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Supporting Gender Identity

April 30, 2019

Goryeb Children’s Transgender Health Program helps children and adolescents make the transition 

 Adolescence is a time of discovery and self-expression, when children and teens face physical, emotional, and behavioral changes and challenges. For transgender children, or adolescents who have a gender identity that differs from their assigned sex at birth, the struggles can be even more pronounced. The Transgender Health Program at Goryeb Children’s Hospital is designed to provide medical care and support to help them make the transition.

“Our program recognizes the special needs of transgender children and adolescents,” says Daisy Chin, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and lead physician of the Goryeb Transgender Health Program. “Our goals are to provide up-to-date patient care, education to families and providers, and advocacy for this vulnerable group within our hospital system and the community at large.”

The program has seen more than 130 children and teens since starting in 2016. “We’ve seen kids ranging in age from 6 to 18 years,” says Dr. Chin. We aim to assist in their social transition (i.e., use of preferred names and pronouns and connecting families with community support groups), medical or hormone transition, and surgical transition (providing the family with appropriate providers and resources).

About 150,000 youth ages 13 to 17 in the United States identify as transgender. “If you’re assigned female at birth and you strongly identify as female, that is called cisgender. If you are assigned female at birth, but you strongly identify as male, then you are a transgender male. And there are those who do not identify explicitly as male or female. This third group are sometimes referred to as gender non-binary, gender expansive, gender creative or agender.”

Children and families undergo a rigorous assessment by a qualified mental health provider or gender specialist. Transgender kids have a higher risk of depression and anxiety which requires intervention. As part of the program, Dr. Chin provides medical transition, which includes hormone treatments.

“The first therapy can be a pubertal blocker. If the child is just starting puberty, then this will stop changes that don’t align with how they’re identifying. For transgender girls (assigned male at birth), pubertal blockers effectively shut down testosterone production and its unwanted effects on the body, such as voice changes and facial hair. For transgender boys (assigned female at birth), pubertal blockers stop estrogen production and thereby breast growth and menstruation, which typically are unwanted and a great sense of dysphoria in boys,” explains Dr. Chin.

“For children in their midteens, we add gender-affirming hormones for a hormone transition. This would be estrogen for transgender girls or testosterone for transgender boys. These hormones induce the changes to the body that align them with their gender identity.”

The response from parents has been positive, says Dr. Chin. “Before having this program here, families had to travel to New York City or Philadelphia. The success of a child to live freely and openly as their true selves is the ultimate goal. Acceptance and minimization of rejection and intolerance is critical for the transgender community. We hope to support every child, transgender or cisgender, to thrive without constraints of a gender label.”

For more information on the Transgender Health Program at Goryeb Children’s Hospital, call 973-971-4340