Baltimore OUTloud: 'Gender JOY' Takes Anxiety out of Growing up Transgender

Nate Sweeney

April 15, 2016

Gender non-conforming children face challenging questions about their identity and heightened risks of harassment and violence at school and home. They also often struggle to have their health-care needs met.

In response, Baltimore-based Chase Brexton Health Care has launched a new program that offers a full range of health care services for transgender and gender-diverse youth.

The program, Gender Journeys of Youth, or Gender JOY, helps children, adolescents and young adults who have questions about their gender identity. Gender JOY is the first program of its kind in the Baltimore area.

“There are many children and adolescents who experience an internal feeling of gender that does not match their assigned gender, and they and their families often need extra support and care,” said Dr. Elyse D. Pine, Chase Brexton’s lead physician for transgender youth.

Gender JOY offers pediatric care along with individual and family therapy, providing transgender youth with a comprehensive support system – a resource that often goes overlooked by conventional health care organizations.

Parents of transgender and gender-diverse young people often struggle to find a provider who understands what their children are going through.

Nearly 75 percent of transgender patients worry that medical personnel will treat them differently as a result of their identity. Nationally, one in 300 people who are dealing with a significant gender concern face increased risk of serious psychological trauma or poor health.

For gender diverse children of any age, early intervention and support can help reduce anxiety and depression.

“For some youth, finding a safe space to explore their feelings about gender helps reduce distress, and may be all that is needed,” said Dr. Pine. “There are some youth, however, that are consistent, persistent and insistent about their gender difference and will need medical intervention to grow and thrive.”

For older children, a Chase Brexton medical team will assist patients and may recommend medicines that halt puberty development for transgender youth facing the trauma that puberty can bring. These “puberty blockers” give young people more time to explore their gender and identity questions without pressure.

Cross-sex hormones may be recommended for older adolescents and young adults. In addition, behavioral health experts will help the youth and their families understand these questions and work together to create a supportive environment.

Chase Brexton’s LGBT Health Resource Center, which opened last year, will help connect Gender JOY patients to additional services and resources. Appointments may also be made via the Chase Brexton Call Center at 410-837-2050.

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