Study shows link between early access to gender-affirming hormone therapy and better mental health in transgender people

The research is overwhelming, and the anecdotal evidence is also hard to ignore.

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Image Credit: LGBTQ Nation

There are plenty of reasons why gender-affirming hormone therapy might be on your radar, whether you work with trans and LGBTQIA+ youth, you’re experiencing your own gender or sexuality exploration, or you’re the parent of a trans or nonbinary child. There is a lot to learn about the personal choices that can come into play when you have these discussions as an individual, a family or even an institution. However, no matter where your knowledge stands, it’s important to look at the facts and listen to the real experiences of queer and trans youth. 

LGBTQ mental health

There has been more research into mental health in the LGBTQ community in recent years than ever before. Unfortunately, studies routinely show that many of these people struggle more with mental health than the population at large. Although the exact statistics vary, 42% of LGBTQ youth considered commiting suicide in the past year, including more than half of nonbinary and transgender youth. Due to societal pressures and cultural circumstances, in addition to the internal, natural occurrences of puberty, LGBTQ kids’ mental health needs to be looked after and protected. 

LBGTQ youth challenges

Mental health doesn’t always equate to one’s circumstances or surroundings, but the challenges LGBTQ youth face are often directly linked to socialization and discrimination. So much of the world still discriminates against LGBTQ and trans people. 

Kids don’t have as much power over their circumstances, which can be isolating or even dangerous. At least 55% of LGBTQIA+ youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 58% of teens surveyed cited anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and 56% said homophobia caused them stress and anxiety. These circumstances put LGBTQ kids in a position of vulnerability already, which makes it all the more important to support their mental health however possible. 

Gender and socialization

All these details show that gender and sexuality play a role in the internal lives of everyone and in the social elements of life. Gender is a personal thing, and everyone has their own relationship to it — and that includes kids, too. Children have been raised and socialized with their own forms of gender norms for their entire lives, even if your intention wasn’t to do that — simply because that is what it means to exist in society. Gender-affirming therapies and treatments should be examined and treated as serious options, just as any other life change. 

Gender-affirming measures and mental health

The study’s findings, which show a link between early access to gender-affirming therapies and mental health improvements for trans people, are extremely nuanced. More than 27,000 trans people were surveyed. It compared the psychological distress and suicidal thoughts experienced by 12,257 trans adults who had access to gender-affirming hormones to that of 8,860 trans adults who wanted but did not have access to them. 

The adverse mental health conditions decreased among trans people who had access to gender-affirming hormones from ages 14 to 17. These impacts have very real implications in adult life, which is why it can be so important to address these concerns sooner rather than later. This intervention provides a better experience throughout youth and adolescence. It also allows hormones and other medical assistance to work better and quicker within the body as the child enters adulthood. 

What does hormone therapy mean?

People often have a clear view of what they think receiving hormone therapy as a trans person means. However, it’s different for everyone, especially for kids who are still growing. These therapies typically don’t involve any surgical procedures, as most states don’t allow them under 18. 

Of course, every person will have their own comfort level with medical intervention, so talking with a doctor and working out a personalized treatment plan is likely the best option. It’s even possible to get hormone blockers, which simply postpone puberty rather than introduce new elements to the body. These medications work by blocking estrogen and testosterone, which can stall things like breast development, voice deepening and facial hair. These medications most often come in the form of shots and implants, so you don’t even need to worry about taking a daily pill.

Looking into adulthood

Overall, teen and adolescent years are intended for exploring gender, expression and sexuality, and the ability to have access to needed care during those years can be informative and make a lasting impact. Any events during youth can impact your adult life, and this is a part of that landscape. Helping LGBTQ youth navigate these waters can make their transition into adulthood easier, as they will feel more confident in who they are.

Gender-affirming hormone therapy during youth

The research is overwhelming, and the anecdotal evidence is also hard to ignore. Trans kids are valid, just like any other member of the LGBTQ community or any other youth facing challenges and growing pains. Gender-affirming hormone therapy can help them gain confidence as they grow into the person they were meant to be.

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