What are “Transgender Kids” Anyway?

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Lisett Kruusimäe, Pexels
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The term transgender has made it into the public consciousness without a clear explanation of what it means. Although associated with homosexuality, transgenderism is not a sexual orientation at all. Instead, transgenderism is a belief that someone’s sex—their biological makeup—is different from their sense of self. Is this really possible? And how does it apply to children?

In biographies of transgender adults, they usually have this realization well after primary identity formation. They have a different cause for adopting a transgender identity than adolescents. Causes even differ between men and women who want to transition to a different identity. What’s important for adolescents who want to transition is that they are still within the period of identity formation. As such, the causes of transgender identity are different from adults.

Since 2013, the sex ratio of adolescents who identify as transgender has changed from being majority male to majority female. As of 2021, an estimated 80 percent of adolescents who identify as transgender are natal girls. Compared to adults, such adolescents are grappling with physical and social changes that come about during puberty. They are working out their roles in society and are beginning to grapple with the inevitability of adulthood. For adolescents, a transgender identity offers an escape hatch from having to address discomfort that comes with sexual maturity and from the pressures that grow as they age.

More and more kids are identifying as transgender today. There are three causes of this increase: institutions like schools and agencies, social media “influencers,” and a child’s peer group. 

First, over the past ten years, institutions have embraced gender identity along with its companion gender ideology. It is now common for children to be probed to self-identify their gender as they are being coached to believe that gender identity is distinct from and unrelated to biological sex. Teachers incorporate material like the “gender unicorn” to seed doubt about the meaning of sex and to introduce children to ideas like sexual attraction.

The second influence comes from social media, where popular figureheads glamorize transitioning to the opposite sex. This manifests as fashion, makeup, hormone replacement, and surgery. The social media influencers publicly work through their own psychosocial dramas and are relatable to young people whose social development lags behind that of their peers.

The third main influence entails a child’s peer group. For boys, this can involve chat groups and internet forums that are ostensibly formed around gaming or pop culture but which foster intense subcultures around gender identity. For girls, this is often a personal peer group where one child has been influenced to assume a transgender identity and the other girls begin to empathically copy this behavior.

When you hear the term “transgender kid,” you shouldn’t assume that this child would have inevitably grown up to become a transgender adult. Transgender identity is not innate, and there’s no reproducible scientific research that suggests that it is. Even Jack Turban, one of the leading proponents of adolescent gender transition has said that gender is not a simple, fixed, binary identity construct.

Prior to the modern wave of gender affirmation approaches, children who developed a cross-gender identity desisted from that identity in adulthood around 80 percent of the time. A transgender child is one who has been taught to believe by the adults in his or her life that biological sex is a problem that can be fixed with medicine and surgery. This is a child that is being set on a path from which is difficult to step off.

We must proceed with great caution. Unfortunately, our institutions of education and social media influencers are far keener to barrel ahead with little consideration.

Corinna Cohn
Corinna Cohn is an author and an activist for improving the standards of care in the gender industry. Corinna Cohn’s bibliographic account of transitioning as a teenager can be read on Quillette.