The Endocrine Society is pleased a South Dakota bill that would have barred healthcare providers from treating transgender teenagers using evidence-based clinical practice guidelines is not moving forward this session.
Several states are considering legislation that would carry penalties of jail time and fines for healthcare providers who treat transgender teenagers using evidence-based practices. These state bills reflect widespread misunderstandings about the current state of gender-affirming care for transgender and gender incongruent individuals and do not rely on medical evidence.
The proposed legislation would limit transgender teenagers’ access to care and interfere with the ability of healthcare providers, transgender teenagers and their families to deliver treatment options for each individual.
The Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline recommends not starting sex hormone treatment until a teenager is capable of giving informed consent. Supervising medical professionals need to determine each individual’s decision-making competence, but this usually occurs around age 16. The guideline advises delaying gender-affirming genital surgery until an individual is at least 18 years old or of legal age in his or her country.
In some cases, healthcare providers use medications to delay early puberty. This gives individuals experiencing gender incongruence more time to explore their options and live their gender identity before they undergo hormone treatment. The South Dakota bill would have banned this reversible treatment, even though research has found it improves psychological functioning in transgender teenagers.
The Endocrine Society supports physicians’ ability to provide the best evidence-based treatment to their patients. We believe that these decisions should be made by the family and physician, and not be dictated by policymakers.