Transgender identity, in their words
Analysis by Lisa Selin Davis
Tue May 18, 2021
(CNN) How many kids identify as transgender? That has been a hard question to answer, in part because the term can mean different things to different people.
Many associate transgender with gender dysphoria — severe psychological distress caused by gender identity and biological sex not aligning — or with medical transition. The term, however, can also include those who veer away from gender norms, but who don't want to change anything about themselves: their names, pronouns or bodies.
Susan Stryker, author of "Transgender History," defines trans people in part as those "who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain that gender."
A 2017 study by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health scientist Michelle M. Johns and colleagues found that 1.8% of high school students identified as transgender, which she and the team found by asking them if they were transgender.
Dr. Kacie Kidd, a physician and adolescent medicine fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, thought that the cohort of gender-diverse kids might be larger if questions about gender and identity were posed differently.
Rather than ask kids if they were transgender, Kidd and colleagues asked two questions in a study of 3,168 high school kids at 13 racially and economically diverse public Pittsburgh high schools.
The first question was: "What is your sex (the sex you were assigned at birth, on your birth certificate)?" with the options of "female" and "male." The second question was: "Which of the following best describes you (select all that apply)?" with the options of "girl," "boy," "trans girl," "trans boy," "genderqueer," "nonbinary," and "another identity."
|Some 9.2% of kids in an |
urban school district consider themselves
gender-diverse in some way,
a new study said.
"Our goal was to understand the prevalence of gender-diverse identities among high school students in our Pittsburgh school district by asking what we considered to be, and what many scholars consider to be, a more inclusive question about gender identity," Kidd said. "We came in suspecting that this two-step gender identity question would demonstrate a higher prevalence of gender diversity than in prior studies."
These researchers were right that gender diversity itself was higher in the population they looked at than in other studies. In the study, to be published in the June 2021 issue of the journal Pediatrics, Kidd and her colleagues found that 9.2% of kids consider themselves gender-diverse in some way. Still, because the question is not explicitly about identity, but rather how kids self-describe, the data don't make clear whether that diversity is in expression, identity or other facets of gender.
Kidd was expecting a higher number; however, the leap still surprised her. There are several ways to understand a larger number of teenagers claiming new words to describe themselves.
Dr. Kacie Kidd, a physician and adolescent medicine fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center:
Gender diverse people exist likely in much higher numbers than we previously were aware of or discussed in the literature," she said. "They are all unique individuals who have different needs and interests. We should be supporting them as a community in living their authentic lives, whatever that looks like for them.