A group of St. Louis doctors is working to make sure transgender kids get the medical care they need.
When the Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Transgender Center of Excellence opens today, it will be the first of its kind in a 250-mile radius. The clinic aims to provide transgender children with comprehensive health care including pediatric medicine, endocrinology, and mental health counseling.
Staff members will include people equipped to help transgender patients navigate hormone therapy — and understand their identities.
“This is really a vulnerable group of kids who need specialty expertise and people who’ve really spent the time to learn more about these issues and concerns,” clinic co-founder Dr. Sarah Garwood said. “There’s a problem with access to health care for transgender kids and adults and clinics like this can help mitigate that.”
The clinic’s staff members will see patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the St. Louis Children’s Specialty Care Center.
Such services have been long anticipated by St. Louis area parents like Peter Seay, whose child was long considered a girl but in middle school began to affirm their gender as male.
Aiming to be supportive, Seay looked for a doctor to provide appropriate care. But finding one isn’t easy. Some doctors think being transgender is a problem.
“And I mean some doctors we called were like, ‘sure we can fix your kid,’” recalled Seay, who said that was a terrible thing to hear.
Dr. Garwood and Dr. Chris Lewis developed the clinic with help from Washington University Medical School, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and a growing network of similar clinics located throughout the country.
Families with transgender children face a number of hurdles when seeking care, among them insurance obstacles, Garwood said. Many doctors remain ignorant of proper care for transgender individuals and available support systems. Some patients face outright discrimination.
Garwood helped set up the clinic, motivated by an exponential increase of referrals over recent years. She said early intervention is necessary to ensure transgender kids lead the healthiest happiest lives possible.
Update: Some of the language in this post was corrected to better reflect language used in the transgender and medical community.
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