Rachel Weeping for her Children

From the American Academy of Pediatrics


 Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents




As a traditionally underserved population that faces numerous health disparities, youth who identify as transgender and gender diverse (TGD) and their families are increasingly presenting to pediatric providers for education, care, and referrals. The need for more formal training, standardized treatment, and research on safety and medical outcomes often leaves providers feeling ill equipped to support and care for patients that identify as TGD and families. In this policy statement, we review relevant concepts and challenges and provide suggestions for pediatric providers that are focused on promoting the health and positive development of youth that identify as TGD while eliminating discrimination and stigma.

·  Abbreviations:

AAP —  American Academy of Pediatrics

GACM —  gender-affirmative care model

GLSEN —  Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

LGBTQ —  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning

TGD —  transgender and gender diverse


In its dedication to the health of all children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strives to improve health care access and eliminate disparities for children and teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) of their sexual or gender identity.1,2 Despite some advances in public awareness and legal protections, youth who identify as LGBTQ continue to face disparities that stem from multiple sources, including inequitable laws and policies, societal discrimination, and a lack of access to quality health care, including mental health care. Such challenges are often more intense for youth who do not conform to social expectations and norms regarding gender. Pediatric providers are increasingly encountering such youth and their families, who seek medical advice and interventions, yet they may lack the formal training to care for youth that identify as transgender and gender diverse (TGD) and their families.3

This policy statement is focused specifically on children and youth that identify as TGD rather than the larger LGBTQ population, providing brief, relevant background on the basis of current available research and expert opinion from clinical and research leaders, which will serve as the basis for recommendations. It is not a comprehensive review of clinical approaches and nuances to pediatric care for children and youth that identify as TGD. Professional understanding of youth that identify as TGD is a rapidly evolving clinical field in which research on appropriate clinical management is limited by insufficient funding.3,4


To clarify recommendations and discussions in this policy statement, some definitions are provided. However, brief descriptions of human behavior or identities may not capture nuance in this evolving field.

“Sex,” or “natal gender,” is a label, generally “male” or “female,” that is typically assigned at birth on the basis of genetic and anatomic characteristics, such as genital anatomy, chromosomes, and sex hormone levels. Meanwhile, “gender identity” is one’s internal sense of who one is, which results from a multifaceted interaction of biological traits, developmental influences, and environmental conditions. It may be male, female, somewhere in between, a combination of both, or neither (ie, not conforming to a binary conceptualization of gender). Self-recognition of gender identity develops over time, much the same way as a child’s physical body does. For some people, gender identity can be fluid, shifting in different contexts. “Gender expression” refers to the wide array of ways people display their gender through clothing, hair styles, mannerisms, or social roles. Exploring different ways of expressing gender is common for children and may challenge social expectations. The way others interpret this expression is referred to as “gender perception” (Table 1).5,6


Relevant Terms and Definitions Related to Gender Care

These labels may or may not be congruent. The term “cisgender” is used if someone identifies and expresses a gender that is consistent with the culturally defined norms of the sex that was assigned at birth. “Gender diverse” is an umbrella term to describe an ever-evolving array of labels that people may apply when their gender identity, expression, or even perception does not conform to the norms and stereotypes others expect of their assigned sex. “Transgender” is usually reserved for a subset of such youth whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex and generally remains persistent, consistent, and insistent over time. These terms are not diagnoses; rather, they are personal and often dynamic ways of describing one’s own gender experience.

Gender identity is not synonymous with “sexual orientation,” which refers to a person’s identity in relation to the gender(s) to which they are sexually and romantically attracted. Gender identity and sexual orientation are distinct but interrelated constructs.8 Therefore, being transgender does not imply a sexual orientation, and people who identify as transgender still identify as straight, gay, bisexual, etc, on the basis of their attractions. (For more information, The Gender Book, found at, is a resource with illustrations that are used to highlight these core terms and concepts.)


