Caring for the transgender adolescent and young adult: Current concepts of an evolving process in the 21st century

Dis Mon. 2019 Sep;65(9):303-356. doi: 10.1016/j.disamonth.2019.07.004. Epub 2019 Aug 9.


The term transgender youth commonly refers to those whose gender identity, or personal core sense of self as a particular gender, differs from their assigned sex at birth; this is often designated by what external genitalia are present. These youths are presenting to multidisciplinary clinics worldwide at exponentially higher rates than in decades past, and clinics themselves have grown in number to meet the specialized demands of these youth. Additionally, the scientific and medical community has moved towards understanding the construct of gender dimensionally (i.e., across a spectrum from male to female) as opposed to dichotomous or binary "male or female" categories. This is reflected in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM 5); in this publication, the diagnostic classification of gender dysphoria, GD, (which has two subtypes: childhood and adolescence/adulthood) provides a set of criteria that many transgender people meet. GD describes the affective distress that arises as a result of the incongruence between gender identity and sex anatomy. The DSM uses language to indicate that a person may identify as another gender instead of the other gender, which further captures the complexity of the human experience of gender. Also, research regarding how current adolescents are describing their identity development and experience along this spectrum within today's society is only now being addressed in the literature. Therefore, the clinical needs of the transgender population have outpaced medical training and scientific advancement, which has opened up gaps on how to define best practices. This article provides current concepts of evaluation and management for transgender persons with emphasis on hormonal therapy (i.e., puberty blockers and gender affirming hormone therapy). Other management issues are briefly considered including gender confirming surgery and changes in the face as well as voice.

Keywords: Adolescents; Evaluation; Gender Confirming Surgery; Gender affirming hormone therapy; Puberty blockers; Transgender; Voice; Young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Concept Formation
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • Gender Dysphoria*
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services for Transgender Persons*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Transgender Persons*
  • Young Adult