Trans youth overwhelmingly continue gender-affirming treatment as adults

Study out of the Netherlands goes against what majority of Americans say about adolescent hormone therapy

Despite the majority of Americans opposing transition-related treatment for trans youth, an overwhelming majority seek gender-affirming healthcare as adults. A study published in The Lancet found that 98 percent of people who started gender-affirming treatment under the age of 18 continued to seek care into adulthood at the time of follow-up. 

Despite what the science says, a recent poll found that the majority of Americans are in favour of banning medical treatment for trans youth. A poll conducted by the right-wing group Convention of States Action, in conjunction with conservative polling organization the Trafalgar Group, surveyed more than 1,000 likely voters, asking several questions related to government spending and actions. When asked whether “underage minors should be required to wait until they are adults to legally use puberty blockers and undergo permanent sex-change procedures,” nearly 79 percent of respondents supported banning gender-related healthcare for trans youth. The leading question may have biased some of the respondents.

The justification for many of these right-wing groups, including Convention States of Action, for banning gender-affirming care is that gender dysphoria is something that children can grow out of; however, research shows that age and stage of puberty were not associated with discontinuing hormone therapy. 

Maria Anna Theodora Catharina van der Loos, one of the co-authors of the study, said that given the heightened visibility of trans youth, it is important to further study gender-affirming care. “Everywhere in the world there are so many opinions on gender-affirming treatment, especially in adolescence,” van der Loos told Xtra. “So it’s important, I think, to have some data on which we can base our treatment protocols.” 

This comes at a time when several states in the U.S. have passed bans or are looking to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. Arkansas and Alabama have passed bills that prohibit all gender-affirming care for minors, and Arizona signed into law a bill that bans surgeries for people under the age of 18. Lawmakers in Tennessee have also looked into such legislation, and Michigan and Texas have both looked into investigating parents of trans children.

The media has also been pushing anti-trans ideas into the mainstream, with not only right-wing news organizations such as Fox News peddling transphobic talking points, but even moderate news outlets such as the New York Times overemphasizing the number of trans youth who seek to reverse treatment as they get older. 

 

Van der Loos says that just because a small number of people have chosen to discontinue their hormone therapy, might not necessarily mean that they regret it, or that it was a mistake. “I can imagine that it’s also people with a more non-binary gender identity just wanting to use hormones for shorter duration, and not for longer, or maybe even their entire lives,” she says. “Maybe people didn’t know they had to continue treatment. Maybe there were side effects of treatments that made them quit. There are a lot of reasons we can speculate about why people quit treatment.” 

She says that going forward, more studies will have to be done to look into why people choose to continue and discontinue hormone therapy: “I think it’s important to know the reasoning behind those numbers as well.” She also emphasized the importance of continued long-term follow-up on people who receive gender-affirming care as children. “For example, bone health is also a big topic in this field, in adolescents that get puberty suppression. So I think it’s very important to look into that as well in the longer-term to see if we can also have some evidence on that.” 

Silas Le Blanc is a Masters of Journalism student at TMU. She has previously worked with The Varsity, and completed her undergrad in English and Book & Media Studies in 2021. She is interested in writing about trans issues and pop culture, as well as video, podcasting, social media and newsletters.

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