A new study out of the U.K. found no significant difference in mental health outcomes between gender dysphoric children who did and did not undergo social transition, the process of changing one’s name, pronouns and clothes to present as the opposite sex.
Therapists often advise social transition as the first course of action for children who believe they’re transgender, viewing the intervention as a harmless and reversible way to explore one’s gender identity while alleviating the anguish of gender dysphoria. There were no significant differences in pathological indicators such as mood disorders, anxiety and suicide attempts between gender dysphoric adolescents who did and didn’t socially transition in the new study, which was published Tuesday in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
“We examined the mental health of children and adolescents referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a specialist clinic in London, UK, who had socially transitioned … Overall, there were no significant effects of social transition or name change on mental health status,” researchers wrote.
Researchers examined the mental health of 288 children referred to GIDS aged four to 17 who had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Among patients who had changed their name or began living as the opposite sex, 52.6% of natal females and 46.2% of natal males were experiencing mood difficulties, 33.6% of females and 28.8% of males had anxiety and 11.9% of females and 7.4% of males had past suicide attempts.
There was no significant difference in the prevalence of these conditions among these patients and those with gender dysphoria who hadn’t socially transitioned, according to the study, except that males who had socially transitioned were slightly less likely to struggle with mood disorders.
The study lacked longitudinal data on patients’ mental health before and after social transition, so researchers couldn’t rule out the possibility that social transition actually helped some patients; it’s possible that patients who socially transitioned has worse mental health to begin with than those who didn’t.
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