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Natural Sciences Nonfiction Social Sciences

Gender Cognition in Transgender Children

By Kristina R. Olson, Aidan C. Key, and Nicholas R. Eaton, 2015

A visible and growing cohort of transgender children in North America live according to their expressed gender rather than their natal sex, yet scientific research has largely ignored this population. In the current study, we adopted methodological advances from social-cognition research to investigate whether 5- to 12-year-old prepubescent transgender children (N = 32), who were presenting themselves according to their gender identity in everyday life, showed patterns of gender cognition more consistent with their expressed gender or their natal sex, or instead appeared to be confused about their gender identity. Using implicit and explicit measures, we found that transgender children showed a clear pattern: They viewed themselves in terms of their expressed gender and showed preferences for their expressed gender, with response patterns mirroring those of two cisgender (nontransgender) control groups. These results provide evidence that, early in development, transgender youth are statistically indistinguishable from cisgender children of the same gender identity.

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