Cedars-Sinai Opens Pediatric, Adolescent Gender Wellness Clinic
As Pride Month Gets Underway, Physician Has Advice for Parents of Children Questioning Gender Identity
Cedars-Sinai has opened a clinic for children and adolescents under age 18 who are questioning their gender or experiencing gender dysphoria—marked incongruence and distress between their true gender identity and biological sex. The clinic is run by Paria Hassouri, MD, a pediatrician specializing in the field of gender wellness.
Hassouri had a personal reason for studying gender affirming care. One of her three children came out as transgender at age 13-and-a-half.
"As I had to navigate these difficult decisions with my husband for my own teenager, I realized that it was really something that I felt passionate about, and that I wanted to help other families through this process as well,” said Hassouri. "Seeing my own daughter going from being depressed to really thriving, once she was able to live in her authentic gender, made me want to be able to help other teens do that as well."
In the Pediatric and Adolescent Gender Wellness Clinic she runs at Cedars-Sinai, Hassouri helps children and their parents navigate options such as medical transition or blocking puberty, as well as offer resources and support.
Blocking puberty is used for youth who are just starting puberty and may want to put a pause on their puberty while they are working through their true gender identity. As Hassouri explains, pausing puberty is done by administering medication through a single toothpick-size implant in the upper arm. The medication can pause puberty for anywhere from one to two years.
"We're doing a pause on puberty, which is completely reversible and safe until the child is a little bit older," said Hassouri. “When the child is older, they and their family can then decide whether to go forward with hormone therapy, such as estrogen and testosterone.”
My advice to parents is to not hesitate or be scared about making that first appointment with someone who specializes in gender-diverse youth. That first conversation is just about gathering information and knowledge, which makes all the difference for parents and their children.
The clinic also helps families with social support, especially for younger children who have not reached puberty but are feeling gender fluid. Hassouri's advice for parents of young children with gender identity issues is to listen and offer support.
"If a child is born designated male, but feels either fluid or feminine, and they want to wear certain clothing, they want to go by different names, they want to use she/her pronouns, you support them, and call them by the name that feels more authentic to them. You use the pronouns they want, and you sign them up for activities or sports teams that they feel more comfortable with," said Hassouri. "At that age you are supporting them and allowing them to explore their gender and be comfortable."
Parental involvement for transgender and gender-diverse children and teens is very important, she said. These groups have a three-fold increased risk of suicide compared to their cisgender peers, according to Hassouri. However, when they are supported by their family and able to find their true gender identity, their risk of suicide decreases to those of their cisgender peers.
Once a child turns 18, their care is transferred to physicians at Cedars-Sinai specializing in adult gender wellness, including those offering surgical transitions where appropriate.
“My advice to parents is to not hesitate or be scared about making that first appointment with someone who specializes in gender-diverse youth,” said Hassouri. “That first conversation is just about gathering information and knowledge, which makes all the difference for parents and their children.”