In population-based surveys, questions related to gender identity are rarely asked, which makes it difficult to assess the size and characteristics of the population that is TGD. In the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 19 states elected to include optional questions on gender identity. Extrapolation from these data suggests that the US prevalence of adults who identify as transgender or “gender nonconforming” is 0.6% (1.4 million), ranging from 0.3% in North Dakota to 0.8% in Hawaii.9 On the basis of these data, it has been estimated that 0.7% of youth ages 13 to 17 years (150 000) identify as transgender.10 This number is much higher than previous estimates, which were extrapolated from individual states or specialty clinics, and is likely an underestimate given the stigma regarding those who openly identify as transgender and the difficulty in defining “transgender” in a way that is inclusive of all gender-diverse identities.11

There have been no large-scale prevalence studies among children and adolescents, and there is no evidence that adult statistics reflect young children or adolescents. In the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, those 18 to 24 years of age were more likely than older age groups to identify as transgender (0.7%).9 Children report being aware of gender incongruence at young ages. Children who later identify as TGD report first having recognized their gender as “different” at an average age of 8.5 years; however, they did not disclose such feelings until an average of 10 years later.12

Mental Health Implications

Adolescents and adults who identify as transgender have high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide.1320 Evidence suggests that an identity of TGD has an increased prevalence among individuals with autism spectrum disorder, but this association is not yet well understood.21,22 In 1 retrospective cohort study, 56% of youth who identified as transgender reported previous suicidal ideation, and 31% reported a previous suicide attempt, compared with 20% and 11% among matched youth who identified as cisgender, respectively.13 Some youth who identify as TGD also experience gender dysphoria, which is a specific diagnosis given to those who experience impairment in peer and/or family relationships, school performance, or other aspects of their life as a consequence of the incongruence between their assigned sex and their gender identity.23

There is no evidence that risk for mental illness is inherently attributable to one’s identity of TGD. Rather, it is believed to be multifactorial, stemming from an internal conflict between one’s appearance and identity, limited availability of mental health services, low access to health care providers with expertise in caring for youth who identify as TGD, discrimination, stigma, and social rejection.24 This was affirmed by the American Psychological Association in 200825 (with practice guidelines released in 20158) and the American Psychiatric Association, which made the following statement in 2012:

Being transgender or gender variant implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities; however, these individuals often experience discrimination due to a lack of civil rights protections for their gender identity or expression.… [Such] discrimination and lack of equal civil rights is damaging to the mental health of transgender and gender variant individuals.26

Youth who identify as TGD often confront stigma and discrimination, which contribute to feelings of rejection and isolation that can adversely affect physical and emotional well-being. For example, many youth believe that they must hide their gender identity and expression to avoid bullying, harassment, or victimization. Youth who identify as TGD experience disproportionately high rates of homelessness, physical violence (at home and in the community), substance abuse, and high-risk sexual behaviors.5,6,12,2731 Among the 3 million HIV testing events that were reported in 2015, the highest percentages of new infections were among women who identified as transgender32 and were also at particular risk for not knowing their HIV status.30

Gender-Affirmative Care

In a gender-affirmative care model (GACM), pediatric providers offer developmentally appropriate care that is oriented toward understanding and appreciating the youth’s gender experience. A strong, nonjudgmental partnership with youth and their families can facilitate exploration of complicated emotions and gender-diverse expressions while allowing questions and concerns to be raised in a supportive environment.5 In a GACM, the following messages are conveyed:

·                                 transgender identities and diverse gender expressions do not constitute a mental disorder;

·                                 variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity, and binary definitions of gender do not always reflect emerging gender identities;

·                                 gender identity evolves as an interplay of biology, development, socialization, and culture; and

·                                 if a mental health issue exists, it most often stems from stigma and negative experiences rather than being intrinsic to the child.27,33

The GACM is best facilitated through the integration of medical, mental health, and social services, including specific resources and supports for parents and families.24 Providers work together to destigmatize gender variance, promote the child’s self-worth, facilitate access to care, educate families, and advocate for safer community spaces where children are free to develop and explore their gender.5 A specialized gender-affirmative therapist, when available, may be an asset in helping children and their families build skills for dealing with gender-based stigma, address symptoms of anxiety or depression, and reinforce the child’s overall resiliency.34,35 There is a limited but growing body of evidence that suggests that using an integrated affirmative model results in young people having fewer mental health concerns whether they ultimately identify as transgender.24,36,37

