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Pediatric Research and Health Care for Transgender and Gender Diverse Adolescents and Young Adults: Improving (Biopsychosocial) Health Outcomes

Published:September 23, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2020.09.010

      Abstract

      Adolescent and young adult (AYA) transgender health care and research have expanded rapidly in the United States and abroad, but the effects of gender-affirming social, hormonal, or surgical care on overall health remain unclear. Gender diverse identities, also termed nonbinary, have often been neglected in favor of (male/female) binary identities, even in the context of transgender health care and research. No high quality studies have assessed how gender-affirming medical care impact health inequities in transgender and gender diverse (TG/GD) adults, much less in AYAs, despite the fact that that TG/GD adults have higher than average morbidity and mortality across a host of health concerns, from human immunodeficiency virus infection to thromboembolism, and that reported depression with suicidal ideation is >10 times higher in TG/GD adults than in the general population.
      TG/GD youth have related but different needs from TG/GD adults. TG/GD AYA are embedded in family and schools, where stigma may be difficult to escape; mental health during adolescence has areas of increased risk as well as resilience; and the effects of early hormonal and surgical interventions on long-term health are insufficiently studied. Because of this, an inclusive and proactive approach to addressing the needs of TG/GD AYA by pediatric clinicians, researchers, and educators is particularly crucial.
      This article focuses on what is known and unknown about clinical practice, research, and education related to TG/GD health. We highlight the role of gender affirmation by clinicians as they care and advocate for TG/GD AYAs; the potential challenges of hormonal treatment for peripubertal youth; and short- and long-term effects on physical and reproductive health of medical or surgical interventions. We also discuss how social context influences knowledge gaps and the health-relevant risks faced by TG/GD AYA. The challenges are formidable, but opportunities await: high priority research questions to explore, educational gaps to be filled, and advocacy that needs the voices of pediatricians to promote policies to facilitate positive health outcomes for TG/GD AYA.

      Keywords

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