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Insights From Research of Teens Unhappy With Their Gender

New studies offer critical data on teens questioning their gender.

Key points

  • Objective information is lacking about basic demographics of adolescents unhappy with their gender.
  • Two new studies reveal a sizable number of early adolescents experience dissatisfaction with their gender.
  • While most teens become content with their birth gender as they grow up, some remain unsatisfied.

In the landscape of contemporary gender discourse, few topics evoke as much controversy as those concerning transgender issues. From discussions about restroom access to debates surrounding sports participation, the dialogue is fraught with polarization. These discussions often descend into heated exchanges, characterized more by accusations and counteraccusations than reasoned engagement.

Amidst the fervor and impassioned opinions, one crucial element remains conspicuously absent: concrete and objective information. Consequently, our conversations about transgender controversies frequently falter in addressing fundamental inquiries. We even don’t have basic statistics and demographics of the transgender community.

Fortunately, two recent studies have proved timely, shedding new light and offering fresh perspectives on these complex issues.

In a study published in 2021, Jen-How Kuo and Meng-Che Tsai led a team in tracking 1,806 junior high students in Taiwan from 2000 to 2009. They asked a straightforward question: “Are you satisfied with your own gender?” What they found over the nine-year period was quite telling: while the majority (86.5 percent) consistently expressed satisfaction with their genders, 7.8 percent transitioned from dissatisfaction to satisfaction, 4.8 percent shifted from satisfaction to dissatisfaction, and 0.9 percent remained consistently dissatisfied (1).

A similar study in the Netherlands, detailed in a 2024 paper by Pien Rawee, Sarah Burke, and their colleagues, queried 2,772 adolescents in their response to a similar but more nuanced statement: “I wish to be of the opposite sex.” They discovered that as many as 11 percent of early adolescents experienced gender dissatisfaction, which decreased to approximately 4 percent by the age of 25. Overall, 78 percent remained content with their genders, 19 percent transitioned from dissatisfaction to satisfaction, and 2 percent became even more dissatisfied with their birth genders as they progressed from early adolescence to young adulthood (2).

These findings hold critical significance on several fronts. First, they reveal that a sizable percentage (13.5 percent in the Taiwan study and 22 percent in the Netherlands study) of teenagers experience some level of dissatisfaction with their gender identity. However, most of them tend to resolve this uncertainty as they mature into adulthood, ultimately aligning with the gender they were assigned at birth. Nonetheless, there remains a small yet consistent portion of teenagers who persist in their dissatisfaction or even transition from a state of contentment to dissatisfaction with their gender identity.

“These findings indicate,” write the researchers from the Taiwan study, “that healthcare professionals should concentrate on gender non-conforming individuals at early adolescence, navigating them toward a healthy adulthood.” Clearly, they are also significant for parents, caregivers, school teachers, and society at large, providing guidance on how to better care for, assist, and support adolescents, especially those prone to gender dissatisfaction.

Undoubtedly, the next crucial question revolves around identifying which adolescents will navigate out of the phase of gender uncertainty and who will persist in their dissatisfaction. While such data is currently lacking, an evidence-based approach holds the promise of transcending ideological debate to a scientific endeavor in developmental psychology.

Acknowledgments: I thank Drs. Sarah Burke and Meng-Che Tsai for double-checking the facts quoted in this essay based on their original research.


1. Kuo, J-H., Albaladejo Carrera, R., Cendra Mulyani, L., Strong, C., Lin, Y-C., Hsieh, Y-P., Tsai, M-C., and Lin, C-Y. (2021) Exploring the Interaction Effects of Gender Contentedness and Pubertal Timing on Adolescent Longitudinal Psychological and Behavioral Health Outcomes. Front. Psychiatry 12:660746.

2. Rawee, P., Rosmalen, J.G., Kalverdijk, L., and Burke, S.M. (2024) Development of Gender Non-Contentedness During Adolescence and Early Adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, pp.1-13.

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