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Parenting Advice

Resources For Transgender Youth & Their Parents

Written by Kate MacLean

Where former President Obama spent much of his power and influence protecting the disenfranchised, President Trump has gone to great lengths to further marginalize such groups, and the transgender community has been no exception. In his first month in office, Trump rescinded the protections the Obama administration had put in place for transgender students. Most recently, Trump has issued a memo calling for the ban of transgender people from the military.

While understanding and acceptance of transgender and gender non-conforming people has matured (slightly) over the past decade, the community so actively unprotected by the federal government still faces much discrimination and social hardship. Parents with children in the early stages of gender dysphoria can find the process of being an advocate for their child overwhelming for a general lack of codified information and help. We spoke recently with Calvin Gilbert, a Family Nurse Practitioner at Lyon Martin Health Services in San Francisco, about resources in the U.S. for transgender youth and their parents.

Tell us a little bit about the practice you work in and what the clinic offers.
“Lyon-Martin Health Services’ mission statement is: ‘To provide excellent health care to heterosexual women, bisexual women, lesbians, and transgender people in a safe and compassionate environment, with sensitivity to sexual orientation and gender identity; all services are regardless of ability to pay.’ Specifically, in regards to transgender health care, we offer education and services around prescribing and monitoring hormone replacement therapy, evaluations, and referrals for gender reassignment surgery, help navigating legal name changes and gender markers, mental health services, and general primary care for any variety of health conditions.”

Tell our readers how you came to work at the clinic and why this work so important to you.
“I applied to school to become a nurse practitioner after working with children in a long-term residential facility at a psychiatric hospital for five years. After seeing some of the children at this facility struggle to find adequate support around their gender exploration both at home and within the healthcare field, and listening to my transgender and gender non-conforming friends (and myself) experience the same barriers to care, I decided to become a primary care provider, so that I could provide the health care that I saw so many people going without. I believe that it is critical to have both allies and transgender and gender non-conforming people working within health care to advocate for our community. I have always been very open about my experience, so I felt that I was in a unique position to be able to help make changes from the inside.”

What does access to thoughtful and adequate health care and mental health care look like for transgender and gender non-conforming or gender-queer kids across the country? Are there disparities based on geographic location?
“Many medical schools and nurse practitioner programs are lacking education around these specific populations, and even if providers are open to offering this care, they often don’t have the proper education to be able to do so. When there is a provider who is knowledgeable in this area, people often travel from different states to get the care that their children need.”

Does there exist yet a uniform curriculum in nursing schools on transgender-appropriate healthcare?
“The short answer is sometimes! The University of Vermont [Gilbert’s alma mater] has incorporated curriculum into both the undergraduate nursing, graduate nursing, and medical school that is focused on the LGBTQ community and transgender health care in particular. Historically, there has been limited clinical research into these populations, and so it was difficult for nursing and medical programs to offer evidence-based practice recommendations because there weren’t any. There is new research being published all the time, and hopefully there will be a set of universal recommendations published sooner than later to make it easier to find consistent information for educating providers.”

Societal understanding of the trans community has grown in recent years, but we now live in surreal and backward times with a hostile administration. From bathroom rights to the overwhelming threat of suicide, there are myriad of grave issues facing trans-youth. Are there issues that don’t get reported that you think parents should be aware of?
“There is discrimination along every step of gender exploration. The National LGBTQ Taskforce published a very powerful piece entitled ‘Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey‘ that I recommend reading. It really helps put into perspective the struggles that are being faced within our community, and this was published before our most recent election.”

What are some of your most recommended educational tools for parents who are at the beginning stages of gender dysphoria with their child?
“One of the most wonderful resources is talking to other parents. There are two great online support groups for parents whose children are exploring their gender identity and presentation. The Human Rights Campaign is a great website with a lot of resources for learning about transgendered children including information about how to help advocate for changes in schools. TransFamily Support Services is another great online resource with links to a variety of support groups and networks. I also recommend The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper.”

Any parting advice for parents of both transgender and gender non-conforming children?
“Have open conversations with your children. Most kids figure out their gender identity by age five. This doesn’t mean that you need to seek out medical assistance this young, but it does mean that it’s never too early to encourage your children to explore their gender identity, and even presentation, if they start expressing desires to dress differently or state that their gender identity does not align with sex at birth. It is also crucial to remember that gender is a fluid concept and that children (and adults) may identify in a variety of different ways throughout their lifetime. Always remember to keep the conversations going and support and advocate for your children early and often throughout this adventure. It’s normal for parents to struggle and experience many mixed emotions throughout this process, so take time to take care of yourself, too. Find the support that you need, so that you can continue to support your child. I also like to remember that children can be much more accepting when it comes to gender than you may think. A lot of our ideas about gender binaries are ingrained over time, and I find that children tend to be more fluid in their perceptions.”

For more on this topic, be sure to read How To Talk To Kids About Gender.

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