In contrast, “conversion” or “reparative” treatment models are used to prevent children and adolescents from identifying as transgender or to dissuade them from exhibiting gender-diverse expressions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has concluded that any therapeutic intervention with the goal of changing a youth’s gender expression or identity is inappropriate.33 Reparative approaches have been proven to be not only unsuccessful38 but also deleterious and are considered outside the mainstream of traditional medical practice.29,3942 The AAP described reparative approaches as “unfair and deceptive.”43 At the time of this writing,* conversion therapy was banned by executive regulation in New York and by legislative statutes in 9 other states as well as the District of Columbia.44

Pediatric providers have an essential role in assessing gender concerns and providing evidence-based information to assist youth and families in medical decision-making. Not doing so can prolong or exacerbate gender dysphoria and contribute to abuse and stigmatization.35 If a pediatric provider does not feel prepared to address gender concerns when they occur, then referral to a pediatric or mental health provider with more expertise is appropriate. There is little research on communication and efficacy with transfers in care for youth who identify as TGD, particularly from pediatric to adult providers.

Developmental Considerations

Acknowledging that the capacity for emerging abstract thinking in childhood is important to conceptualize and reflect on identity, gender-affirmation guidelines are being focused on individually tailored interventions on the basis of the physical and cognitive development of youth who identify as TGD.45 Accordingly, research substantiates that children who are prepubertal and assert an identity of TGD know their gender as clearly and as consistently as their developmentally equivalent peers who identify as cisgender and benefit from the same level of social acceptance.46 This developmental approach to gender affirmation is in contrast to the outdated approach in which a child’s gender-diverse assertions are held as “possibly true” until an arbitrary age (often after pubertal onset) when they can be considered valid, an approach that authors of the literature have termed “watchful waiting.” This outdated approach does not serve the child because critical support is withheld. Watchful waiting is based on binary notions of gender in which gender diversity and fluidity is pathologized; in watchful waiting, it is also assumed that notions of gender identity become fixed at a certain age. The approach is also influenced by a group of early studies with validity concerns, methodologic flaws, and limited follow-up on children who identified as TGD and, by adolescence, did not seek further treatment (“desisters”).45,47 More robust and current research suggests that, rather than focusing on who a child will become, valuing them for who they are, even at a young age, fosters secure attachment and resilience, not only for the child but also for the whole family.5,45,48,49

Medical Management

Pediatric primary care providers are in a unique position to routinely inquire about gender development in children and adolescents as part of recommended well-child visits50 and to be a reliable source of validation, support, and reassurance. They are often the first provider to be aware that a child may not identify as cisgender or that there may be distress related to a gender-diverse identity. The best way to approach gender with patients is to inquire directly and nonjudgmentally about their experience and feelings before applying any labels.27,51

Many medical interventions can be offered to youth who identify as TGD and their families. The decision of whether and when to initiate gender-affirmative treatment is personal and involves careful consideration of risks, benefits, and other factors unique to each patient and family. Many protocols suggest that clinical assessment of youth who identify as TGD is ideally conducted on an ongoing basis in the setting of a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, which, in addition to the patient and family, may include the pediatric provider, a mental health provider (preferably with expertise in caring for youth who identify as TGD ), social and legal supports, and a pediatric endocrinologist or adolescent-medicine gender specialist, if available.6,28 There is no prescribed path, sequence, or end point. Providers can make every effort to be aware of the influence of their own biases. The medical options also vary depending on pubertal and developmental progression.

Clinical Setting

In the past year, 1 in 4 adults who identified as transgender avoided a necessary doctor’s visit because of fear of being mistreated.31 All clinical office staff have a role in affirming a patient’s gender identity. Making flyers available or displaying posters related to LGBTQ health issues, including information for children who identify as TGD and families, reveals inclusivity and awareness. Generally, patients who identify as TGD feel most comfortable when they have access to a gender-neutral restroom. Diversity training that encompasses sensitivity when caring for youth who identify as TGD and their families can be helpful in educating clinical and administrative staff. A patient-asserted name and pronouns are used by staff and are ideally reflected in the electronic medical record without creating duplicate charts.52,53 The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology require all electronic health record systems certified under the Meaningful Use incentive program to have the capacity to confidentially collect information on gender identity.54,55 Explaining and maintaining confidentiality procedures promotes openness and trust, particularly with youth who identify as LGBTQ.1 Maintaining a safe clinical space can provide at least 1 consistent, protective refuge for patients and families, allowing authentic gender expression and exploration that builds resiliency.

