Transgender teens and young adults have sex hormone levels consistent with their assigned gender at birth, according to research in Journal of Adolescent Health.
In an ongoing prospective, observational study examining multiethnic transgender adolescents and young adults, researchers found that the participants reported self-awareness of a gender discrepancy at a young age, but waited years before telling family members, whereas many also reported feelings of severe depression and thoughts of suicide.
Johanna Olson, MD, medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed data from 101 adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 24 years who self-identified as transgender (mean age, 19 years; 51.5% self-identified transmasculine; 52% white) between February 2011 and June 2013 at the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Participants underwent a mental health screening with a gender specialist to diagnose gender dysphoria before enrolling in the study.
Participants completed a computer-assisted survey at baseline on psychosocial measures; researchers obtained physiologic data from participants’ medical charts.
Researchers found that transmasculine participants (those assigned female sex at birth) had baseline testosterone levels ranging from 7 ng/dL to 288 ng/dL, with a mean of 42.5 ng/dL (normal natal female range, 2-45 ng/dL). Transfeminine participants had estradiol levels within the normal male range, between 2 pg/mL and 61 pg/mL, with a mean of 27.8 pg/mL. Transfeminine participants also had normal male range prolactin levels, according to researchers.
“We’ve now put to rest the residual belief that transgender experience is a result of hormone imbalance,” Olson said in a press release. “It’s not.”
Participants self-identified a discrepancy with their gender by an average age of 8 years; they disclosed their gender identity to family by an average age of 17 years, according to researchers.
Researchers found that 24% of participants had depression in the mild to moderate range; 11% had severe depression. In addition, 51% of participants reported that they had considered suicide, whereas 30% attempted suicide at least once. All participants reported a desire to begin hormone intervention.
The study, which is ongoing, will continue to follow the participants as they undergo any medical interventions, as well as examine the impact of any interventions on quality of life, high-risk behaviors and depression.
“My goal is to move kids who are having a gender atypical experience from survive to thrive,” Olson said. “With this study, we hope to identify the best way to accomplish that.” – by Regina Schaffer
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.