“Everything was fantastic.”
That’s how Evie Priestman’s mother felt about her son’s experience at summer camp as a middle schooler. Evie, a transgender boy, had decided to tell his fellow campers about his gender identity on the very last day, and it went over smoothly.
“I have always had a supportive family and felt accepted,” Evie told NBC News years later, noting his community is diverse and welcoming.
A first-of-its kind study examined the mental health of young children and preteens whose parents supported their transitions.
And the results are, honestly, not all that surprising.
The researchers found that trans kids who’ve been supported by their loved ones are doing pretty darn well.
Researchers out of the University of Washington studied 73 transgender kids and 73 cisgender (non-transgender) kids, ages 3 to 12, by asking parents a series of questions on their children’s mental health.
They found that between both groups, rates of depression were equal among trans kids who are supported by their family and their cisgender peers, and rates of anxiety were only “a smidge higher” among the trans youth.
“The thinking has always been that kids who are not acting gender-stereotypically are basically destined to have mental health problems,” Kristina Olson, lead author of the study, told NBC. “In our study, that’s not the case.”
“More families are allowing their transgender children to live and present to others as their gender identity. This is the first study to examine mental health in these children, finding that they have low levels of anxiety and depression.”
“Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities,” published in Pediatrics
The results show that loving parents and an accepting environment make a profound difference on a trans child’s mental health.
And that no, trans kids don’t have mental health issues by default. (I’d guess it’s probably the relentless transphobic messages our society sends them that do most of the damage.)
Although the study can’t prove parental acceptance results in improved outcomes for trans children, it “certainly suggests that family support is linked to better mental health.”
The findings build on previous research that found a correlation between family acceptance and whether a trans person had attempted suicide.
The study’s findings are important because they affirm the idea that trans kids especially need our love and acceptance.
Seeing the rampant transphobia throughout our culture, it’s no wonder trans youth live with higher rates of depression, are more likely to be suicidal, and face alarmingly high levels of homelessness (spurred by parental rejection).
This study shows that this doesn’t have to be the case.