Transgender youth

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Transgender youth are children and adolescents who identify as transgender and/or transsexual. Because transgender youth are usually dependent on their parents for care, shelter, financial support, and other needs, and because most doctors are reluctant to provide medical treatments to them, transgender youth face different challenges compared to adults. Transgender issues manifest at different times in life in different individuals. In most cases of gender identity disorder (GID), the condition is often apparent in early childhood, when such a child may express behavior incongruent with and dissatisfaction related to their assigned gender. However, many of these children experience rejection as a result of their differences and quickly attempt to repress them. Therefore, people who see these children regularly may be unaware that they are unhappy as members of their assigned gender.

According to the DSM-IV, most children diagnosed with gender identity disorder will establish an identity as a member of their assigned sex in adolescence or adulthood.[1]

Coming out[edit]

In many parts of the world, transgender is not widely accepted by the public. Therefore, transgender youths may feel that they need to remain in "the closet" until they feel that it is safe and appropriate to reveal their gender identity to their parents and other family members and friends. This is probably justifiable, as parents usually have a great deal of influence in their children's lives, and many parents will react negatively to such news, even kicking them out. However, some parents are very supportive when such news is broken to them.[2] It may be impossible to predict a parent's reaction to such news, and the process is fraught with tension for many transgender youths. Additionally, reactions of parents to transgender children can change over time. For example, parents who initially reacted with negativity and hostility may eventually come around to support their transgender children. And parents who were initially supportive may later develop hostility toward their child's gender identity.

Transgender youths potentially face many hardships in obtaining medical treatment for their condition. Psychiatrists and endocrinologists are generally reluctant to provide hormone therapy to youths under 16, and obtaining sex reassignment surgery prior to the age of 18 is almost impossible in most countries. However, the latest revision of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People has addressed the needs of transgender children. Currently, the SOC allows for medications for prevention of puberty to be prescribed to these children as soon as the first signs of puberty become apparent.[3]


Puberty is a very difficult time for almost all transsexual youths, and many other transgender youths as well. Puberty is often considered to be a difficult time for everyone in many ways. But unlike their peers, who may be excited about bodily changes and thrilled with growing up, transsexual teenagers are appalled by the changes that take place. While their peers may seem to be happy about going through puberty, the changes that they are experiencing do not feel right. Transgender females may be devastated by the broadening of their shoulders, the growth of their hands, feet, thighs, as well as the development of their penises. Transgender males may be devastated by the growth of their breasts, the widening of their hips, and their lack of height growth. The androgyny of childhood is lost at this time, and transsexual youths see changes in their bodies that make them very uncomfortable.

When teens talk to parents about these feelings, how their parents respond makes a tremendous difference in how well the teen thrives. Transgender youths who are rejected by their families have lower self-esteem and are more isolated than youths whose families accept them, according to research by the Family Acceptance Project. [4] They have poorer health and higher rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse problems and HIV infection. Those whose families and caregivers support and accept them fare much better overall.

In addition, many physicians insist that adolescents go through the puberty associated with their chromosomal sex before they prescribe hormones that could have prevented the feminization or masculinization of a transsexual man or transsexual woman, respectively. However, recent guidelines from The Endocrine Society "recommend that adolescents who fulfill readiness and eligibiity criteria for gender reassignment [as detailed in the Standards of Care of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health] initially undergo treatment to suppress pubertal development."[5] They go on to specify that hormone treatment to suppress puberty should begin at the first signs of the physical changes of puberty.

Ensuring the child's security[edit]

In recent years, some transgender children have received counseling and, in some cases, medical treatment for their condition, as well as the ability to change their gender role. It is thought to be a criminal act in most states where counselors and behavioralists who are not certified in adolescent gender role playing take on the task of determining whether or not it is a pre-teen stage or an actual case of transgenderationalism. At such an early age, the child's mind is at its most sensitive - and grandiose feedback on the subject can mentally lead that child in the wrong direction. In some countries, schools are working to accommodate gender identity and expression by eliminating traditional gendered activities.[6]

Families with a young child who may identify as a member of "the opposite" sex and who chooses to alter his or her gender role through dress or behaviors may respect their child's decision, and sometimes, may decide to relocate the child to another area in order to afford the young person the best opportunity to live in their desired gender role among a novel set of peers and community. This helps protect trans children from peer rejection, bullying, and harassment.

Families who choose to continue living with such a child within an intolerant community which has had previous experience with the child as a member of his/her assigned sex, may face challenging issues. Gwen Araujo of Newark, California was a young person who was living as female, when she had been assigned to the male gender at birth. When her trans status was revealed at a party she attended, she became the victim of violent crimes that resulted in her death. Thankfully the Araujo case is an extreme one, however parents should be aware of the social implications of their transgender child living in an unsafe environment.[citation needed]

The film Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink) (1997) by Alain Berliner depicts a similar scenario. Ludovic is a young child who is assigned male but who lives as a girl and tries to make others agree with her identification. Ludovic's "gender play" incurs conflict within the family and prejudice from the neighbors; in the end, the family had to relocate to a new community.[citation needed]

Australian socio-legal perspectives[edit]

The Australian Socio-legal foundations for transgender youth were only recently[when?] established. Foundations were formed with the case 2004 Fam CA 297 ("Re Alex"). Re Alex examined the rights of a 13-year-old born female to take hormonal treatment to facilitate “becoming” male. The courts gave the alias of Alex to protect [him]. Debate emerged over if it was the body or the mind that required treatment. Throughout the case a variety of views were expressed, this article attempts to cover a representative variety of the views.

Mr. Flemming[who?] put forward argument that if Alex was granted treatment it would follow that if someone deemed themselves to be a horse would society then be required to allow treatment to become a horse.

Associate Professor Jeffreys,[who?] a Political Science at the University of Melbourne argument disagrees with Flemming’s argument. Jeffreys argues that Gender Identity Dysphoria is a “fossil” and that there should be no correlation between body shape and right behaviour.

Senior Law Lecturer Millbank[who?] from Sydney University supported Jeffreys’ argument. Millbank argued that male roles are not fixed, a community in South Africa as an example. The community in question allows families without sons to give the oldest female the role traditionally assigned to the male. This means he will marry and take on traditional functions of the male.

Catholic Spokesman Mr. Campbell[who?] argued along a similar line to Flemming. Campbell claims that for a large number of people this is just a “stage” and will pass. Consistent with his argument he recommends psychotherapy treatment.

Suicide attempt rates[edit]

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 45% of 18-24 year-old transgender/gender nonconforming people had attempted suicide.[7]


Recent research has shown that in carefully selected patients, people who transition young suffer few ill effects, and maintain a higher level of functioning than before transition. Additionally, results of treatment are considered better when it is offered at an earlier age.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Psychological Association (APA)(2000)" Gender Identity Disorder in DSM IV TR.
  2. ^ Lindenmuth ED (1998). Mom, I need to be a girl. Walter Trook Publishing ISBN 0-9663272-0-9. Full text available via
  3. ^ The World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People, version 7.
  4. ^ Ryan, Caitlin (2009), “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Children,” Family Acceptance Project,
  5. ^ Hembrie, Wylie C. et al (2009), "Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline," The Endocrine Society, pg. 13
  6. ^ Lelchuk I (August 27, 2006). When is it OK for boys to be girls, and girls to be boys? San Francisco Chronicle
  7. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Cohen-Kettenis, P T. Dillen, C M. Gooren, L J. (2000) "Treatment of young transsexuals in the Netherlands" Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde 144(15):698-702, 8 April 2000

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