This story originally aired on July 30, 2016.
When Jena Lopez’s child started showing signs of having a non-traditional gender identity during the preschool years, she wasn’t sure what to do. Can a 3- or 4-year-old really know that she’s a different gender from her biological sex? And Jena knew the outlook for transgender kids was grim: Research has shown they tend to have high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
Still, the male-born child won over Jena and her husband, and now she is their daughter, Sophie. So what kind of life can they expect for her? Is she in for years of struggles with mental health, as the research suggests?
University of Washington Associate Professor Kristina Olson had the same question, and discovered something: That old research generally looked at kids in clinical settings where they’ve often been sent to be “treated” or “cured.” As for kids like Sophie, who are supported by their families and allowed to live as the gender they identify with, there is virtually no research data.
So Olson began the first large, longitudinal study of supported transgender kids, and she found out that gloomy prognosis may not tell the whole story.