“They combed through patient records and found that 8.2 percent of the 184 young people seen in the clinic between 2007 and 2015 were raised in adoptive families,” NPR reported. “Overall, only 2.3 percent of children living in Massachusetts were adopted.”
This isn’t the first time the high number of adopted transgender youth in gender clinics has been noted. Dr. Daniel Shumer, a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, and Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist and author of the book, Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children, all spoke to NPR about witnessing this trend across the country.
"People have been talking about this for a long time," Olson-Kennedy told NPR. She said she has heard colleagues around the nation say, "we have a lot of kids who are adopted in the gender clinics."
The Boston researchers explain that adoptive families may simply be more likely to bring their child to a clinic: they may find gender differences easier to accept, or may have better access to healthcare. Alternately, they say, adopted children may be more likely to express a transgender identity during childhood: perhaps being adopted shapes how their identities develop.
Many of the young patients were adopted at birth, so it’s unlikely that being transgender led to their adoption. Overall, though, LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system—sometimes because of conflict over their gender or sexual orientation. HRC’s All Children - All Families program trains child welfare professionals to support LGBTQ youth and parents, helping them affirm and successfully place transgender youth in foster or adoptive families.
No matter how their families are formed, transgender children benefit immensely from parents and caregivers who affirm their identity. One recent study found that transgender kids whose families affirmed their identity were no more likely to be depressed than their non-transgender peers—in contrast to years of research showing that transgender youth (often not supported at home) experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicidality.
To learn more about clinics that serve transgender children and youth, visit HRC’s Google-based map of programs.