A Follow-Up Study of Boys With Gender Identity Disorder

Front Psychiatry. 2021 Mar 29:12:632784. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.632784. eCollection 2021.


This study reports follow-up data on the largest sample to date of boys clinic-referred for gender dysphoria (n = 139) with regard to gender identity and sexual orientation. In childhood, the boys were assessed at a mean age of 7.49 years (range, 3.33-12.99) at a mean year of 1989 and followed-up at a mean age of 20.58 years (range, 13.07-39.15) at a mean year of 2002. In childhood, 88 (63.3%) of the boys met the DSM-III, III-R, or IV criteria for gender identity disorder; the remaining 51 (36.7%) boys were subthreshold for the criteria. At follow-up, gender identity/dysphoria was assessed via multiple methods and the participants were classified as either persisters or desisters. Sexual orientation was ascertained for both fantasy and behavior and then dichotomized as either biphilic/androphilic or gynephilic. Of the 139 participants, 17 (12.2%) were classified as persisters and the remaining 122 (87.8%) were classified as desisters. Data on sexual orientation in fantasy were available for 129 participants: 82 (63.6%) were classified as biphilic/androphilic, 43 (33.3%) were classified as gynephilic, and 4 (3.1%) reported no sexual fantasies. For sexual orientation in behavior, data were available for 108 participants: 51 (47.2%) were classified as biphilic/androphilic, 29 (26.9%) were classified as gynephilic, and 28 (25.9%) reported no sexual behaviors. Multinomial logistic regression examined predictors of outcome for the biphilic/androphilic persisters and the gynephilic desisters, with the biphilic/androphilic desisters as the reference group. Compared to the reference group, the biphilic/androphilic persisters tended to be older at the time of the assessment in childhood, were from a lower social class background, and, on a dimensional composite of sex-typed behavior in childhood were more gender-variant. The biphilic/androphilic desisters were more gender-variant compared to the gynephilic desisters. Boys clinic-referred for gender identity concerns in childhood had a high rate of desistance and a high rate of a biphilic/androphilic sexual orientation. The implications of the data for current models of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in children are discussed.

Keywords: DSM-5; gender dysphoria; gender identity disorder; gender non-conformity; sexual orientation.