Pubertal Suppression

Gonadotrophin-releasing hormones have been used to delay puberty since the 1980s for central precocious puberty.56 These reversible treatments can also be used in adolescents who experience gender dysphoria to prevent development of secondary sex characteristics and provide time up until 16 years of age for the individual and the family to explore gender identity, access psychosocial supports, develop coping skills, and further define appropriate treatment goals. If pubertal suppression treatment is suspended, then endogenous puberty will resume.20,57,58

Often, pubertal suppression creates an opportunity to reduce distress that may occur with the development of secondary sexual characteristics and allow for gender-affirming care, including mental health support for the adolescent and the family. It reduces the need for later surgery because physical changes that are otherwise irreversible (protrusion of the Adam’s apple, male pattern baldness, voice change, breast growth, etc) are prevented. The available data reveal that pubertal suppression in children who identify as TGD generally leads to improved psychological functioning in adolescence and young adulthood.20,5759

Pubertal suppression is not without risks. Delaying puberty beyond one’s peers can also be stressful and can lead to lower self-esteem and increased risk taking.60 Some experts believe that genital underdevelopment may limit some potential reconstructive options.61 Research on long-term risks, particularly in terms of bone metabolism62 and fertility,63 is currently limited and provides varied results.57,64,65 Families often look to pediatric providers for help in considering whether pubertal suppression is indicated in the context of their child’s overall well-being as gender diverse.

Gender Affirmation

As youth who identify as TGD reflect on and evaluate their gender identity, various interventions may be considered to better align their gender expression with their underlying identity. This process of reflection, acceptance, and, for some, intervention is known as “gender affirmation.” It was formerly referred to as “transitioning,” but many view the process as an affirmation and acceptance of who they have always been rather than a transition from 1 gender identity to another. Accordingly, some people who have gone through the process prefer to call themselves “affirmed females, males, etc” (or just “females, males, etc”), rather than using the prefix “trans-.” Gender affirmation is also used to acknowledge that some individuals who identify as TGD may feel affirmed in their gender without pursuing medical or surgical interventions.7,66

Supportive involvement of parents and family is associated with better mental and physical health outcomes.67 Gender affirmation among adolescents with gender dysphoria often reduces the emphasis on gender in their lives, allowing them to attend to other developmental tasks, such as academic success, relationship building, and future-oriented planning.64 Most protocols for gender-affirming interventions incorporate World Professional Association of Transgender Health35 and Endocrine Society68 recommendations and include ≥1 of the following elements (Table 2):

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The Process of Gender Affirmation May Include ≥1 of the Following Components

1.                           Social Affirmation: This is a reversible intervention in which children and adolescents express partially or completely in their asserted gender identity by adapting hairstyle, clothing, pronouns, name, etc. Children who identify as transgender and socially affirm and are supported in their asserted gender show no increase in depression and only minimal (clinically insignificant) increases in anxiety compared with age-matched averages.48 Social affirmation can be complicated given the wide range of social interactions children have (eg, extended families, peers, school, community, etc). There is little guidance on the best approach (eg, all at once, gradual, creating new social networks, or affirming within existing networks, etc). Pediatric providers can best support families by anticipating and discussing such complexity proactively, either in their own practice or through enlisting a qualified mental health provider.

2.                           Legal Affirmation: Elements of a social affirmation, such as a name and gender marker, become official on legal documents, such as birth certificates, passports, identification cards, school documents, etc. The processes for making these changes depend on state laws and may require specific documentation from pediatric providers.

3.                           Medical Affirmation: This is the process of using cross-sex hormones to allow adolescents who have initiated puberty to develop secondary sex characteristics of the opposite biological sex. Some changes are partially reversible if hormones are stopped, but others become irreversible once they are fully developed (Table 2).

