What to Know about Gender Affirming Medical Treatments

Written by Jen Bell

  |  Reviewed by Mason Dunn

Decisions about whether to and when to begin gender-affirmative treatments are personal and involve careful consideration of the risks, benefits and other factors unique to each patient and their family.

A gender affirmation process or transition is best facilitated through collaboration between the patient, their family, their primary care provider, and a mental health provider (preferably with expertise in caring for transgender youth). If available, a pediatric endocrinologist or adolescent medicine gender specialist can also play an important role.

After puberty, it becomes more difficult for trans people to comfortably “pass” as a member of the gender they identify as. “Passing” is a term classifying transgender people who are able to express their gender identity publicly without outsiders being able to identify their birth sex.

For trans youth, it can be extremely frustrating and disturbing to go through puberty and see your body developing in a way you don’t identify with. Because of this, some transgender youth seek out medical gender affirmation options, such as hormone therapy, to slow the effects of puberty and ease gender dysphoria.

During puberty, hormone “blockers” can be used to delay physical development. These are  reversible and give an individual more time to explore their gender identity.

Available data shows that delaying puberty in transgender children generally leads to improved psychological functioning in adolescence and young adulthood. For youth assigned female at birth, menstruation may be particularly distressing. Periods can be reduced or temporarily stopped with hormonal or contraceptive medications.

The support of loved ones can have massive impacts on the long-term success of medical therapies. Hormone therapy can be done safely with the assistance of a qualified doctor. However, thousands of transgender people are forced to purchase medications illegally each year, due to a lack of support or funds. This can lead to issues with improper injection, unbalanced dosages and questionable sources.

If your child is a minor, it’s important to get educated and stay up-to-date on the many possibilities available, as you will need to be involved in their medical decisions.

Your child may be required to undergo counseling before receiving some treatments, such as hormone therapies or gender-affirming surgery. Counseling can be very beneficial for a child’s general well-being, and can also provide caregivers with the added peace of mind of having a mental health professional involved.

It’s important to remember that transgender people who do not undergo surgery or hormonal treatmeent are just as valid as those who do. Some trans people choose to medically transition, while others choose not to.