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'I have seen amazing things,' says a Texas pediatrician about gender-affirming care

 A Progress Pride flag at a recent rally for transgender rights at the Texas Capitol on March 1.
Gabriel C. Pérez
A Progress Pride flag at a recent rally for transgender rights at the Texas Capitol on March 1.

It can be a lifeline for transgender youth, especially those struggling with their mental health and thoughts of suicide.

From Texas Standard:

Recent investigations by Texas Child Protective Services of families with transgender children have sparked outcry from transgender rights advocates and allies. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued the directive in late February, based on a non-binding legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that described gender-affirming care as “child abuse.”

On Friday, a state judge temporarily blocked the investigations.

But the battle over minors' access to gender-affirming care will continue in Texas, in the courts and in the court of public opinion. That could be, in part, because of common misunderstandings about gender-affirming care. Dr. Jane Wray, a pediatrician and endocrinologist, spoke to Texas Standard about how gender-affirming care works and her advice for families of transgender youth right now.

RELATED: Legal expert hopes court ‘comes to their rescue’ for families caught in Texas transgender investigations

Listen to the interview in the audio player above or read the highlights below:

– Wray says transgender people feel they are not the sex they were assigned at birth. With so-called gender affirming care, she prescribes hormones "to bring their body into sync with their mind." Hormone treatment often continues even after a person has developed secondary sex characteristics like breasts or facial hair. That's because "they feel less themselves if the hormones are stopped," Wray said.

– Surgical treatment for transgender men can include mastectomies, or the removal of breasts, and some transgender women may have genital surgery. But Wray says the procedure is less common for transgender men "because of the difficulty in having success with that." Only mastectomies can be performed on patients under the age of 18; a patient has to wait until they are 18 or older before having genital-altering surgery.

– Gender-affirming care can transform a transgender person's life, especially when they're suffering from the mental health effects of living in a body with which they feel out of sync. Wray says the rate suicide attempts is much higher among transgender youth.

"I have seen amazing things. People who were on five medications for depression come back and they're on one. People that have frequent admissions to the psychiatric hospital no longer have admissions to that. They become happy. This is with gender-affirming care," Wray said. "And so, this is essential, and without it, the statistics show that many of these children may die."

– Wray says she would advise families seeking gender-affirming care for their children to wait until the legal issues related to that care in Texas are resolved.

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Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Kristen Cabrera | Texas Standard
Caroline Covington