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LETTERS

Pediatrician sees life-changing benefits of gender care — and foresees great harm of Ark.’s anti-trans law

Governor Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock, Ark., in this March 2020 file photo. Arkansas lawmakers Tuesday overrode the Republican governor's veto of a measure that would ban gender-confirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock, Ark., in this March 2020 file photo. Arkansas lawmakers Tuesday overrode the Republican governor's veto of a measure that would ban gender-confirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth.Staton Breidenthal/Associated Press

Re “Ark. bans care for transgender minors” (Page A2, April 7): As a pediatrician who supports transgender children and their families, I witness the life-changing benefits of gender care daily — the child without access to hormone blockers who thinks, at the onset of puberty, “I just have to live with this”; the adolescent who can’t imagine herself as a “physical person taking up space,” and attempts suicide; the parents who thank me for giving their children the opportunity to grow and thrive.

The use of hormone blockers to pause puberty is evidenced-based, allowing kids more time to explore their gender identities. Kids approaching puberty can’t just wait until 18. By that time, their bodies have changed irreversibly. Blockers prevent physical changes — voice changes, breast development, and facial hair growth — that can lead to significant gender dysphoria, depression, and suicide. One of the great truths about blockers is that they are safe and fully reversible. They save lives.

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When laws deny doctors the ability to provide evidence-based medical care, which includes gender-affirming medications, children and families suffer. Access to such care is a human right.

While I have chosen to focus primarily on blockers here, the use of gender-affirming hormones is also safe and considered standard of care by major pediatric professional medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As medical providers, we have a duty to our patients to do no harm. In withholding these medications, legislators in Arkansas would force doctors to do harm. How, in good faith, can one support a law that prevents doctors from fulfilling the Hippocratic oath?

Dr. Mandy Coles

Boston

The writer works at Boston Medical Center’s CATCH program, or the Child and Adolescent Transgender Center for Health.