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Dispelling Myths About Gender-affirming Care

Here at Narwhal Magic Kindness, it is important to us that we dispel myths about gender-affirming healthcare for children who identify as transgender. Inherent in our mission is to provide accurate, scientifically vetted, and researched information so that parents of young children can lean into decision-making with their healthcare providers and their child. Central to achieving this mission is education.

In this series, Narwhal Magic Kindness will post a different myth each week and share the literature behind dispelling the myth and first-hand accounts of people walking the journey. We hope that parents embarking on this journey will find comfort and a path toward affirmation of their child.

Myth 1: Gender-affirming healthcare = surgery

The answer to this myth is: it depends. This blanket statement has been used against parents of children who identify as transgender and is a dog whistle for those who seek to limit freedoms and body autonomy. When children are young (e.g., prepubescent), gender-affirming healthcare involves counseling and building a rapport with a pediatrician or endocrinologist. Gender-affirming care at this stage of life is vital to help children who identify as transgender overcome body image concerns, anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicide.

In their report, Verveen, Kreukels, and Steensma note that counseling children under the age of 12 shall involve the following:

The focus in counseling on this topic could be on helping the child to be more comfortable discussing their body uneasiness. In addition, counseling should focus on helping the child to deal with their body dissatisfaction (and by no means focus on changing their gender identity or body image) and creating an open and safe environment for exploration. Counseling in this way is focused on supporting the child in their development.

Why is it a myth if the answer is: it depends?

At Narwhal Magic Kindness, we want parents, caregivers, educators, and the community to ask themselves what else is true. While some gender-affirming healthcare involves surgery (e.g., top or bottom surgery), this is not the whole picture, and we want to be clear that surgery is not being performed on young children. Let me say that, again, gender-affirming care for young children does not involve surgery.

What else is true is that counseling, a vital component of mental health, is also part of gender-affirming healthcare. And note, as per the above article, the goal of gender-affirming counseling is not to encourage a change in gender identity; the goal is for the child to feel comfortable in their skin. The goal is to provide the child with a safe space to develop the language to express their body image or bodily dissatisfaction. Our founder wrote about her fears when her child, just five years old, shared her transgender identity in a piece called, Will My Transgender Child Change Their Mind? In the post, Jan Moore shares the fear she felt as the parent of a child who identifies as transgender at an early age.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss surgery, hormones, blockers, and other types of gender-affirming healthcare. We at Narwhal Magic Kindness want to acknowledge that gender-affirming counseling saves lives. Providing our children with the words to speak their truth and find confidence outside of the binary is invaluable. We ask you to remember this truth when considering healthcare bans on our children’s lives.

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