Gender-Affirming Care for Youths: What Do Healthcare Professionals Think?

*The translation of this article in French and Portuguese has been made through machine translation and has not been edited yet. we apologise for any inaccuracies.

What do healthcare professionals think about gender-affirming care for youths under 18? Last month, over 3,700 M3 members shared their opinions in our monthly M3 Pulse survey about implementing stricter legislation around gender-affirming care for minors.

Discussions on gender-affirming care have evolved significantly in the last decades with growing recognition of the unique needs of gender-affirming care for minors. The increased public discourse and broader awareness of transgender youth have sparked debates on age requirements, parental consent, and long-term effects. Some countries have implemented supportive policies, while others have considered restrictive legislation around gender-affirming care for youths. The discussions continue to evolve with research, legal developments, and changing societal attitudes shaping the dialogue.

Read more about gender-affirming care and gender identity, and to what extent healthcare professionals agree or disagree that there should be legislation in place to restrict minors from receiving gender-affirming care and treatment.

gender-affirming care for youths

What Is Gender-Affirming Care for Youths?

Gender-affirming care is a term used to describe medical, psychological, and social support provided to individuals who are transgender, non-binary, or whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. It includes a range of treatments and interventions aimed at helping individuals align their physical appearance, social roles, and overall well-being with their gender identity. Gender affirming-care for youths are treatments and support that are specifically aimed at people under 18.

Gender-affirming care and treatment can include various components, such as:

  • Mental Health Support: This involves providing counselling, therapy, or support groups to assist individuals in exploring and affirming their gender identity, addressing any associated concerns or challenges.
  • Hormone Therapy: Some individuals may choose to undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to bring about changes that align with their gender identity. This can involve the use of hormones, such as estrogen or testosterone, under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
  • Surgeries: Gender-affirming surgeries, also known as gender reassignment surgeries, may be an option for individuals who desire physical changes to their bodies. These surgeries can include procedures such as chest reconstruction, genital reconstruction, and facial surgery, among others.
  • Voice and Speech Therapy: Some individuals may seek assistance in modifying their voice and speech patterns to better align with their gender identity.
  • Social and Legal Support: Gender-affirming care also involves providing support in legal matters, such as changing names and gender markers on identification documents.
gender-affirming care

What Is Gender Identity?

Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of their own gender, which may or may not align with the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender is a social and cultural construct that encompasses roles, behaviours, expectations, and identities associated with who you are. Sex, on the other hand, refers to the biological and physiological characteristics, including genitalia and chromosome composition, that distinguish males from females. While sex is assigned at birth based on observable characteristics, gender identity is a personal and internal understanding of one’s gender.

Distinguishing between gender and sex is essential for recognising and respecting the diversity of human experiences, addressing discrimination, promoting inclusive policies and practices, and providing appropriate healthcare support. It contributes to fostering a more equitable and inclusive society for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity.

gender-affirming care

Legislation and Healthcare Guidelines Around Gender-Affirming Care for Minors

With increased education, public discourse, and visibility in media, more people are becoming aware of the unique experiences and needs of individuals who do not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. This awareness has led to a greater demand for gender-affirming care and discussions surrounding it.

Medical and psychological research has advanced our understanding of gender identity and its significance to individuals’ well-being. This knowledge has helped healthcare professionals provide more effective and affirming care for transgender individuals. As research and new technologies continue to expand, discussions about healthcare guidelines, legal policies, and ethical considerations around gender-affirming care continue to evolve, especially for young people under 18.

There are currently no global guidelines for gender-affirming care for youth, and nations across the world are adopting different approaches. European countries can be considered fairly conservative in their approach to transgender treatments, prioritising issues around safeguarding minors. England, Sweden, and Finland have largely abandoned access to irreversible gender-affirmation treatments for people under 18. Other European countries, including Ireland and Italy, are discussing the validity of their current standpoint. In some states of the USA, a series of bills were recently passed that banned hormone treatment and surgical procedures for minors seeking gender-affirming care, while other states, such as California, have adopted a more lenient legal framework.

gender affirming

What Do Healthcare Professionals Think About Gender-Affirming Care for Youth? M3 Pulse Results

In the absence of a global legal and ethical framework regarding gender-affirming care and treatment for minors, fostering an open discussion across borders and domains becomes increasingly crucial.

In April’s M3 Pulse, we wanted to find out what healthcare professionals think about gender-affirming care for youths. We asked if our M3 members agree there should be legislation in place to restrict minors from receiving gender-affirming care and treatment.

3,743 physicians and other healthcare professionals in the US and Europe participated and shared their opinions in the M3 Pulse survey.

Over 50% of healthcare professionals agree or strongly agree there should be legislation in place to restrict minors from receiving gender-affirming care and treatment, while almost 30% disagree or strongly disagree with this approach.

Do you agree with them? Share your views in the comment section below.

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  1. I think youth are children, I think you can foster any ways they are feeling. However making permanent changes at an age where the brain is not even fully developed is 100% wrong and inappropriate for providers in my opinion. Once they are adults and have undergone extensive psychiatric evaluation then only can permanent changes be discussed.

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