Scientists researching the question of whether something causes transgender identity in teens claim to have eliminated the possibility that hormonal imbalance is at work, The Boston Globe reports.
For years, skeptics have argued against the idea that young children can be truly transgender, with some people considering the gender identity of transgender children to be the result of them pretending or confusion that will sort itself out over time.
Now researchers at the Center for Transyouth Health at Children's Hospital Los Angeles -- the largest care provider for trans youth in the U.S. -- have released the results of a study involving 101 transgender young people, ages 12 to 24. More than 50 percent of the participants were assigned male at birth, and 48 percent were assigned female at birth.
While there has been speculation being transgender arises from having sex hormones inconsistent with one's physiology, the sex hormone levels of the participants in this study were consistent with what they were assigned at birth.
"We've now put to rest the residual belief that transgender experience is a result of a hormone imbalance," said Dr. Johanna Olson, medical director for the Center for Transyouth Health. "It's not."
According to the researchers, the average age that participants discovered a gender discrepancy was the age of 8, but they did not tell their families about this until reaching, on average, the age of 17.
The study notes that 35 percent of the participants reported symptoms of depression and that more than half had thoughts about suicide -- significantly higher than the prevalence among youth in general; 30 percent had made at least one attempt.
"My goal is to move kids who are having a gender-atypical experience from survive to thrive," Olson said in a press release on the study. "With this study we hope to identify the best way to accomplish that."
In 2013, People magazine profiled Olson and a trans girl named Nikki, whose parents decided to place her on puberty-blocking medication that will halt the onset of her male secondary sexual characteristics. Olson also has a blog to answer frequently asked questions from parents.