“Gender-affirming Health Care: What You Need to Know About Care for Transgender Youth in Canada
For some young people, gender-affirming health care is life-saving, positive, and crucial for their mental and physical well-being. According to Robyn Hodgson, a registered nurse and co-ordinator for the transgender and non-binary program at the InterCommunity Health Centre in London, Ontario, providing gender-affirming health care can be profound, rewarding, and life-changing. It’s an approach that has been endorsed by various medical associations both in Canada and around the world. However, many misconceptions surround this type of health care, especially when it comes to treating young people.
Understanding Affirming Care
Affirming care encompasses a range of social and psychological support, including using a person’s chosen pronouns, as well as transition-related medical treatments such as puberty blockers, hormones, and gender-affirming surgeries. This approach is aimed at affirming a trans person’s gender identity instead of attempting to change it.
For young individuals who have not yet reached puberty, affirming care means providing them with a supportive environment to explore their gender identity without any medical interventions. This can include using different pronouns, trying out a new name, or experimenting with different clothing and hairstyles. This creates a space for them to express themselves authentically without facing any pressure to conform to societal norms or expectations.
The Misconceptions and Realities
Silas Cain, a 16-year-old transgender boy who is receiving gender-affirming care in Saskatoon, emphasizes the harmful impact of making uninformed assumptions or opinions regarding this type of care. Misconceptions can lead to stigmatization and negatively impact the well-being of young individuals.
Contrary to some false beliefs, medical professionals do not rush into providing treatment. Before puberty blockers or hormone therapy is considered, all youth must be assessed by qualified health-care professionals who have expertise in the psycho-neurodevelopment of adolescents. This is to ensure that a deliberate and thoughtful approach is taken in providing care, and that young people receive the support and guidance they need to make informed decisions.
Additionally, it’s a common misconception that minors under 18 can easily obtain surgical procedures. In reality, surgical options are not considered until much later in the treatment process and only in very rare cases. For minors, access to surgery is extremely limited, with the majority of surgical interventions only becoming potentially available to older teenagers who have had an extensive duration of care and support.
The Reality for Transgender Youth
For young transgender individuals like 17-year-old Seelie Romard and Silas Cain, accessing gender-affirming care is a carefully considered and lengthy process that involves consultations with various health-care professionals, mental health assessments, and ample time to make informed decisions about medical treatments. It’s a journey that requires a strong support network and a dedicated effort to ensure the overall well-being of the young person in the long run.
Impact of Medical Interventions
When it comes to medical interventions, the effects of puberty blockers and hormone therapy must be carefully considered. According to Dr. Tania Culham, a physician with Trans Care B.C., puberty blockers allow young individuals time to explore their gender identity without undergoing irreversible changes. On the other hand, hormone therapy can have long-term effects on fertility, so it’s critical for young individuals to be fully informed and offered the chance to preserve their sperm or eggs for future use.
Involving families in decisions about medical treatments for young transgender individuals is important and can lead to better outcomes in care. In cases where parents or caregivers are not supportive, some youth may be considered “mature minors” under Canadian law, allowing them to make their healthcare decisions.
Understanding gender-affirming health care is essential for fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for transgender youth. The journey to receiving affirming care is complex, and it is crucial to dispel misconceptions and promote understanding and acceptance of the unique needs of the transgender community. It’s a matter of recognizing that providing quality gender-affirming health care can truly transform the lives of young individuals and help them thrive in their authentic identities.”