Growing up trans or gender-diverse (TGD) can be challenging to say the least, but having the proper support from family and peers can make all the difference. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just issued an important policy statement about kids who identify as transgender or gender-diverse—and every parent should read it.
The first place to start with offering support, according to new evidence-based guidelines from the AAP, is to simply believe kids who self-identify as trans. The AAP has stated that if kids identify as trans or gender-diverse, it’s vital that parents—and their doctors—affirm how they identify themselves.
The new policy statement is aimed at “promoting the health and positive development of youth that identify as TGD while eliminating discrimination and stigma.” Trans and gender-diverse kids face higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide than their their peers. As such, the AAP wants to provide pediatricians with a plan for more gender-affirmative care to help minimize these risks.
“We know that family and community support are essential for any child’s healthy development, and children who are gender-diverse are no different,” said Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH Ed, FAAP, lead author of the statement. “What is most important is for a parent to listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity. This encourages open conversations that may be difficult but key to the child’s mental health and the family’s resilience and wellbeing.”
The AAP says that this new policy is focused both on educating families and parents as well as informing health care providers. Some of the steps the AAP is recommending include providing family-based therapy and support be available to meet the needs of parents, caregivers and siblings of youth who identify as transgender, as well as ensuring that health records, documents and any correspondence reflects the patient’s gender identity.
The AAP also urges health care providers to advocate in their own communities “for policies and laws that seek to promote acceptance of all children without fear of harassment, exclusion or bullying because of gender expression.”
Ilana Sherer, MD, FAAP and executive committee member of the AAP Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health and Wellness, said, “Transgender youth are more visible today than ever before, empowered by others they see on the internet or in their communities. They need our continued support and love, and those of us in the medical community stand prepared to help them.”
Featured photo: Jazz Jennings via Instagram