4.                           Surgical Affirmation: Surgical approaches may be used to feminize or masculinize features, such as hair distribution, chest, or genitalia, and may include removal of internal organs, such as ovaries or the uterus (affecting fertility). These changes are irreversible. Although current protocols typically reserve surgical interventions for adults,35,68 they are occasionally pursued during adolescence on a case-by-case basis, considering the necessity and benefit to the adolescent’s overall health and often including multidisciplinary input from medical, mental health, and surgical providers as well as from the adolescent and family.6971

For some youth who identify as TGD whose natal gender is female, menstruation, breakthrough bleeding, and dysmenorrhea can lead to significant distress before or during gender affirmation. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that, although limited data are available to outline management, menstruation can be managed without exogenous estrogens by using a progesterone-only pill, a medroxyprogesterone acetate shot, or a progesterone-containing intrauterine or implantable device.72 If estrogen can be tolerated, oral contraceptives that contain both progesterone and estrogen are more effective at suppressing menses.73 The Endocrine Society guidelines also suggest that gonadotrophin-releasing hormones can be used for menstrual suppression before the anticipated initiation of testosterone or in combination with testosterone for breakthrough bleeding (enables phenotypic masculinization at a lower dose than if testosterone is used alone).68 Masculinizing hormones in natal female patients may lead to a cessation of menses, but unplanned pregnancies have been reported, which emphasizes the need for ongoing contraceptive counseling with youth who identify as TGD.72

Health Disparities

In addition to societal challenges, youth who identify as TGD face several barriers within the health care system, especially regarding access to care. In 2015, a focus group of youth who identified as transgender in Seattle, Washington, revealed 4 problematic areas related to health care:

1.                           safety issues, including the lack of safe clinical environments and fear of discrimination by providers;

2.                           poor access to physical health services, including testing for sexually transmitted infections;

3.                           inadequate resources to address mental health concerns; and

4.                           lack of continuity with providers.74

This study reveals the obstacles many youth who identify as TGD face in accessing essential services, including the limited supply of appropriately trained medical and psychological providers, fertility options, and insurance coverage denials for gender-related treatments.74

Insurance denials for services related to the care of patients who identify as TGD are a significant barrier. Although the Office for Civil Rights of the US Department of Health and Human Services explicitly stated in 2012 that the nondiscrimination provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes people who identify as gender diverse,75,76 insurance claims for gender affirmation, particularly among youth who identify as TGD, are frequently denied.54,77 In 1 study, it was found that approximately 25% of individuals who identified as transgender were denied insurance coverage because of being transgender.31 The burden of covering medical expenses that are not covered by insurance can be financially devastating, and even when expenses are covered, families describe high levels of stress in navigating and submitting claims appropriately.78 In 2012, a large gender center in Boston, Massachusetts, reported that most young patients who identified as transgender and were deemed appropriate candidates for recommended gender care were unable to obtain it because of such denials, which were based on the premise that gender dysphoria was a mental disorder, not a physical one, and that treatment was not medically or surgically necessary.24 This practice not only contributes to stigma, prolonged gender dysphoria, and poor mental health outcomes,77 but it may also lead patients to seek nonmedically supervised treatments that are potentially dangerous.24 Furthermore, insurance denials can reinforce a socioeconomic divide between those who can finance the high costs of uncovered care and those who cannot.24,77

The transgender youth group in Seattle likely reflected the larger TGD population when they described how obstacles adversely affect self-esteem and contribute to the perception that they are undervalued by society and the health care system.74,77 Professional medical associations, including the AAP, are increasingly calling for equity in health care provisions regardless of gender identity or expression.1,8,23,72 There is a critical need for investments in research on the prevalence, disparities, biological underpinnings, and standards of care relating to gender-diverse populations. Pediatric providers who work with state government and insurance officials can play an essential role in advocating for stronger nondiscrimination policies and improved coverage.

There is a lack of quality research on the experience of youth of color who identify as transgender. One theory suggests that the intersection of racism, transphobia, and sexism may result in the extreme marginalization that is experienced among many women of color who identify as transgender,79 including rejection from their family and dropping out of school at younger ages (often in the setting of rigid religious beliefs regarding gender),80 increased levels of violence and body objectification,81 3 times the risk of poverty compared with the general population,31 and the highest prevalence of HIV compared with other risk groups (estimated as high as 56.3% in 1 meta-analysis).30 One model suggests that pervasive stigma and oppression can be associated with psychological distress (anxiety, depression, and suicide) and adoption of risk behaviors by such youth to obtain a sense of validation toward their complex identities.79

