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Strange Fruit: How Do Doctors Treat Transgender Kids?


We're lucky enough to live in a time when more and more parents of transgender kids are accepting, loving and trying to help their children be their authentic selves.

And the medical community is developing new ways for trans kids to achieve their physical goals. But experts disagree on what the treatment protocol should be — and how early they should start.

That's the subject of an article in this month's issue of Scientific American Mind, and the author of that article, Francine Russo, joins us this week to talk about it.

Russo said drugs known as puberty blockers can essentially put the brakes on a child's sexual development while they and their doctors determine what to do next. The accepted standard of care is to start puberty blockers at the first sign of puberty, then start cross-sex hormones at age 16.

"And that's where the controversy in the field is," Russo says. "Some doctors feel if the child is so clearly trans, and has been for a very long time — what they say in the field is the child has been 'insistent, persistent, and consistent' over time — those children, some doctors feel, should get cross-sex hormones and start going through puberty as early as 14 or 15, although the professional standards say don't do it before 16."

We also asked Russo about a sidebar in her story about brain imaging studies done on trans people. Early results of these studies seem to show differences in the brains of trans people and cisgender people, and also hint that sometimes a trans woman's brain, for example, reacts to stimuli in ways that a cis woman's brain would — not in ways that a cisgender man's brain would.

In Juicy Fruit this week, we remember David Bowie, specifically in terms of his championing of black people and his lovely longtime marriage to Iman.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.