Study Finds Transgender Children Aren’t ‘Confused’ After All

young boy resting his head on his handTransgender children are increasingly pushing to have their gender identities recognized, but dismissive adults often write these children off as “confused.” Parents might claim their children don’t understand that gender is permanent or insist that a transgender identity is just a phase.

A small study published in Psychological Science suggests otherwise, emphasizing that transgender children aren’t confused. Instead, their confidence in their gender identity is similar to that of cisgender children. Trans advocates and allies frequently refer to people who do not identify as transgender as cisgender.

Challenging the Notion of Gender Confusion

The study, led by Nicholas Eaton of Stony Brook University, involved 32 transgender children ranging in age from 5 to 12. Each of the children had parents who were supportive of their gender identity, and none of the children had yet entered puberty.

Researchers asked the children about their gender identity, but also administered a test of implicit gender identity. This test measures reaction times to computerized questions. Previous research has shown that implicit association tests can eliminate some forms of bias, as well as misleading answers. A child who lies about his or her gender identity would have more difficulty misleading researchers about his or her gender identity on an implicit association test.

Researchers compared the children’s answers to those of 32 cisgender children, as well as 18 of the transgender children’s siblings. They found that transgender children’s responses were virtually indistinguishable from other children’s responses. Transgender kids displayed similar levels of certainty about their gender identity and similar understandings of the permanence of gender.

Support for Transgender Children

Trans-identified children face a number of obstacles their cisgender peers don’t. According to one study, a staggering 41% of transgender adults had attempted suicide, compared to just 1.6% of the general population. Anti-trans violence, employment discrimination, and social isolation all conspire to make life as a transgender person more difficult. The good news is that, according to Eaton, parental acceptance can greatly improve outcomes for transgender kids.

So what should you do if your child comes out as trans? Try some of the following tips from TransYouth Family Allies:

  • Pursue healthy treatment options, if warranted. Medical interventions, including gender reassignment surgery, may help your child cope. If your child is experiencing depression, bullying, or frustration with his or her identity, consider pursuing therapy.
  • Call your child by the gender pronoun and name associated with his or her new gender.
  • Accept your child where he or she is without trying to change his or her gender identity.
  • Don’t blame your child or yourself for his or her trans identity. Blame should never enter the picture.


  1. Stats on transgender discrimination, violence and suicide. (2012, September 14). Retrieved from
  2. Tips for parents. (2007). TransYouth Family Allies. Retrieved from
  3. Transgender children aren’t confused about their gender identity, study finds. (2015, February 02). Retrieved from

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  • connie n.

    February 5th, 2015 at 11:49 AM


    Let’s instead offer these families and children understanding and love, not condescension.

  • Annetta

    February 5th, 2015 at 1:22 PM

    Yeah I think that these children probably know exactly what they think and how they feel, and confusion only comes into play once the adults in their lives start trying to tell them that they are supposed to feel another sort of way. I think that this is why so many children who experience this feeling go through years and years of beating themselves up and feeling so ashamed because they know what they feel on the inside but everyone on the outside is clearly telling them that all of this is wrong.

  • Chutney

    February 5th, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    Finally, someone had the bright idea to do a study on children at an age where they are still young enough that they are less likely to to experience the damage done when puberty has set in. This news is way too late for me. But, it will certainly benefit our young people. Awesome!

  • Hyland

    February 6th, 2015 at 3:45 AM

    The more supportive we can be to these children and help them feel like they have the freedom to express themselves for what and who they are, the less likely that they will grow up feeling terrible about what has in the past been perceived to be “wrong”.

  • jon

    February 6th, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    I still think that it could be very valuable for the child and really for the entire family to consider some therapy. Not because you think that something is right or wrong, but to just help all of you with some of the questions that you may have and also to build the child up so that they do not get picked on and have to play the role of a victim. You can show them that they are so much stronger than what they may believe that they are.

  • Samuel A.

    February 8th, 2015 at 4:40 AM

    They might not be confused right now, if they are in a loving home, but what about when they have to start interacting with others who are not quite so understanding and supportive? What happens to them then? We can try to make them strong, but sometimes all of that is never enough to combat the hatred and cruelty that they could face from others.

  • Clive

    February 14th, 2015 at 2:40 PM

    I am not sure that I would even know how to begin to understand this. You have to realize that I am older and when I was growing up, boys were boys and girls were girls. Now there are all of these blurred lines and while I try to remain non judgmental it is often hard to discern a difference between the two. Parents and kids alike these days have so many more things to contend with than we did.

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