The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on Monday urging parents to accept the preferred gender identity of their children.
In a policy statement entitled “Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents,” the group recommended “gender-affirming” health care for minors who do not identify with their birth sex. In some cases, this includes “surgical intervention,” as well as using gonadotrophin-releasing hormones to delay puberty up to age 16 and prevent the development of some sex characteristics, such as breasts and a deeper voice.
The group also prescribes therapy for family members of youth who identify as gender-diverse. It said it hopes to eradicate discrimination and stigma associated with “youth who do not conform to social expectations and norms regarding gender.”
The AAP’s statement cites statistics showing transgender individuals are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide, all of which the group blames on inadequate health care and social stigma. Gender-diverse youth must be assured that “transgender identities and diverse gender expressions do not constitute a mental disorder,” and are “normal aspects of human diversity,” the authors of the statement wrote. Meanwhile, so-called “conversion therapies” are “unfair and deceptive” and “have been proven to be not only unsuccessful but also deleterious and are considered outside the mainstream of traditional medical practice.”
“As pediatricians and parents, we also appreciate how challenging, and at times confusing, it can be for family members to realize their child’s experience and feelings,” said Cora Breuner, MD, who chairs the AAP Committee on Adolescence.
“What is most important is for a parent to listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity,” said Jason Rafferty, MD, the lead author of the policy. “This encourages open conversations that may be difficult but key to the child’s mental health and the family’s resilience and wellbeing.”
“Those of us in the medical community stand prepared to help them,” said Ilana Sherer, MD, a member of the AAP’s Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health and Wellness.
The AAP’s new official prescriptions for treating LGBT youth come as the debate continues to rage in the medical community about gender dysphoria. Some experts have cast doubt on what progressive scientists have maintained is the correct approach to gender dysphoria in children. In 2016, Dr. Kenneth Zucker was fired after decades at the prestigious Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic over his more cautious treatment of gender-dysphoric children. Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University School of Public Health, also sparked controversy with a study suggesting that some of children with symptoms of gender dysphoria were actually suffering from separate psychiatric conditions, an unpopular hypothesis among progressives.
Meanwhile, the American College of Pediatricians has been vilified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others for urging caution against hastily encouraging adolescents to embrace a gender identity other than their birth gender.
“Adolescence is a time of upheaval and impermanence,” the ACP wrote in a 2010 letter to school superintendents. “Adolescents experience confusion about many things, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences.”