Sunday, 11 April 2010

Trans Children - Challenging the Myths

This post is a summary of findings from my recent research into the lives of transgender children which came from a survey of trans people carried out in October 2009. The results of this have challenged some of the myths about transgender people, in particular the age at which gender variance is realised by transgender people.

- The mean average age at which trans people realise they are trans is 7.9 years. The modal average is 5 years.

- Around 80% of trans people knew they were trans before leaving primary school. (this contrasts with around 2% of gay, lesbian and bisexual people).

- Less than 4% of participants came to the realisation that they were trans after the age of 18.

- Although the average age of realisation is 7.9 years, the average age at which trans people learned any words about being trans, was 15.5 years. In other words, on average trans people know there is something different about their gender identity for seven and a half years before they learn any vocabulary about it.

- There appears to be a great deal of shared experience of childhood for trans people, especially MTFs. Initially they blame "God" for getting it wrong, and pray that they will wake up as a girl. Then they realise how different they are from other kids, than they realise how important it is to conceal this. This concealment often results in feeling guilty and isolated. Indeed, because trans kids do not have any vocabulary about it, one of the most common reactions is to feel that they are the only one, that they are a freak. Trans children then most often suppress their gender identity until they are well into adulthood. The result of this is usually low self-esteem leading to underperformance in school and in early adulthood. In some cases attempts at suicide and self-harm result from this.

As a result of this study I identified two types of transgender children; "apparent" and "non-apparent". and it is particularly important to distinguish between the two.

Apparent = children whose parents or other adults, including teachers, know to be transgender.

Non-apparent = children that no-one else knows to be transgender

It seems that there are probably only 60-70 new apparent transgender children in the UK every year. The other 99%+ are non-apparent. This is hugely important for policymakers and educationalists, because so far the only guidance for schools to deal with trans children only refers to apparent trans children. There is nothing for non-apparent trans children. Yet it is arguable that these children need more support.

- Only around 30% of trans children tell anyone they are trans. This occurs mostly only in late teens. Those told tend to be a sister or a, possibly, gay friend. Telling parents in particular seems to be a mostly negative experience.

- 55% of trans kids are bullied by other kids in primary school. 64% in secondary school.

- around 20% of trans children were bullied by teachers or other school staff in primary and secondary schools.

- 7% of trans kids were bullied by other children’s parents in primary school, 6% in secondary school.

- There were no instances of bullying of trans children dealt with effectively by any school.

If anyone is interested, I will be expanding on this in a bit more detail when I present my research to colleagues and anyone else interested

on the Top Floor of the Educational Studies Building
at Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London.
on Wed 19th May at 4.00pm. Everyone welcome.
Trains/overground; New Cross or New Cross Gate.

I will also be giving a short summary at the Transgender Community Conference at the Central School of Speech and Drama on Friday 16th July.


  1. This is some great research that you've been doing. I'd love to do something similar to this here in Canada. Can I ask what your sample size was, along with your sampling technique? Also, what were the mean characteristics of your participants (age, income level, etc)?

  2. This is very good information you have here! I am glad that someone is helping in any way that they can as being Transgendered in any way is rather torturous for us.

    Myself I work one on one with teens as the need arises and speak with their parents with their teen present when the opportunity arises and the timing is right. So far so good, :}