Family Acceptance

Research increasingly suggests that familial acceptance or rejection ultimately has little influence on the gender identity of youth; however, it may profoundly affect young people’s ability to openly discuss or disclose concerns about their identity. Suppressing such concerns can affect mental health.82 Families often find it hard to understand and accept their child’s gender-diverse traits because of personal beliefs, social pressure, and stigma.49,83 Legitimate fears may exist for their child’s welfare, safety, and acceptance that pediatric providers need to appreciate and address. Families can be encouraged to communicate their concerns and questions. Unacknowledged concerns can contribute to shame and hesitation in regard to offering support and understanding,84 which is essential for the child’s self-esteem, social involvement, and overall health as TGD.48,8587 Some caution has been expressed that unquestioning acceptance per se may not best serve questioning youth or their families. Instead, psychological evidence suggests that the most benefit comes when family members and youth are supported and encouraged to engage in reflective perspective taking and validate their own and the other’s thoughts and feelings despite divergent views.49,82

In this regard, suicide attempt rates among 433 adolescents in Ontario who identified as “trans” were 4% among those with strongly supportive parents and as high as 60% among those whose parents were not supportive.85 Adolescents who identify as transgender and endorse at least 1 supportive person in their life report significantly less distress than those who only experience rejection. In communities with high levels of support, it was found that nonsupportive families tended to increase their support over time, leading to dramatic improvement in mental health outcomes among their children who identified as transgender.88

Pediatric providers can create a safe environment for parents and families to better understand and listen to the needs of their children while receiving reassurance and education.83 It is often appropriate to assist the child in understanding the parents’ concerns as well. Despite expectations by some youth with transgender identity for immediate acceptance after “coming out,” family members often proceed through a process of becoming more comfortable and understanding of the youth’s gender identity, thoughts, and feelings. One model suggests that the process resembles grieving, wherein the family separates from their expectations for their child to embrace a new reality. This process may proceed through stages of shock, denial, anger, feelings of betrayal, fear, self-discovery, and pride.89 The amount of time spent in any of these stages and the overall pace varies widely. Many family members also struggle as they are pushed to reflect on their own gender experience and assumptions throughout this process. In some situations, youth who identify as TGD may be at risk for internalizing the difficult emotions that family members may be experiencing. In these cases, individual and group therapy for the family members may be helpful.49,78

Family dynamics can be complex, involving disagreement among legal guardians or between guardians and their children, which may affect the ability to obtain consent for any medical management or interventions. Even in states where minors may access care without parental consent for mental health services, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections, parental or guardian consent is required for hormonal and surgical care of patients who identify as TGD.72,90 Some families may take issue with providers who address gender concerns or offer gender-affirming care. In rare cases, a family may deny access to care that raises concerns about the youth’s welfare and safety; in those cases, additional legal or ethical support may be useful to consider. In such rare situations, pediatric providers may want to familiarize themselves with relevant local consent laws and maintain their primary responsibility for the welfare of the child.

Safe Schools and Communities

Youth who identify as TGD are becoming more visible because gender-diverse expression is increasingly admissible in the media, on social media, and in schools and communities. Regardless of whether a youth with a gender-diverse identity ultimately identifies as transgender, challenges exist in nearly every social context, from lack of understanding to outright rejection, isolation, discrimination, and victimization. In the US Transgender Survey of nearly 28 000 respondents, it was found that among those who were out as or perceived to be TGD between kindergarten and eighth grade, 54% were verbally harassed, 24% were physically assaulted, and 13% were sexually assaulted; 17% left school because of maltreatment.31 Education and advocacy from the medical community on the importance of safe schools for youth who identify as TGD can have a significant effect.

At the time of this writing,* only 18 states and the District of Columbia had laws that prohibited discrimination based on gender expression when it comes to employment, housing, public accommodations, and insurance benefits. Over 200 US cities have such legislation. In addition to basic protections, many youth who identify as TGD also have to navigate legal obstacles when it comes to legally changing their name and/or gender marker.54 In addition to advocating and working with policy makers to promote equal protections for youth who identify as TGD, pediatric providers can play an important role by developing a familiarity with local laws and organizations that provide social work and legal assistance to youth who identify as TGD and their families.

