Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Trans and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents 

The 2018 Australian SOC for Trans and Gender Diverse Children and Adults... a very strongly affirming document based on the latest research making clear that affirmative treatment approaches - in which the youth's identity is respected and supported, where the youth are provided the freedom and safety to explore their gender without judgment - yield much happier and better adjusted youth and young adults. It also makes clear that disaffirming approaches are unethical and may cause harm.

Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for Trans and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents 

Authors: M.M. Telfer, M.A. Tollit, C.C. Pace, & K.C. Pang.   2018.  

“Being trans or gender diverse is now largely viewed as part of the natural spectrum of human diversity. It is, however, frequently accompanied by significant gender dysphoria (GD), which is characterised by the distress that arises from incongruence between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. It is well recognised that trans and gender diverse individuals are at increased risk of harm because of discrimination, social exclusion, bullying, physical assault and even homicide. Serious psychiatric morbidity is seen in children and adolescents. A study of the mental health of trans young people living in Australia found very high rates of ever being diagnosed with depression (74.6%), anxiety (72.2%), post-traumatic stress disorder (25.1%), a personality disorder (20.1%), psychosis (16.2%) or an eating disorder (22.7%). Furthermore 79.7% reported ever self-harming and 48.1% ever attempting suicide.”

 

“Increasing evidence demonstrates that with supportive, gender affirming care during childhood and adolescence, harms can be ameliorated and mental health and wellbeing outcomes can be significantly improved.”

 

“Understanding and using a person’s preferred name and pronouns is vital to the provision of affirming and respectful care of trans children and adolescents.  Providing an environment that demonstrates inclusiveness and respect for diversity is essential... Some children or adolescents may request use of a preferred name or pronoun only in certain circumstances, such as when their parents are, or are not, present in the room. This is important to respect and enact to enable optimal patient-clinician engagement, and ensure confidentiality and patient safety.”

 

“Avoiding harm is an important ethical consideration for health professionals when considering different options for medical and surgical intervention. Withholding of gender affirming treatment is not considered a neutral option, and may exacerbate distress in a number of ways including increasing depression, anxiety and suicidality, social withdrawal, as well as possibly increasing chances of young people illegally accessing medications.” 

 

“In the past, psychological practices attempting to change a person’s gender identity to be more aligned with their sex assigned at birth were used.  Such practices, typically known as conversion or reparative therapies, lack efficacy, are considered unethical and may cause lasting damage to a child or adolescent’s social and emotional health and wellbeing.”

 

https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/adolescent-medicine/australian-standards-of-care-and-treatment-guidelines-for-trans-and-gender-diverse-children-and-adolescents.pdf

 

Recognising the needs of gender variant children and their parents

Recognising the needs of gender variant children and their parents

Published in: Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning.  2013.  Authors: Elizabeth A. Riley, Gomathi Sitharthan, Lindy Clemson & Milton Diamond

“The data in the present study suggest that even when gender-variant children actively endeavour to conform, their efforts are often thwarted by individuals who seek to marginalise and victimise them for their difference. Children therefore suffer from an invisibility and lack of recognition of their needs, on the one hand, and (in some cases) a violation of their personal boundaries that can foster a general anxiety, on the other. The well-documented need of all children for acceptance and affirmation places even more responsibility on adults to be compassionate and make provisions for gender-variant children.” 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2013.796287

The role of gender affirmation in psychological well-being among transgender women

No surprise that validating someone’s sense of self decreases depression and improves self esteem.

Published in: Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. September 2016. Authors Tiffany R. Glynn, Kristi E. Gamarel, Christopher W. Kahler, Mariko Iwamoto, Don Operario, Tooru Nemoto.

“… we found that social, psychological, and medical gender affirmation were significant predictors of lower depression and higher self-esteem... Findings support the need for accessible and affordable transitioning resources for transgender women in order to promote better quality of life among an already vulnerable population.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5061456/

Stigma, Mental Health, and Resilience in an Online Sample of the US Transgender Population

Family and peer support, key components of affirmative approaches for gender variant youth, are all protective factors. This study also clearly refutes the notion among some proponents of "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria" that disaffirming approaches and limiting access to peers is beneficial. 

Published in: American Journal of Public Health.  May, 2013. Authors: Walter O. Bockting, PhD, Michael H. Miner, PhD, Rebecca E. Swinburne Romine, PhD, Autumn Hamilton, HSD, and Eli Coleman, PhD.

 “… family support, peer support, and identity pride all were negatively associated with psychological distress, confirming that these assets are protective factors. Moreover, peer support significantly moderated the relationship between enacted stigma and psychological distress, thus emerging as a demonstrated factor of resilience in the face of actual experiences of discrimination. Only at high (but not low or medium) levels of peer support was enacted stigma not associated with psychological distress, which suggests that the negative impact of enacted stigma on mental health is pervasive and that regular contact with peers is necessary to ameliorate it.”

“Together, these results offer support for the value of transgender individuals connecting with similar others, possibly providing the opportunity to question stigma from the majority culture and reappraise their experiences in a self-affirmative way, which is consistent with what has been postulated and observed among gay and lesbian individuals. This finding is particularly pertinent because previous research found that transgender people have higher levels of depression and lower levels of peer and family support than their gay, lesbian, and bisexual counterparts. These results support a need to promote resilience by facilitating ample peer support.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3698807/

Mental Health and Self-Worth in Socially Transitioned Transgender Youth

Socially transitioned youth do better than those who do not transition, and do not show higher level of depression or anxiety than their peers or siblings.

Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. February 10, 2017. Authors: Lily Durwood, Katie A. McLaughlin, Kristina R. Olson.

