The vast majority of trans teens who start hormone therapy continue years later. It is the main conclusion of a research published in the journal The Lancet carried out by Dutch researchers. Of the 720 people studied who started before they were 18 years old, 702, or 98%, continued taking hormones between three and six years later.
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The adolescents evaluated passed through the medical center of the VU University of Amsterdam, a pioneer in the application for 20 years of a protocol to care for trans minors, those whose identity does not correspond to the gender assigned at birth. The protocol begins with a “comprehensive diagnostic evaluation” of adolescents, who are offered so-called hormone blockers, which help stop the physical changes associated with puberty, are reversible “and give them time to explore their identity as gender”. For those who want to continue the transition, they can start “after the age of 15 or 16” with gender-affirming hormone treatment.
The study has been published at a time when there is a debate in our country about the so-called trans law, which is currently being processed by Congress and which allows the registration rectification of trans people without medical requirements in different age groups: from 16 without conditions, from 14 with the consent of their parents and between 12 and 14 with judicial authorization. On the contrary, the norm does not regulate access to medical treatment for adolescents, which is something that is already stipulated by the laws approved in the autonomous communities.
The study cross-checked clinic medical records with the national prescription registry to determine if these people were still being prescribed the medication at the time of data collection, as of December 2018. Only 2%, 16 of 720 , had discontinued treatment, “which is reassuring in the context of increased recent public concern regarding transition regret,” the study cites.
Even so, the researchers specify that it is unknown if this small group of people stopped using hormones because they “repented” or for other reasons. “There are several plausible explanations,” they emphasize. Among them, lack of knowledge about the importance of continuing with the treatment once they have undergone possible surgeries or participants with a non-binary gender identity “who only want to use hormonal treatment for a short period of time”.
The group of people evaluated was made up of 31% assigned as men at birth and 69% women. For the former, the median age when treatment began was 14 years and 16 for the latter, while the end of follow-up occurred at 20 and 19 years, respectively. The research indicates that since 2012 the number of adolescents who are referred to the clinic has increased, but the proportion of those who continue with hormonal treatment has not changed.
The authors point out some limitations to the study, because as it is based on medical prescriptions, it is not possible to know if that person is necessarily taking it, while on the other hand, there may be those who obtain the drugs “outside the official health system”.
Evidence in line with previous studies
The researchers do not ignore that hormonal treatment for people under the age of 18 is currently at the center of public debate “and in some countries legal measures have been taken to prohibit or limit its use, such as in the United States or the United Kingdom,” they explain. . “Although short-term studies have shown the beneficial effects of puberty suppression therapy on adolescent physical and mental health, short-term follow-up data are lacking,” says researcher Marianne van der Loos.
“The results are in line with those of other previous studies and provide evidence in this field that supports the current approach to trans minors,” says Gilberto Pérez López, Endocrinology specialist at the service, in statements to the Science Media Center (SMC). of Endocrinology and Nutrition of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón.
“The main contribution of this study is to shed light with evidence in a field in which single-person voices abound, but with great media repercussion, which cast doubt on the gender identity of trans childhoods and health action regarding it. Faced with opinions that allege that adolescent trans people “regret” their transition and that defend that trans identity is “a fashion”, this article presents scientific evidence that demonstrates that trans childhood practically maintains treatment after transition. adolescence”, says Adrián Carrasco Munera, a specialist in Family and Community Medicine and a member of the LGTBIQ+ Health Group of the Madrid Society of Family and Community Medicine, to the SMC.