School environments play a significant role in the social and emotional development of children. Every child has a right to feel safe and respected at school, but for youth who identify as TGD, this can be challenging. Nearly every aspect of school life may present safety concerns and require negotiations regarding their gender expression, including name/pronoun use, use of bathrooms and locker rooms, sports teams, dances and activities, overnight activities, and even peer groups. Conflicts in any of these areas can quickly escalate beyond the school’s control to larger debates among the community and even on a national stage.

The formerly known Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an advocacy organization for youth who identify as LGBTQ, conducts an annual national survey to measure LGBTQ well-being in US schools. In 2015, students who identified as LGBTQ reported high rates of being discouraged from participation in extracurricular activities. One in 5 students who identified as LGBTQ reported being hindered from forming or participating in a club to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students (eg, a gay straight alliance, now often referred to as a genders and sexualities alliance) despite such clubs at schools being associated with decreased reports of negative remarks about sexual orientation or gender expression, increased feelings of safety and connectedness at school, and lower levels of victimization. In addition, >20% of students who identified as LGBTQ reported being blocked from writing about LGBTQ issues in school yearbooks or school newspapers or being prevented or discouraged by coaches and school staff from participating in sports because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.91

One strategy to prevent conflict is to proactively support policies and protections that promote inclusion and safety of all students. However, such policies are far from consistent across districts. In 2015, GLSEN found that 43% of children who identified as LGBTQ reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression, but only 6% reported that their school had official policies to support youth who identified as TGD, and only 11% reported that their school’s antibullying policies had specific protections for gender expression.91 Consequently, more than half of the students who identified as transgender in the study were prevented from using the bathroom, names, or pronouns that aligned with their asserted gender at school. A lack of explicit policies that protected youth who identified as TGD was associated with increased reported victimization, with more than half of students who identified as LGBTQ reporting verbal harassment because of their gender expression. Educators and school administrators play an essential role in advocating for and enforcing such policies. GLSEN found that when students recognized actions to reduce gender-based harassment, both students who identified as transgender and cisgender reported a greater connection to staff and feelings of safety.91 In another study, schools were open to education regarding gender diversity and were willing to implement policies when they were supported by external agencies, such as medical professionals.92

Academic content plays an important role in building a safe school environment as well. The 2015 GLSEN survey revealed that when positive representations of people who identified as LGBTQ were included in the curriculum, students who identified as LGBTQ reported less hostile school environments, less victimization and greater feelings of safety, fewer school absences because of feeling unsafe, greater feelings of connectedness to their school community, and an increased interest in high school graduation and postsecondary education.91 At the time of this writing,* 8 states had laws that explicitly forbade teachers from even discussing LGBTQ issues.54

Medical Education

One of the most important ways to promote high-quality health care for youth who identify as TGD and their families is increasing the knowledge base and clinical experience of pediatric providers in providing culturally competent care to such populations, as recommended by the recently released guidelines by the Association of American Medical Colleges.93 This begins with the medical school curriculum in areas such as human development, sexual health, endocrinology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. In a 2009–2010 survey of US medical schools, it was found that the median number of hours dedicated to LGBTQ health was 5, with one-third of US medical schools reporting no LGBTQ curriculum during the clinical years.94

During residency training, there is potential for gender diversity to be emphasized in core rotations, especially in pediatrics, psychiatry, family medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology. Awareness could be promoted through the inclusion of topics relevant to caring for children who identify as TGD in the list of core competencies published by the American Board of Pediatrics, certifying examinations, and relevant study materials. Continuing education and maintenance of certification activities can include topics relevant to TGD populations as well.


