Gender-affirming care should be embraced, not met with vitriol

AAs a pediatrician and the parent of a transgender son, I am increasingly concerned about the level of contempt in the United States for the provision of gender-affirming care to children and adolescents.

These three words, “gender-affirming caring,” indicate being considerate of those whose gender identity — sense of self — does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. I am appalled that the delivery of this type of care has prompted publicized incidents of bigotry and threats of violence, including a series of spiteful messages to healthcare workers at Boston Children’s Hospital and a bomb threat to the same facility.

Gender-affirming care means enabling young people to explore and define their gender identity at their own pace. One of my children and our whole family benefited from this.


This care is provided at a developmentally appropriate age using evidence-based tools, which may include hormone therapy or drugs to delay puberty. These treatments are generally easily reversible and are not permanent. This gives the child time, with adult support, to clarify their gender identity. Contrary to some claims, gender-affirming care for minors does not usually include permanent treatments such as surgery.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research show that gender-matched or gender-matched youth are at increased risk of depression, suicide, bullying, and dangerous behaviors. The same report showed that among transgender youth who responded to a national survey, 35% had attempted suicide and a similar percentage had been bullied at school.

Also Read :  6 Points Entrepreneurs Should Know


“The emotional and psychological trauma of rejection, whether from family, friends, society, or the legislature, can leave scars that never heal,” explains Dr. Moira Szilagyi, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She notes the strong consensus among the world’s most prominent medical organizations that evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents is medically necessary and appropriate – even life-saving.

Other research has shown that the affirmation and support of LGBTQ+ people from caring adults, and the ability of these children and youth to function in society as their authentic selves, dramatically reduces risks such as suicide, depression, premature sex, violence and drug use.

My decades of pediatric practice has taught me that the vast majority of parents love their children and want them to be safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous. Supporting and accepting a non-binary child will help achieve all of these goals.

I have experienced the importance of support and acceptance within my own family. My husband and I have made the remarkable journey of raising two children—now adults with children of our own—on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Our older son came out as gay in high school and helped us find a path to acceptance, then to celebrating and standing up for his right to marry, love his husband, and raise our grandson. Our younger child had a more circuitous journey, first identifying as a lesbian, marrying a wonderful woman and raising their daughter together but struggling with gender dysphoria in his 30’s and then transitioning to his authentic male identity with the support of his parents, wife, Employers (the federal government), friends, other family members, and healthcare professionals.

Also Read :  Melinda French Gates wants Silicon Valley alternative for women

Living his authentic self has made our son happier and more productive. Our only regret is that we didn’t recognize his dysphoria earlier and help him avoid some of the immense hurdles he faced during his adult transition.

Having a gender mismatched child can be unexpected and uncomfortable for many parents. In an ideal world, everyone would respond to their children with curiosity and an open mind, but the truth is that we all bring our own expectations, assumptions, life experiences, and limitations to parenting.

My husband and I were initially surprised to learn that our two children were gay/lesbian/transgender. But meeting them with love, opening ourselves to learning and understanding, and standing up for their just rights has affirmed our children while enriching our own lives in countless ways.

Also Read :  Brave Health gets $40M to tackle gap in Medicaid mental health care

Support organizations such as PFLAG, but also pediatric and family medicine practices, school nurses and career counselors and other trained professionals are available to parents to help parents learn and network with other families.

Hate, threats and violence directed against members of the LGBTQ+ community and their families and medical providers hurt gender-balanced children. Physicians must be safe in their work, and patients and families have the right to seek and receive medical care in a safe environment. A backdrop of threats of violence against those trying to heal can only add to the stress faced by families of seriously ill children in treatment.

Our communities can better support the wonderful diversity that enriches our lives. The government has a duty to prevent disruption to health care and to prosecute those who attempt to disrupt and endanger life through fear and violence. People who care for children can and must reject hate and hate directed at those who want nothing more than to live as their authentic selves.

Carole Allen is a pediatrician and past President of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Source link