A new study has found that when transgender young people are allowed to fully identify with their gender and take steps toward transition, it significantly improves their depression and anxiety.
Forty-two patients participated in the study through Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California. Of those, 26 had depression, anxiety, and/or a history of self-harm, and 11 had other psychiatric or behavioral problems, like ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome/autism spectrum disorder, and bipolar disorder. According to lead research Maja Marinkovic, many of the patients had suffered greatly from “bullying, discrimination, isolation, and lack of support or lack of insurance coverage for the necessary treatment.”
Patients began puberty blockers at an average age of 12.5 years, and then hormone therapy at an average age of 16.5. Two female-to-male patients also had their breasts surgically removed at ages 16 and 18, but others wishing to do the same couldn’t because their insurance plans did not cover it or they couldn’t find an experienced local surgeon.
In all but two of the patients, depression, anxiety, and self-harm improved, and according to Marinkovic, none of the patients expressed regret or stopped therapy. She worries that families and school staff might not think to have a child assessed for gender dysphoria until they’re already showing signs of depression or suicidal ideation. These results suggest that affirming their identities earlier could help prevent their mental health from ever deteriorating that far.
This study adds to the growing research showing that affirming transgender identities at a young age yields positive results. The youngest of kids who assert a different gender than they were assigned at birth identify as completely with that gender as their peers. Using puberty suppressants to avoid taking on the wrong gender characteristics has no discernible consequences. And another new study finds that hormone therapy is safe for transgender adults too, so long as their care is monitored by a physician.
Meanwhile, it’s true that transgender young people experience higher rates of mental health challenges, like the patients in this study, but the mounting evidence indicates that it’s not because they are transgender, but because of how they are treated for being transgender.