Washington University doctor and parents dispel transgender myths

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 7:22 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- This week Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey dropped a controversial emergency rule that would have banned gender-affirming care for adults and children. Bailey withdrew the emergency rule after the legislature passed a ban on treatment for minors.

In Bailey’s statement when he announced the emergency rule he claimed, “gender transition procedures are experimental.” News 4 spoke with Washington University endocrinologist Dr. Thomas Baranski, who treats transgender adults and is co-director of the Washington University adult transgender center.

“Gender-affirming hormone therapies, we’ve been doing this in the medical field for more than 50 years. So, there’s a long track record of outcomes and there’s lots of good studies to demonstrate that these treatments are effective,” he said.

Parents of transgender children believe that the debate in the legislature over the transgender bill helped perpetuate several myths about transgender people. One of those myths is that children are too young to know their gender identity.

However, it’s widely believed that children and adolescents can have a strong sense of their gender from an early age. James and Danielle are the parents of a transgender son. They asked us not to use their last name for their protection.

“His very first sentence was ‘I don’t feel like a girl,’” said Danielle.

“Our kid has known who he is for a very long time, he didn’t necessarily know how to express it. When we look back, there’s a lot that makes sense now that we know,” said James.

Another myth that parents say they hear is that adolescents and young adults are influenced by social contagion and decide to be transgender because it’s a fad or are influenced by peer pressure.

Renee is the mother of a transgender daughter. She asked us to withhold her last name for her protection. She said, “My kid was born this way,” and “this is not easy. No one would wish this on themselves.”

Baranski said there’s current research using magnetic resonance imaging that’s discovering differences in brain structure between people who are transgender and those who are not.

In his statement, the attorney general raised concerns about gender-affirming surgery for children. But parents of trans children say Bailey’s talking about something that doesn’t happen in Missouri.

Suzanne is the mother of a transgender teen and also asked that we withhold her last name.

“At least in Missouri nobody under 18 is getting this gender-affirming surgery,” she said.

Suzanne also said adults who want gender-affirming surgery must get counseling from a therapist and often the surgeries are not covered by insurance and can cost as much as $50,000.

According to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, letters of recommendation are required from health care providers and a psychologist or psychiatrist working in the field of transgender health care.

Kendall Martinez-Wright is a transgender woman from Palmyra, Missouri, who’s currently living in Washington, D.C. She said coming to grips with being a transgender woman was a real awakening and took some time. But she said she’s glad she did.

“At this very moment, I’m happy, I’m very happy and I’m content,” she said.

It’s estimated there are 1.6 million people in the U.S. who identify as transgender. According to Baranski, of those who choose to begin gender-affirming care, less than 1% stop it.