A lot has been written in the clinical literature showing that transgender males grow up to be gay. This has been echoed in the popular literature as well. Many parents panic and take their children into the clinic if they see signs of transgender behavior in their children. Ethical therapists will provide supportive counseling for the parents and the child and may arrange for a childhood “social transition” and even arrange for puberty “blocking” hormones if the child appears to need them. Unethical therapists will conduct “reparative” therapies to rid the child of transgenderism and prevent transgender children from becoming homosexual, or worse yet, transsexual. I write this, not because there is anything wrong with being homosexual or transsexual but because such reparative therapies can do harm to these children.
Richard Green wrote a book entitled The Sissy Boy Syndrome in which he followed a group of transgender children into adulthood. Many of them became homosexual. Others have observed similar phenomena in small clinical groups of patients. Many therapists report anecdotally that homosexuals remember crossdressing in childhood. But have these investigators been misled by the bias created by selection of children for clinical treatment? More recent evidence indicates that these results do not tell the whole story when one considers the population of transgender children as a whole.
It appears that most transgender children adopt secrecy as a defense against rejection at an early age. We know that about 60% of FtM do not tell their parents or perform crossdressing in public. The percentage of MtF who go into secrecy is probably closer to 95%. When I am talking about rejection, I am not talking about some hypothetical psychological theory. There are real physical and psychological dangers out there for transgender children. They are subject to physical and psychological abuse at home and bullying and sexual assault at school and on the street. If their parents reject them, there is a real chance that they will be homeless and live on the street. Of course, the percentage of FtM children who go into secrecy is less than MtF transgender children because “tom girl” behavior by females is tolerated more than “sissy” behavior of males. FtM are also freer to present in androgynous or masculine ways. The strategy of secrecy involves crossdressing in private and keeping one’s gender identity to oneself.
As my mother used to say “a word to the wise should be sufficient.” I believe that this saying is some loose translation from the Latin because she had a smattering of Latin teacher’s college. In my own case it only took a few warnings to send me into secrecy for 60 or so years. I could see those males who showed the slightest hint of femininity bullied and taunted in grammar school. I am afraid that I followed along with some other males and was guilty of bullying on one occasion myself. I did not like it.
So the clinicians who deal with transgender children only see a very small proportion of the population of transgender children. Most have gone underground by the time that parents would think about having them treated. A recent study involved 10-year old transgender children who were later invited to go back to the clinic for retesting at 19-20 years old. Most 10-year old transgender kids are already in the closet because of social rejection and the number of transgender children performing transgender behavior at age 20 is even less. About half of the children in the study never came back even though they were promised free care. About half of those who came back denied that they were transgender any more. All of the remaining children were transgender. You have to ask yourself if a 20-year old would want to be associated with a transgender treatment clinic and how may of those lied about their crossdressing. As the TV character House said, “It is a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.”
So what do we know about outcomes for transgender children as adults. A recent study indicated that about 10-11% of transgender children become homosexual as adults. Since About .1% of the population are transsexual adults, if TSTG population estimates are correct. Of course 25% of MtF transsexuals and 40% of FtM transsexuals change sexual orientation during transition or shortly thereafter but it is not clear that they become homosexuals. This leaves about 90% of transgender children who either are still practicing crossdressing in private as adults or have stopped spontaneously. Quantifying those who are still transgender is an open research question but there are now testing procedures that may be able to tease this out.
So yes, approximately 10% of transgender children become homosexual and approximately .1% become transsexual in adulthood but about 90% remain transgender or have stopped spontaneously. However, the risk of harm from reparative therapy for children does not outweigh the factored risk of being homosexual or transsexual in adulthood.
Category: Body & Soul