Dr. Rob Garofalo is the director of the newly created pediatric transgender medical center at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
From WBEZ news: “The clinic will offer transgender and gender variant children a range of supportive services including psychology, endocrinology, and pediatrics.”
Garofalo describes what he calls the pathology or “pediatric condition” of sex-role variance and the clinic’s goals:
“So the families, I think, came before the clinic. So there was a clear need for this type of multidisciplinary clinic to be formed. I wasn’t even aware of it. I mean really, it started to come in dribs and drabs but then all of a sudden it became clear that Lurie [Children’s Hospital of Chicago] or someone had to step forward with this idea of a “One Stop Shop” easy access place for these families who are often in distress or in turmoil about having a child that’s gender variant, which can be very challenging to them. So the idea was really to create a program that was comprehensive and very developmentally appropriate. I mean I think you asked “why pediatric?”. It’s because this is really a pediatric condition.
When we think of gender, and gender formation, it doesn’t happen when you’re an adult. It doesn’t happen when you’re a teenager. Someone’s gender is determined when they’re 3, 4, 5. So oftentimes that’s when these issues begin to become apparent for children and families. So I think a pediatric institution with a range of specialists and services designed to not just treat the child, but to treat the whole system, the whole family, is really critically important for this, and for Lurie.
So really what we do is we work with families on- you know, basic pediatric things, just within the context of having a gender-variant child. So safety issues at home, making sure that kids don’t get bullied in school, creating an environment which allows the child some freedom to figure out who they are within their family structure, within society. It’s not about us giving a child a label or making any sort of extreme intervention early on. That’s not what happens. It’s really about creating a culture of safety for families that often feel like there isn’t anywhere for them to turn.
People are most comfortable when there’s an obvious answer. People are most comfortable when you can put someone in a box and give someone a label. That’s not always the case here. And sometimes the label that we might want to give someone isn’t the most natural: you know, might be calling someone who is distinctly born, you know, with a biologic sense of a boy: a girl.
Gender is a social construct. You know, biological sex is about anatomy. You were born with certain anatomy you get called a boy. You were born with different anatomy you get called a girl. Gender is a social construct. So it may relate to their anatomy, but it may not. So it may be concordant with what that anatomy is, but it might not. It might be discordant.
I bet you five years from now that there are going to be programs like this cropping up all over the place. I mean, I think there are new pediatric endocrine society guidelines that speak to this, the World- WPATH- the World Professional Association of Transgender Health Professionals has new guidelines. I think even the AMA has developed policies that are increasingly permissive around transgender conditions. So I think, again, you’re going to see five years from now this will be far more mainstream than it is now.”
Dr. Garofalo’s clinic will provide endocrinological modifications and medical corrections for children suffering from socially constructed gender variance up to the age of 13.
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The Tawani Foundation is also a generous funder of WPATH, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, whose guidelines for transgender children were rejected by the American Psychiatric Association last year due to lack of scientific basis.