This spring, Children’s Medical Center in Dallas opened a clinic that specializes in helping kids and their families work through a condition called gender dysphoria. On Monday's Think, Krys Boyd talked to a pair of staff members, about the multistep treatment process:
Before kids even visit the clinic, they go through six months of therapy. Then a therapist can recommend a trip to the Gender, Education and Care Interdisciplinary Support program at Children’s – also known as GENECIS.
Dr. Meredith Chapman, a psychiatrist at GENECIS, says stress is a key indicator in diagnosing gender dysphoria.
“And it’s a diagnosis, because it is the distress and the discomfort that a person experiences because their sex assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender," she says. eing transgender itself is not a diagnosis – transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses lots of things.”
Once a child is accepted into the clinic, the team does a second evaluation. That’s when Chapman focuses on the dysphoria’s intensity.
“Our job is to really thoroughly investigate the insistency of the gender dysphoria – how strongly the child or adolescent feels that; the consistency – how stable it’s been over time; and then the persistency – how long has it lasted," she says. And based on those three factors … we try to make a recommendation about whether medical intervention seems like a reasonable next step.”
That typically involves medication that blocks puberty, says Dr. Ximena Lopez, the clinic’s medical director. The goal is to buy the child and therapist time.
“For very young children, as they work with their therapist, they can continue to explore their gender identity in a safe way, because puberty blockers are pretty safe, and it’s reversible," she says.
As children are being treated at the clinic, so are their parents. Chapman says it’s natural for moms and dads to be surprised.
“The first three words that are said about any person: ‘It’s a boy! It’s a girl,'" she says. "From the mental health perspective, the child or adolescent actually gets there very quickly – it’s often there’s a delay between when they know and when they actually tell someone. So it’s a bit of a catchup process for parents.”
If the GENECIS program is any indicator, it seems the condition affects boys and girls equally. Of the 102 patients Children’s has seen, Chapman says the breakdown has been about 50-50.
Miss Monday's Think? Listen to the podcast.