Perceptions of Sex, Gender, and Puberty Suppression: A Qualitative Analysis of Transgender Youth

Arch Sex Behav. 2016 Oct;45(7):1697-703. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0764-9. Epub 2016 Jun 1.


International guidelines recommend the use of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) agonists in adolescents with gender dysphoria (GD) to suppress puberty. Little is known about the way gender dysphoric adolescents themselves think about this early medical intervention. The purpose of the present study was (1) to explicate the considerations of gender dysphoric adolescents in the Netherlands concerning the use of puberty suppression; (2) to explore whether the considerations of gender dysphoric adolescents differ from those of professionals working in treatment teams, and if so in what sense. This was a qualitative study designed to identify considerations of gender dysphoric adolescents regarding early treatment. All 13 adolescents, except for one, were treated with puberty suppression; five adolescents were trans girls and eight were trans boys. Their ages ranged between 13 and 18 years, with an average age of 16 years and 11 months, and a median age of 17 years and 4 months. Subsequently, the considerations of the adolescents were compared with views of clinicians treating youth with GD. From the interviews with the gender dysphoric adolescents, three themes emerged: (1) the difficulty of determining what is an appropriate lower age limit for starting puberty suppression. Most adolescents found it difficult to define an appropriate age limit and saw it as a dilemma; (2) the lack of data on the long-term effects of puberty suppression. Most adolescents stated that the lack of long-term data did not and would not stop them from wanting puberty suppression; (3) the role of the social context, for which there were two subthemes: (a) increased media-attention, on television, and on the Internet; (b) an imposed stereotype. Some adolescents were positive about the role of the social context, but others raised doubts about it. Compared to clinicians, adolescents were often more cautious in their treatment views. It is important to give voice to gender dysphoric adolescents when discussing the use of puberty suppression in GD. Otherwise, professionals might act based on assumptions about adolescents' opinions instead of their actual considerations. We encourage gathering more qualitative research data from gender dysphoric adolescents in other countries.

Keywords: Adolescents; Gender dysphoria; GnRH; Puberty suppression.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone* / agonists
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Puberty / drug effects*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone