Arkansas has become the first state to ban physicians from giving hormones or puberty-delaying drugs to transgender people under age 18. Similar measures are being considered in more than 20 states, even as transgender representation increases in legislatures.
Doctors have criticized the measure, especially its restriction on puberty blockers, which are used for multiple conditions beyond treating transgender children and are reversible. “Puberty-blocking medications are gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, which prevent the release of sex hormones,” says Caroline L. Salas-Humara, MD, adolescent medicine specialist and medical director of the Transgender Youth Health Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.
Puberty-blocking medications are primarily used in young children who start puberty too early. Most recently, puberty blockers have garnered some attention for their use in transgender children. Dr. Salas-Humara, also an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, says that doctors will use a multidisciplinary approach to make sure that puberty blockers are the best option for the child.
The pause in puberty is the largest benefit of the medication. “Puberty blockers allow transgender kids to really be able to navigate situations without worrying about what their body looks like as soon as puberty becomes part of the picture,” says Samantha Busa, PsyD, child and adolescent psychologist and clinical director of the Gender and Sexuality Service at the Child Study Center, part of the Transgender Youth Health Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.
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