- September 11, 2014
As transgender issues have gained visibility in recent years, many transgender people are beginning their journeys toward living openly much earlier, as teenagers or even children. Because of this increased visibility, more and more parents are listening to their children when they insist that they do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, and looking for ways to support them if and when they decide to transition. Research suggests that puberty suppression, also known as puberty blockers, can help youth and families with this process.
Recently published results from a Dutch study of 55 transgender people demonstrates that youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria who take medicine to delay the onset of puberty -- and follow that treatment by taking the hormones corresponding with their identified gender and having gender reassignment surgery -- are just as happy, if not happier, than their peers.
These 55 participants were on par with or better than others their age when it came to things like anxiety, depression and body image, and none of them expressed regret as adults about their transitions or the choice to delay puberty.
In other words, the study suggests that transgender or gender-questioning children who are allowed to delay puberty and the development of secondary sex characteristics that comes with it, and who subsequently transition socially and medically, end up as happy and successful as their non-transgender peers.
As the study’s main author Dr. Annelou de Vries explained in an article by US News, “Since puberty suppression is a fully reversible medical intervention, it provides adolescents and their families with time to explore their gender dysphoric feelings, and [to] make a more definite decision regarding the first steps of actual gender reassignment treatment at a later age."
As with other LGBTQ youth, a major factor in the success of the youth in this study was family support. As Dr. Jack Drescher – a clinical psychiatrist specializing in gender and sexuality and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association – explains, “The researchers believe that early medical intervention was not the only factor determining a successful outcome. They also credit their ‘comprehensive multidisciplinary approach’ and ‘a supportive environment’ as vital to helping these youngsters. Studies like this one offer greater hope for transgender adolescents in the future.”
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth, and Families Program works to provide education and resources for LGBT and questioning youth and their families. For more information on the needs and concerns facing transgender, gender non-conforming and questioning children and youth, download our report Supporting and Caring for Our Gender-Expansive Youth, or visit www.hrc.org/youth.