Sex changing for kids, teens

A report1 that appears in the medical journal Pediatrics reveals that sex-changing treatments are becoming more prevalent among teens and children who believe they were born the wrong sex. The report goes on to say that these youngsters are getting support from parents and doctors alike.

Ethically, it is an issue, considering experts in the field urge caution in treating children with puberty-blocking drugs and hormones. The report says that some of the kids are labeled with gender identity disorder, which is a psychiatric diagnosis, though research suggests they might have brain differences more similar to the opposite sex. According to the researchers, some estimates indicate that 1 in 10,000 children have the condition.

Guidelines from the Endocrine Society in Chevy Chase, MD, endorse transgender hormone treatment, but say it should not be given before puberty begins. At that point, the guidelines recommend puberty-blocking drugs until age 16, then lifelong sex-changing hormones with monitoring for potential health risks. Mental health professionals should be involved in the process, the guidelines say. The society's mission is to advance excellence in endocrinology and promote its role in scientific discovery, medical practice, and human health. The group's members are doctors who treat hormonal conditions.

Another study2 by the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and also appearing in the journal Pediatrics, exposed that 39% of women facing gender uncertainty experienced some type of abuse when they were younger, as did 30% of men. Among children and teens evaluated for treatment, 44% have been given a psychiatric diagnosis (most often depression), and 21% reported self-mutilation.

Resource

  • Endocrine treatment of transsexual persons: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline - http://bit.ly/wgFtzI.

References

  1. Spack N, Edwards-Leeper L, Feldman H, et al. Children and adolescents with gender identity disorder referred to a pediatric medical center. Pediatrics 2012; 129:418-425.
  2. Jensen P, Goldman E, Offord D, et al. Overlooked and underserved: "Action signs" for identifying children with unmet mental health needs. Pediatrics 2011; 128:970-979.