In the last decade or so, transgender and gender non-conforming children and adolescents have become more and more visible. IPG is a nationally-recognized leader in providing diagnosis and care for these young people from a “non-pathological” perspective. We subscribe to the guidelines of WPATH (the World Professional Association for Transgender Health) and we work with families to help their child lead a happy, healthy and safe life and future. We also run monthly groups for transgender youth of various ages, as well as corresponding family groups for their loved ones; please contact us for more information about these groups.
Teens vs. pre-pubertal children
IPG therapists are known experts in working with both teens and pre-pubertal children. The issues faced by these two groups are very different, and require different interventions.
Gender Non-conforming children: Many children are “gender fluid” or “gender non-conforming”, meaning their behavior or appearance is more typical of the “opposite sex.” While some of these kids will simply grow up to be a bit unconventional, others will eventually declare themselves transgender while others will grow up to be gay but not transgender. This makes the next steps tricky.
A minority of kids will need the bold intervention of a complete social gender transition at an early age, but most will simply need support, advocacy and ways to express themselves freely. At IPG, we are very experienced with the complex issues of diagnosis and treatment for these children. We do not pathologize gender variance, but we also do not assume every gender non-conforming child is a transgender person. The course of action for these children usually involves work with the family and periodic follow-up with the child as he or she approaches adolescence. Whether or not social transition is called for, gender non-conforming children, like all children, must be able to express their true selves and be safe in all aspects of their lives.
Transgender Adolescents: For gender non-conforming children, puberty is often the time that a transgender identity emerges. Before puberty, children may be relatively unaware of or unconcerned about their bodies, but puberty often changes all that. As with younger children, some of these older children may in fact be transgender, or simply grow up to be unconventional or gay. These young people need a different approach than younger children. What this means is offering gender non-conforming adolescents and their families information, support and advocacy. It also means a possible recommendation for an evaluation by a trained pediatric endocrinologist for puberty blockers – fully reversible medications that stop the progression of puberty in order to give time for assessments and decisions on whether to make a full gender transition, or for cross-gender hormones for those 16 or older once assessments and decisions have been made.
No matter the diagnosis of a gender non-conforming child, the course of action is crucial to good mental health. The essential goal, of course, is a healthy and happy child who will grow up to be a healthy, happy and productive adult. IPG is here to help that process succeed.