The AAP works toward all children and adolescents, regardless of gender identity or expression, receiving care to promote optimal physical, mental, and social well-being. Any discrimination based on gender identity or expression, real or perceived, is damaging to the socioemotional health of children, families, and society. In particular, the AAP recommends the following:

1.                           that youth who identify as TGD have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space;

2.                           that family-based therapy and support be available to recognize and respond to the emotional and mental health needs of parents, caregivers, and siblings of youth who identify as TGD;

3.                           that electronic health records, billing systems, patient-centered notification systems, and clinical research be designed to respect the asserted gender identity of each patient while maintaining confidentiality and avoiding duplicate charts;

4.                           that insurance plans offer coverage for health care that is specific to the needs of youth who identify as TGD, including coverage for medical, psychological, and, when indicated, surgical gender-affirming interventions;

5.                           that provider education, including medical school, residency, and continuing education, integrate core competencies on the emotional and physical health needs and best practices for the care of youth who identify as TGD and their families;

6.                           that pediatricians have a role in advocating for, educating, and developing liaison relationships with school districts and other community organizations to promote acceptance and inclusion of all children without fear of harassment, exclusion, or bullying because of gender expression;

7.                           that pediatricians have a role in advocating for policies and laws that protect youth who identify as TGD from discrimination and violence;

8.                           that the health care workforce protects diversity by offering equal employment opportunities and workplace protections, regardless of gender identity or expression; and

9.                           that the medical field and federal government prioritize research that is dedicated to improving the quality of evidence-based care for youth who identify as TGD.

Lead Author

Jason Richard Rafferty, MD, MPH, EdM, FAAP


Robert Garofalo, MD, FAAP

Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, 2017–2018

Michael Yogman, MD, FAAP, Chairperson

Rebecca Baum, MD, FAAP

Thresia B. Gambon, MD, FAAP

Arthur Lavin, MD, FAAP

Gerri Mattson, MD, FAAP

Lawrence Sagin Wissow, MD, MPH, FAAP


Sharon Berry, PhD, LP – Society of Pediatric Psychology

Ed Christophersen, PhD, FAAP – Society of Pediatric Psychology

Norah Johnson, PhD, RN, CPNP-BC – National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Amy Starin, PhD, LCSW – National Association of Social Workers

Abigail Schlesinger, MD – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


Karen S. Smith

James Baumberger

Committee on Adolescence, 2017–2018

Cora Breuner, MD, MPH, FAAP, Chairperson

Elizabeth M. Alderman, MD, FSAHM, FAAP

Laura K. Grubb, MD, MPH, FAAP

Makia E. Powers, MD, MPH, FAAP

Krishna Upadhya, MD, FAAP

Stephenie B. Wallace, MD, FAAP


Laurie Hornberger, MD, MPH, FAAP – Section on Adolescent Health

Liwei L. Hua, MD, PhD – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Margo A. Lane, MD, FRCPC, FAAP – Canadian Paediatric Society

Meredith Loveless, MD, FACOG – American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Seema Menon, MD – North American Society of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology

CDR Lauren B. Zapata, PhD, MSPH – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Karen Smith

Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health and Wellness Executive Committee, 2016–2017

Lynn Hunt, MD, FAAP, Chairperson

Anne Teresa Gearhart, MD, FAAP

Christopher Harris, MD, FAAP

Kathryn Melland Lowe, MD, FAAP

Chadwick Taylor Rodgers, MD, FAAP

Ilana Michelle Sherer, MD, FAAP

Former Executive Committee Members

Ellen Perrin, MD, MA, FAAP


Joseph H. Waters, MD – AAP Section on Pediatric Trainees


Renee Jarrett, MPH


We thank Isaac Albanese, MPA, and Jayeson Watts, LICSW, for their thoughtful reviews and contributions.


·                                 Address correspondence to Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH, EdM, FAAP. E-mail:

·                                 * For more information regarding state-specific laws, please contact the AAP Division of State Government Affairs at stgov@

·                                 This document is copyrighted and is property of the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Board of Directors. All authors have filed conflict of interest statements with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Any conflicts have been resolved through a process approved by the Board of Directors. The American Academy of Pediatrics has neither solicited nor accepted any commercial involvement in the development of the content of this publication.

·                                 Policy statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics benefit from expertise and resources of liaisons and internal (AAP) and external reviewers. However, policy statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics may not reflect the views of the liaisons or the organizations or government agencies that they represent.

·                                 The guidance in this statement does not indicate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as a standard of medical care. Variations, taking into account individual circumstances, may be appropriate.

·                                 All policy statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics automatically expire 5 years after publication unless reaffirmed, revised, or retired at or before that time.

·                                 FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The author has indicated he has no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

·                                 FUNDING: No external funding.

·                                 POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The author has indicated he has no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.



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