Almost no teenagers who undergo gender-affirming hormone treatments change their minds as adults, new research from the Netherlands has found.

Researchers tracked 720 people who began hormone replacement therapy as teenagers and found 98% had continued treatment into adulthood.

The average age to begin treatment was 14 for those assigned male at birth, and 16 for those assigned female at birth. 

The participants were around 20 when researchers followed up with them.

Research author Dr Marianne van der Loos said the high levels of commitment were reassuring, especially in light of public concern about the potential of young people to regret transitioning as adults.

In 2020, the UK ruled that children under 16 in England and Wales would need court approval to access some forms of hormone therapy.

More than a dozen American states are also currently considering new laws to penalise healthcare providers for providing these treatments to teenagers.

Managing director of New Zealand rainbow support organisation InsideOUT, Tabby Besley, said young people in Aotearoa who receive gender-affirming treatments are also likely to continue the process into their adult lives.

“We hear from young people that being able to access gender affirming healthcare helps to alleviate gender dysphoria and affirm who they are.”

However she said the number of people medically transitioning as teenagers in Aotearoa was relatively small and that most transgender teenagers socially transition instead - changing their appearance and pronouns to reflect who they are.

The 2019 adolescent health survey found 1.2% of New Zealand teenagers identify as transgender and 2.5% weren’t sure of their gender.

Trans and non-binary people are far more likely to experience psychological hardship. The 2018 Counting Ourselves survey found 71% of transgender people in Aotearoa were currently experiencing high levels of distress, compared to 9% of the general population. 

The Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa has highlighted gender-affirming treatment as essential to lowering this stress for the community.

Besley and her team at InsideOUT have witnessed the positive impact access to these treatments can have.

“We definitely see the difference in the mental wellbeing of young people when they are able to start that medical transition,” they said. 

“It makes a massive difference.”

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