First pediatric gender diversity program opens

January 31, 2017
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UC Irvine Health has established the first program in Orange County dedicated to specialized, coordinated care for gender-expansive children and transgender youth.

The clinic, located at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, is open to patients ages 3 to 21 and offers a range of services to support children or adolescents and their families. Care is coordinated between a pediatrician, pediatric endocrinologist, psychiatrist and a patient navigator. The clinic is Medi-Cal certified.

“The No. 1 problem for these patients in Orange County has been lack of resources and access,” says Dr. Lynn Hunt, director of the Pediatric Gender Diversity Program. “The child and family often get no care, or they drive to Los Angeles or San Diego.”

The program provides counseling for families who have questions about their children’s gender-related behavior. “Certainly not all young children with gender-expansive traits become transgender adolescents or adults,” Hunt says. “Each child, each family is unique. The families need support, and the kids need to be affirmed. It’s important to have this behavioral health component.”

Young adolescents can be treated with fully reversible medical therapies to delay puberty, which gives them more time to mature and explore gender identity. For teenagers and young adults who seek to transition, hormone therapy is available. An estimated 0.5 percent of the adult population is transgender, Hunt says.

The medical community is becoming more aware of the needs of children and adolescents with gender identity questions and those who are transgender, she says. The American Academy of Pediatrics is expected to release a policy statement on the care of these patients early this year.

“This is a population that historically has not received appropriate respect or attention and is not well-studied,” Hunt says. “Families can sometimes be very hesitant and anxious. We can reduce that and normalize their experience.”

For more information, see the Pediatric Center Diversity Program or call 714-456-6025.