Pediatricians group says children should be free to explore their gender

The American Academy of Pediatricians, the largest professional group of pediatricians in the USA, has released a landmark statement supporting transgender youth.

The policy, which is the first time the group has made a declarative statement, called for gender-affirming health care for all transgender and gender-diverse youth.

The new position statement was posted online and will be published in the next edition of the professional journal Pediatrics. It says the statement is aimed at pediatricians who “are focused on promoting the health and positive development of youth that identify as TGD while eliminating discrimination and stigma.”

The large professional body which has over 60,000 members is often confused with the much small group the American College of Pediatricians which is a religious based group that argues against abortion, same sex parenting and marriage and opposes the treatment of gender dysphoria.

The ACS argues that children should be dissuaded from embracing a non-biological gender and is against the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery. The group’s president Quentin Van Meter recently conducted a speaking tour around Australia.

The American Academy Pediatrics says the clearly worded policy is necessary to address the “high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use, self-harm and suicide.” among transgender youth.

Referring to its recommended treatment as a “gender-affirmative care model,” the Academy said it encourages an approach where “providers work together to destigmatize gender variance, promote the child’s self-worth, facilitate access to care, educate families, and advocate for safer community spaces where children are free to develop and explore their gender.”

The medical group said that transgender identities and diverse gender expressions do not constitute a mental disorder. Earier this year the World Health Organisation also removed gender dysphoria from it’s recognised lists of mental illness.

The group also declared that variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity, and binary definitions of gender do not always reflect emerging gender identities, and gender identity evolves as an interplay of biology, development, socialization, and culture.

The statement recognises that mental health issues are often a concern for transgender youth but notes that if a mental health issue exists, it most often stems from stigma and negative experiences rather than being intrinsic to the child. Last year major research conducted in Western Australia at the Telethon Kids Institute also found that extrinsic factors were the biggest contributors to mental health challenges faced by transgender youth.

The Academy of Pediatrics said the best way to assist and support transgender youth was via a model where medical staff, mental health specialists, social services and familes worked together.

“A Gender Affirming Care Model is best facilitated through the integration of medical, mental health, and social services, including specific resources and supports for parents and families.” the statement reads.  “Providers work together to destigmatize gender variance, promote the child’s self-worth, facilitate access to care, educate families, and advocate for safer community spaces where children are free to develop and explore their gender. A specialized gender-affirmative therapist, when available, may be an asset in helping children and their families build skills for dealing with gender-based stigma, address symptoms of anxiety or depression, and reinforce the child’s overall resiliency.”

The new policy also warns of the dangers of “reparative” or “conversion” therapies which aim to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity. The group declare that such approaches have been proven to be scientifically invalid and have been made illegal in many jurisdictions in the USA.

OIP Staff, Photo by Elijah M. Henderson on Unsplash


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