London's Tavistock and Portman clinic has seen referrals for trans patients under the age of 18 increase fivefold over the last four years. The clinic told BBC Newsbeat earlier this month that it served 441 trans youth last year, compared to just 91 trans-identified youth in 2010.
The sharp increase in trans-identified youth may be due to an increase in society's understanding and acceptance of LGBT issues, according to Christina Richards, senior specialist and psychotherapist at the Nottingham Gender Identity Clinic.
"Some of the silly ideas about what 'trans' means have disappeared now," she explained to BBC. "We realize [being trans] is something that affects all people from all walks of life and that people go on and do rather well if they get the help they need."
The increase may additionally be due to more access to trans-affirming health services, notes BBC.
While the numbers may not seem like a large segment of the population overall, the increased willingness that Tavistock and Portman's youth clientele demonstrate for identifying as trans at earlier ages may have implications for the next generation of transgender communities. Finding transitional health care, mental health care, and social support at earlier ages may help young trans people to more easily avoid a trend Richards highlights: "sometimes [trans youth] hurt themselves and tragically sometimes they take their own lives."
This particular issue rocked trans advocates worldwide when U.S. trans teen Leelah Alcorn took her life December 28, 2014 in Ohio, leaving behind a public suicide letter that asked readers and parents to be more accepting of trans youth. Currently, 41 percent of trans people attempt suicide, according to the University of California Los Angeles, School of Law's Williams Institute.
Identifying as trans and accessing health care earlier in life may also help trans youth reach their other goals and spend less time feeling gender-related distress, notes the BBC. As Kris, the mother of a 17-year-old trans man who is seeking medical transition, told the BBC, "He's going to have a happy life once he goes through this. ... It's also made him more confident."
Recent research increasingly supports honoring the needs and identities of trans youth, finding that trans children show no confusion about their authentic genders, and that those given hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty in order to consider or begin medical transition are well-adjusted and happy.