Last week the Endocrine Society announced new treatment guidelines for transgender teenagers. The country’s oldest endocrinology organization recommended that transgender youth be given hormone blockers to delay the onset of the physical changes that result from puberty, and that hormone therapy should only be given to teenagers after the age of 16 so that teens can be absolutely sure that they are transgender. According to the LA Times:
Those guidelines come at a time when many of those with “gender dysphoria”–persistent distress over one’s gender at birth–are asking to begin gender reassignment hormonal therapy and/or surgery at an earlier and earlier age. While surgeons have been reluctant to do gender reassignment surgery on a patient under 18, endocrinologists often face pressure from would-be transsexuals to offer earlier, interim treatment. The new guidelines are likely to set a standard that many endocrinologists will follow in such cases.
“Transsexual persons experiencing the confusion and stress associated with feeling ‘trapped’ in the wrong body look to endocrinologists for treatment that can bring relief and resolution to their profound discomfort,” said Dr. Wylie Hembree, a Columbia University endocrinologist who chaired the committee drafting the guidelines. The new guidelines, he added in a news release, are intended to provide “science-based recommendations” for practitioners to provide “safe and effective treatment” to those diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder.
I have mixed feelings about the treatment protocol. On the one hand, I certainly think that transgender youth deserve the opportunity to pursue their options. Dutch and British physicians have found hormone blockers to be an effective treatment for the mental health consequences of gender identity disorder. They help teens buy themselves some time – they don’t have to face the consequences of developing facial hair or breasts until they figure out what they want their gender presentation to be. All good news for the teens.
However, there is a lot of debate within the transgender community over the validity of the gender identity disorder diagnosis. Some argue that they are not mentally ill – that they have a birth defect. Moreover, there are others in the transgender community who say that they have neither a mental, nor a physical disorder – rather, they think that they have the right body but that our culture needs to broaden the definitions of gender so that people aren’t forced into rigidly constructed gender categories.
Last year I wrote a piece for The Bilerico Project about transgender youth. The article was in response to a series that NPR had done about transgender children and teenagers. There were many things that NPR got right – but the one thing they kept getting wrong was the pronouns that they used to refer to the kids in the story. Regardless of the treatment options, the one thing that all of us can do to support trans youth (and transgender folks in general) is to use the pronouns that they prefer. How hard is that?
Anyway, I’d love to get your view on the new treatment options for trans teens? Hot, or not?