Trans People Who Blocked Puberty Are 17% Less Likely to Think About Suicide

A new study has found a link between accessing puberty blockers as a kid and decreased suicidal ideation as an adult.
January 23, 2020, 9:49pm
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Photo by Tetra Images via Getty Images

Amidst a nationwide effort to limit trans kids’ access to gender-affirming medical care, a new study shows why that treatment is so important.

A new study published this month in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ peer-reviewed medical journal, Pediatrics, explores the link between adolescent access to puberty blockers as an adolescent and future suicidal ideation among trans adults—the first study to examine such a link, noted CNN in its coverage.

After analyzing data found in the National Center for Trans Equality’s 2015 survey on trans life in the United States—the largest such study to date, with over 27,000 respondents in all 50 states—the researchers behind the Pediatrics study found that there is a significant inverse association between getting pubertal suppression treatment among youth who want it and dealing with lifetime suicidal ideation as a trans adult who wanted such treatment during adolescence but did not get it.

While examining the NCTE survey, the researchers focused on the 20,619 participants who were between the ages of 18 and 36. Of those participants, they found that 16.9% said they’d wanted blockers during adolescence, while only 2.5% of them actually got them. (For reference, that 2.5% represents 89 respondents.) Three-quarters (75%) of those who’d wanted blockers and got them experienced suicidal ideation throughout their lifetime, while nearly all (90%) of those who’d wanted to suppress puberty but were unable to said they experienced ideation.

“[Puberty blockers] are something that will help a parent keep their child safe,” Dr. Michelle Forcier, a pediatrician who was not involved with the Pediatrics study, told CNN. “Historically, we have known the puberty blockers are safe and effective and this is totally reversible, so the benefits far outweigh any risk. It is sort of a no-brainer to make these available in these circumstances."

The study’s publication couldn’t come at a more prescient time. Republican lawmakers in six states have introduced legislation that would prevent trans people under the age of 18 from gaining access to puberty blockers and other life-saving forms of gender-affirming care. A legislative committee approved one such bill on Wednesday. It will now move to the House floor for a vote at an as yet unscheduled date, giving those lawmakers one last chance to avoid making a mistake that could negatively impact their young trans constituents for the rest of their lives.

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