The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has declared that the minimum age for gender transition treatment can now be lowered to 14, which is two years younger than previously advised. Along with that decrease in the age requirement for hormone treatments, the association has also moved to lower the minimum age for some gender reassignment surgeries to between 15 or 17.
While potential risks are present when administering hormone treatments and performing reassignment surgeries on patients within these age brackets, those risks were weighed against those that could come from withholding treatment from someone in need of it.
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In a report from AP News in which they detail information shared with them by the association prior to it being published in a medical journal later this year, it’s explained that input from a pool of “more than 3,000 doctors, social scientists and others involved in transgender health issues” was used in making the decision to lower these minimum age requirements. A key factor in this decision, according to the association’s report, was that lowering these ages would allow for trans youth to go through puberty at the same time as their peers.
Dr. Eli Coleman, chair of the group’s standards of care and director of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s human sexuality program points out in the AP News report that emotional maturity will also factor in to a case-by-case basis when it comes to any gender transition treatment.
“Certainly there are adolescents that do not have the emotional or cognitive maturity to make an informed decision,” Coleman said. “That is why we recommend a careful multidisciplinary assessment.”
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Under the new guidelines, girls will be able to start puberty blockers between the ages of 8 to 13, and two years later for boys, which allows anyone considering gender reassignment to have an expanse of time to decide for themselves whether they’d like to move forward with the next steps in terms of further treatment.
According to AP News the new guidelines also recommend:
—Sex hormones — estrogen or testosterone — starting at age 14. This is often lifelong treatment. Long-term risks may include infertility and weight gain, along with strokes in trans women and high blood pressure in trans men.
—Breast removal for trans boys at age 15. Previous guidance suggested this could be done at least a year after hormones, around age 17, although a specific minimum age wasn’t listed.
—Most genital surgeries starting at age 17, including womb and testicle removal, a year earlier than previous guidance.
“Medical intervention in any realm is not a one-size-fits-all option,” Coleen Williams, a psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gender Multi-specialty Service said in response to the new guidelines.