Paediatrician explains the life-saving benefits of puberty blockers for trans kids

A paediatrician sits with a patient.

A paediatrician has explained the life-saving benefits of puberty blockers for trans and non-binary youth.

Mandy Coles is a clinical associate professor of paediatrics and is co-director of the Child and Adolescent Trans/Gender Center for Health at Boston University.

In her work, Coles offers gender-affirming care to trans and gender diverse young people. As part of this work, she prescribes puberty blockers to trans youth.

In an article for The Conversation, Coles detailed how one of her patients – a trans boy called Charlie – went to see her because he was experiencing severe distress around his gender identity. While Charlie had been assigned female at birth, he knew he was a boy.

In her article, Coles explained the various interventions paediatricians working in gender-affirming healthcare provide for trans youth. They “help parents become allies and advocates” for their children’s sakes, and they also have discussions with both the trans young person and their family about what their treatment will look like.

Puberty blockers are ‘well studied, safe and completely reversible’

The paediatrician noted that social transition can be hugely effective for trans young people, but pointed out that most will “need to make physical changes to their bodies as well to feel truly comfortable”.

Coles continued: “For patients like Charlie who have started experiencing early female or male puberty, hormone blockers are typically the first option.

Blockers give people time to further explore gender and to develop social supports.

“These medications work like a pause button on the physical changes caused by puberty. They are well studied, safe and completely reversible. If a person stops taking hormone blockers, their body will resume going through puberty as it would have.

“Blockers give people time to further explore gender and to develop social supports. Studies demonstrate that hormone blockers reduce depression, anxiety and risk of suicide among transgender youth.”

Closing her article, Coles revealed that it has been five years since Charlie first walked into her clinic “struggling with his gender, anxiety and depression”.

On his last visit in March 2021, he spoke only about playing hockey, hanging out with friends and “making the honour roll”.

Coles wrote: “He has been on hormone blockers for five years and testosterone for almost a year. With the help of a supportive family and a gender-competent therapist, Charlie is now thriving.”