Landmark new study sheds light on how transgender children develop identity over time
Plus: How we managed to take a photo of the Milky Way’s black hole.
Emerging science is always fascinating — it’s a strange thrill whenever I see a “first-of-its-kind” study or a landmark discovery in the mix. These moments are rare and enjoyable, but they are also a moment for deep consideration. A first is not necessarily also a robust scientific investigation — but in today’s newsletter, we have a good one.
A new study involving transgender young people traces their transition trajectories, finding that children who identify as a gender other than that assigned to them at birth will likely continue to live as their chosen gender throughout their adolescence. This is, as I said, preliminary work: So few of these studies exist, and five years isn’t a very long time to follow someone’s life course, especially in a critical period of development. But it is a start.
This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Subscribe for free and learn something new every day.
You can read that story and more in today’s newsletter. We made it to the mid-week and I am glad you are here. Scroll down to read about an asteroid headed to Earth, transing youth, the Milky Way’s black hole, and more.
How we finally saw the Milky Way’s central black hole
Last week, the planet-wide Event Horizon Telescope revealed a fresh view of the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy. The historic first image of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) showcased its shape and activity in submillimeter waves, based on 3.5 petabytes of data from several telescopes.
Imaging a black hole like this is extremely challenging, requiring astronomers to pinpoint a small target in the sky while dealing with amounts of data so vast that observatory personnel need to ship hard drives to other facilities for analysis. So how did the EHT get the job done?
“We’re pushing the extremes of what can be done from the ground,” Lindy Blackburn, a member of the EHT collaboration and astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, tells Inverse.
First-of-its-kind study reveals transgender children are extremely unlikely to retransition
In a recent study of kids who transitioned before 12, 94 percent had not changed after five years. The study, published last week in Pediatrics, included 317 children, all of whom first identified as transgender before age 12, with a median age of 6.5.
“Though we can never predict the exact gender trajectory of any child,” the study states, “these data suggest that many youth who identify as transgender early, and are supported through a social transition, will continue to identify as transgender.”
But “parents and clinicians should be informed that not all youth will continue on the same trajectory.”
Of the six percent of kids in the study who retransitioned, more identified as non-binary — 3.5 percent of the total — than cisgender at the end of the study period. Only 2.5 percent, eight youths total, resumed the gender they were assigned at birth.
Those eight individuals tended to make their first transition at a younger age than the other kids in the study.
A skyscraper-sized asteroid is wandering toward Earth
Near-Earth Object 2022 GU6 is classified as an Apollo asteroid, with a diameter approximately between 60 meters and 150 meters. (On the larger side, that’s about as tall as the Fuller Building, a 40-story skyscraper in New York City.)
Asteroid 2022 GU6 will be at its closest point to Earth on June 13th, 2022, before continuing on its orbit back towards Mars and the asteroid belt. There is little threat, with this asteroid only coming 0.008473 AU — or 1,267,536 kilometers. For reference, the Moon is 384,400 kilometers from Earth. If the math is correct, that means the asteroid will pass at 3.3 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Believed to be a threat early this year, further observation and tracking from astronomers revealed that 2022 GU6 poses no danger to our planet. Whenever an asteroid wanders out of the asteroid belt and towards Earth, it has the potential to cause concern. Near-Earth Asteroids are objects to keep an eye on but are rarely a threat.
Fertility clinics turn women away over their weight — new research undermines that practice
Five years on, Meghan remembers the moment her fertility doctor said one terrible sentence: “You’re too big to get pregnant.”
It was 2017 and she was 36 years old. She weighed 240 pounds, with a body mass index of 44.5, 4.5 points past the World Health Organization’s criteria for “severe obesity.” The doctor told her to come back when she had a BMI under 40.
“I burst into tears,” recalls Megan, who asked Inverse not to use her last name for privacy reasons. “I started to tell her off, but I stopped before I said something I would regret, but I was completely broken.”
She needed to lose 15 pounds to get another appointment. She didn’t know if she had time for the trial-and-error process of weight loss before running into the problem of reduced fertility due to age.
Megan isn’t alone. Many fertility clinics will not treat women of a certain weight and will instead send women on diets and to nutritionists. But recent research indicates that this approach may not have the evidence to back it up, and maybe doing more harm than good.
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- On this day in history: On May 18, 1953, Jacqueline Cochran became the first female pilot to break the sound barrier. During her career, she flew higher and faster than most of her contemporaries, broke several records, and founded a cosmetics company.
- Song of the day: “Transmission,” by Joy Division.