Young children can know that they are transgender. At least, that’s what some researchers are now claiming.
A December report released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims to show that transgender children sense their true “gender identity” and even align with clothing and toy preferences of that gender at a young age.
The study addresses the age-old “nature vs. nurture” debate that has long fascinated psychologists and parents alike.
This is one of the first studies to be released that examines gender identity in relation to children and their development. The authors claim it “provides the largest report to date of the experiences of these early-transitioning children’s gender development.”
The study analyzes transgender-identifying children alongside “cisgender” children to see if they are innately drawn to gender-stereotyped toys and clothes, and if so, by what pattern.
For the study, researchers interviewed 317 allegedly transgender children, ages 3 to 12, along with 189 of their cisgender siblings and 316 cisgender kids who were not related.
The study’s conclusion, on its face, seems to confirm progressive thought on the subject.
“Trans kids are showing strong identities and preferences that are different from their assigned sex,” the study’s lead author, Selin Gulgoz, said in a press statement. “There is almost no difference between these trans and cisgender kids of the same gender identity—both in how, and the extent to which, they identify with their gender or express that gender.”
But a deeper look reveals the facts aren’t so neat. The study appears to contradict itself, other similar studies, and on certain points, even the typical progressive mantra that dispenses with gender stereotypes.
The report revealed a number of “findings.”
First, it found that children who are just “cisgender” and children who have transitioned to the opposite gender identity prefer toys and clothing that align with the stereotypes matching their “current” gender. So, a boy born male living as a male still prefers boots and trucks, and a boy born male who has socially transitioned to female prefers dresses and dolls.
Second, it found that transgender children’s preferences were consistent with their gender identity just as the cisgender siblings or other cisgender kids continued to prefer things that matched their biological sex of birth.
At first glance, these findings might seem groundbreaking in providing a science-based affirmation of the trans phenomenon. But a closer look shows they are neither groundbreaking nor affirming.
Let’s take the first finding: The study says some 300 transgender kids—that is, kids who already identify as the gender opposite their birth sex—identify as transgender and prefer toys and clothes that match their gender identity, not their birth sex.
Well, of course. The kids surveyed were already either identifying as transgender or living as cisgender, so it’s impossible to tell from the study whether their toy and clothing preferences were innate. The results were baked into the cake.
Now, clinics, educational resources, and “news” articles about transgender kids implore parents to affirm their child’s dysphoria and help them socially or medically transition. They have been living as the opposite sex, so one would expect them to prefer toys and clothing that affirm that identity.
But those preferences don’t prove that their gender identity is innate or present at birth. They could also have been cultivated by outside factors, like parents or counselors. And if so, that would comport with the high affirmation rate previously mentioned.
This presents a fundamentally flawed scenario: The study’s main finding employs circular logic at best and an obvious bias at worst.
The Big Contradiction
Only one finding in the survey made any logical sense, though since most of it seems like garbage, I’m tempted to disregard this point as well.
The summary of the survey gave reason to be skeptical about trans children’s supposed gender identity: “Our findings suggest that early sex assignment and parental rearing based on that sex assignment do not always define how a child identifies or expresses gender later.”
The study goes on to note how gender feelings can change: “Gender expression or identity for some of them might shift in the future, or their level of support and affirmation might change.”
The authors seem to admit that if children can choose to change from one gender to another, they can choose to change back.
But this finding contradicts the first two findings of the study: If transgender children are so confident in their supposed gender identity, how did the researchers discover that these same children may “identify” as something different later on?
To say it another way: How can this study affirm that gender identity is real and valid, while also suggesting that children can later revert back to their sex at birth? Doesn’t the latter finding suggest that gender is actually binary, that it doesn’t exist on a spectrum, and that both sex and gender are innate from birth?
Biology Still a Key Factor
Few studies have been conducted so far on the topic of transgender kids, toy preferences, and development. However, there was an interesting 2017 study done on how children express gender through their toy preferences. That study may reframe this debate somewhat.
The study, published in the Infant and Child Development Journal, found that gender has its basis in a “biological origin.” Though it makes no mention of transgender children, it contradicts the often-cited progressive concept that gender is a social construct.
The authors of the study observed children, their toys, and methods of play. Through a meta-analysis of past research—they reviewed 16 different studies on the topic of sex differences of 1,600 children in total—the authors found that innate biology seems to influence boys and girls’ toy choices.
“Despite methodological variation in the choice and number of toys offered, context of testing, and age of child, the consistency in finding sex differences in children’s preferences for toys typed to their own gender indicates the strength of this phenomenon and the likelihood that has a biological origin,” the study says.
This study shows how problematic the recently released transgender report is when examined thoroughly. Whether children are born biological males or females, or whether they have simply chosen to identify with the other sex as transgender, they’ll prefer toys that align with that gender stereotype.
It also demonstrates why, if they choose to revert back to their birth sex, they change their toy preferences too.
While most of this study seemed biased, based on circular reasoning, and essentially hackery based on ideological commitments, it is true that more research is needed on children with gender dysphoria. We do not yet know why gender dysphoria appears in some children and why some grow out of it altogether.
What is essential, however, is that academic research begin with a logical premise, include a larger swath of children, and stay clear of circular reasoning or any hints of ideological propaganda. If studies fail on these points, they will be biased from the get-go and unhelpful.