and outgrow the natural (sometimes painful) stages of pubertal growth, along with the reassurance that, with time, they will eventually feel comfortable in their own skin,” Hasson said. “Instead, gender clinicians and counselors convince parents that their children are in crisis and need puberty blockers or other hormonal interventions. It’s not true. What they really need is reassurance and time to mature.”

Another recent study, published in Finland earlier this year, found that providing adolescents with transgender drugs or surgeries did not provide any statistically significant reduction in suicide deaths. Rather, the study found that higher rates of suicide appear to be rooted in the high rate of mental health comorbidities among youths who identify as transgender.

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