Psychiatrist says Puberty Blockers Can Help Young Transgenders 'Fit In'

Eric Scheiner | August 22, 2016 | 2:14pm EDT
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Transgender graphic. (AP)

According to a Kaiser Health News report, using puberty suppressing drugs not only prevents children from developing secondary sex characteristics, it also can make it far easier for transgender teens to “fit in.”

It was only in 2008 that the Endocrine Society approved puberty suppressors as a treatment for transgender adolescents as young as 12 years old. The Society, with members in more than 100 countries, has since declared that the intervention appears to be safe and effective. In 2011 the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), also issued Standards of Care for the treatment of patients with gender dysphoria, which include puberty suppression.” 

Full-blown puberty is irreversible, but for transgender children, it’s no longer inevitable. By taking a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist, secretion of the sex hormones can be stopped and the onset of puberty suppressed, so that the body does not develop secondary sex characteristics,” says the article reprinted last week on the PBS NewsHour website.

The report says the puberty blockers are being used to not only prevent physical changes, but also for the mental health of young children.

Starting early may alleviate the need for surgical breast removal or voice modification therapy later on. It also makes it far easier for transgender teens to fit in. ‘That ability to blend in and be perceived as the gender that they identify with is associated with long-term psychological benefits,'” Scott ​Leibowitz, head child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The Kaiser Health News article states that one of the biggest obstacles in obtaining the puberty suppressors is the cost.

One mother of a transgender child says her family has “been lucky to obtain the injections at cost — $500 per shot — rather than the $1,500 to $2,000 per shot that the therapy typically costs. Her husband’s employer, which self-funds its medical insurance plan, chose a clause that excludes transgender care,” according to article.

That kind of exclusion could change, especially since the Obama Administration recently issued final regulations on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act that ban the denial of health care on the basis of gender identity in programs that receive federal funding.”

The article notes that there is some disagreement within the medical community as to when it is appropriate to start a child on puberty blocking medication.

A study in 2008 found that 43 percent of very young children who experienced gender dysphoria no longer felt that way after adolescence,” the article says.

For the complete Kaiser Health News article click here.

h/t Kaiser Health NewsPBS NewsHour

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