Good news for transgender youth – a recently published Dutch study has shown that the use of puberty blockers is a very positive step. Puberty blockers are drugs which suppress the release of sex hormones at the onset of puberty, and this stops the irreversible physical changes that come with puberty – facial hair, voice changes and bone structure in boys, and breasts in girls. The great thing about puberty blockers is that their effects are completely reversible, so you can think of it as putting puberty on hold for a while. This can buy the young person time to continue exploring their gender identity until such time as they are legally able to start cross-gender hormones if they so choose, which is generally at age 16 after an application to the family court of Australia.
The study, which was published in the journal Paediatrics, followed 55 transgender youth (33 trans* boys and 22 trans* girls) from when they first started puberty blockers (generally around age 14) until one year after their first gender-affirming surgery (on average around age 21).
The study showed that there were no instances of regret in the group regarding puberty suppression of transition and that overall all the youth were satisfied with their decision. The levels of anxiety, emotional distress, body image concerns and overall happiness were the same as in their non-transgender peers of the same age. Given that trans* youth around the world have one of the highest rates of depression, anxiety and suicide, this study supports the concept that allowing these young people to halt the changes of puberty and eventually transition physically to their affirmed gender results in a great outcome for their mental health.
The first step in the process is for the young person to be referred to a specialist psychiatrist for assessment, and this can be done through your local GP. If a young person is about to enter puberty then it’s important not to delay the process, as the physical changes that are about to start happening are irreversible.