Transgender Youth: Creating a Welcoming Environment

Ruth McDonald, MD
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Seattle Children’s

Two of the biggest challenges facing transgender youth are a lack of acceptance from their families and difficulty finding supportive medical and mental healthcare.

While LGBTQ youth as a whole have higher rates of low self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicidality than their peers, the incidence specifically among trans youth is even higher.

The good news is that transgender youth who are accepted and supported by their families, schools, and mental and medical providers have health outcomes on par with their peers.

Providers can create a safe and welcoming environment for transgender youth by letting them know it’s OK for them to be who they are.

Use preferred names and pronouns

Have everyone in your practice use a patient’s chosen name and pronoun. You can collect this information as part of the intake form or ask the patient directly. Use your judgement about whether to ask in the presence of parents/caregivers.

Demonstrate inclusivity

Showcase diverse gender identities and sexual orientations in the imagery and health information brochures displayed in your office. Rainbow imagery, such as a sign on your office door or a sticker on an ID badge, can help communicate that you are welcoming.

 Support parents and caregivers

When a child is gender non-conforming, it affects the whole family. Support caregivers by allowing space for their emotions, connecting them to resources and other parents, and considering the needs of siblings and other family members.

Caring for transgender patients in your practice

Puberty blockers and cross-hormones can be prescribed and monitored by primary care providers. However, not all providers feel they have the appropriate training to care for trans youth. Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic can be a resource in a variety of ways from answering occasional questions to comprehensive management of the patient.

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