“We found remarkably good mental health outcomes in socially transitioned transgender children in the present study. Transgender children reported normative rates of depression and slightly increased rates of anxiety. Rates of depression in transgender children did not differ significantly from those in siblings of transgender children or from those in age- and gender-matched controls, although rates of anxiety were marginally higher. Parents’ reports of their children’s depression and anxiety largely mirrored the children’s reports, although parents of transgender children reported slightly higher anxiety in their children than the children did…”

“Our findings of normative levels of depression, slightly higher rates of anxiety, and high self-worth in socially transitioned transgender children stand in marked contrast with previous work with gender-nonconforming children who had not socially transitioned. Those studies overwhelmingly reported markedly higher rates of anxiety and depression and lower self-worth, with disproportionate numbers of children in the clinical range.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302003/

High School Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and Young Adult Well-Being: An Examination of GSA Presence, Participation, and Perceived Effectiveness

Yet one more study outlining the importance of LGBTQ+ youth having the opportunity to associate with each other. Rather than making youth LGBTQ+ through ‘social contagion’, contact with other LGBTQ+ youth is protective and aids with development and health.

Published in: Applied Developmental Science. 2011. Authors: Russell B. Toomey, Caitlin Ryan, Rafael M. Diaz & Stephen T. Russell.

“… there appear to be positive associations between GSAs and well-being and educational attainment. Our finding that students who were in schools with GSAs were more likely to obtain a college education underscores the potential impact on educational achievement and socioeconomic and occupational status as an adult. In addition, given the heightened attention to suicides of young males who were known or perceived to be gay and bisexual that have been linked to anti-gay harassment at school (e.g., Katz, 2010), our findings point to GSAs as a potential context for reducing this risk – at least at low levels of LGBT school victimization - given the significant interaction between GSA participation and LGBT school victimization on lifetime suicide attempts.”

“In sum, our findings suggest that school administrators and personnel should be supportive in helping students to form and facilitate GSAs in schools as a potential source of promoting positive development for this underserved population. “

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217265/

Access to GSAs Yields Happier, Better Adjusted Youth...

Contrary to current research, proponents of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” have argued that the trans identity in some youth could possibly be due to “social contagion” (ie being around youth who identify as trans and taking on the identity themselves though it is not authentic) and thereby urge parents be cautious when around allowing trans youth access to their peers via friends, GSAs, and online resources, so as to limit their exposure to the “contagion”.

There is extensive literature to document that social supports - these same friends, GSAs, and online resources - actually improve the lives and outcomes for these youth. Below is a piece from the publication of the American Federation of Teachers.

Gay-Straight Alliances

Promoting Student Resilience and Safer School Climates

Published in: American Educator. Winter 2016-2017. Author: V. Paul Poteat.

“Students in schools with GSAs report lower mental and physical health concerns, greater overall well-being, less drug use, less truancy, and greater perceived school safety than students in schools without GSAs. These findings now have been documented across a range of studies at local and national levels. Other studies have recorded feedback from GSA members who attribute instances of personal growth and empowerment, as well as a range of other positive experiences, to their GSA involvement.”

https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/ae-winter2016poteat.pdf

Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents.

Published By: The American Academy of Pediatrics. September 17, 2018.

“Supportive involvement of parents and family is associated with better mental and physical health outcomes. Gender affirmation among adolescents with gender dysphoria often reduces the emphasis on gender in their lives, allowing them to attend to other developmental tasks, such as academic success, relationship building, and future-oriented planning. Most protocols for gender-affirming interventions incorporate World Professional Association of Transgender Health and Endocrine Society recommendations and include ≥1 of the following elements:

“Social Affirmation: This is a reversible intervention in which children and adolescents express partially or completely in their asserted gender identity by adapting hairstyle, clothing, pronouns, name, etc. Children who identify as transgender and socially affirm and are supported in their asserted gender show no increase in depression and only minimal (clinically insignificant) increases in anxiety compared with age-matched averages…

“Legal Affirmation: Elements of a social affirmation, such as a name and gender marker, become official on legal documents, such as birth certificates, passports, identification cards, school documents, etc…

“Medical Affirmation: This is the process of using cross-sex hormones to allow adolescents who have initiated puberty to develop secondary sex characteristics of the opposite biological sex…

“Surgical Affirmation: Surgical approaches may be used to feminize or masculinize features… These changes are irreversible. Although current protocols typically reserve surgical interventions for adults, they are occasionally pursued during adolescence on a case-by-case basis, considering the necessity and benefit to the adolescent’s overall health…”

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/…/09/13/peds.2018-2162

Family Rejection as a Predictor of Suicide Attempts and Substance Misuse Among Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Adults

Published in: LGBT Health. May 25, 2016. Authors: Augustus Klein and Sarit Golub.

"42.3% of [transgender adults] reported a suicide attempt and 26.3% reported misusing drugs or alcohol to cope with transgender-related discrimination… family rejection was associated with increased odds of both behaviors. Odds increased significantly with increasing levels of family rejection."

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/lgbt.2015.0111?journalCode=lgbt

Analysis finds strong consensus on effectiveness of gender transition treatment

Published in: Cornell Chronicle. April 9, 2018

"Of 56 peer-reviewed studies, 52 (93 percent) found that gender transition improves the overall well-being of transgender people. The other 7 percent reported mixed or null findings. None of the reviewed studies showed that gender transition harms well-being."

"The positive outcomes of gender transition and related medical treatments include improved quality of life, greater relationship satisfaction, higher self-esteem and confidence, and reductions in anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies and substance use."

"The positive impact of gender transition has grown considerably in recent years, as surgical techniques and social support have improved."

"Regrets following gender transition are extremely rare and have become increasingly rarer."

http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2018/04/analysis-finds-strong-consensus-effectiveness-gender-transition-treatment