The Penn State Health Approach to Gender - Affirming Health Care

The Gender Health Clinic at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive, gender-affirming care for children, adolescents and young adults up to age 25 in a supportive and safe environment. Its multidisciplinary team works collaboratively to help patients with concerns about their gender, sexuality or sexual development feel comfortable in their bodies and affirm their gender.

Patient- and Family-Centered Comprehensive Care

The Gender Health Clinic can diagnose and manage gender dysphoria and other related health concerns for patients up to 25 years old, including mood problems, menstrual management, and other related health concerns. Understanding that each patient’s concerns and needs are unique, the clinic’s care providers work with the patient and their family to develop an individualized plan to help them achieve their goals.

The clinic can provide a full psychosocial and physical evaluation as well as ongoing care, including gender-affirming counseling and medical care, offering both fully reversible treatments such as menstrual suppression and estrogen or testosterone blockers, as well as more permanent hormonal therapies. The Gender Health Clinic does not provide gender-affirming surgery but may make referrals for patients.

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The Gender Health Clinic team at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital includes a variety of specialists who are trained in gender-affirming care for children, adolescents and young adults. Together, they address the social, emotional and physical health care needs of their patients with compassion, understanding and support.

Adolescent Medicine Physician: The clinic’s primary medical doctor is a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine with expertise in diagnosing and managing adolescent gender dysphoria and related conditions up to the 25th birthday.

Pediatric endocrinologists: The clinics’ two pediatric endocrinologists provide puberty-blocking medications, care for people with differences of sexual development and care for patients who are younger than 10 years old.

Psychiatrist: The clinic’s psychiatrist provides comprehensive psychiatric assessments and gender-affirming care for adolescents and young adults, ages 14 to 25, with gender dysphoria.

Therapist: The clinic coordinator is a licensed clinical social worker who is a certified provider through the World Professional Association of Transgender Health. This provider works collaboratively with patients, their families and the clinic team to provide therapy and help guide treatment.

Why Choose Penn State Health for Gender Health Care

The Gender Health Clinic at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive, gender-affirming care for children, adolescents and young adults throughout central Pennsylvania. The clinic’s collaborative team of providers are specially trained to meet the complex social, emotional and physical health care needs of their patients within a supportive and safe environment.

Next Steps

The Gender Health Clinic welcomes children, adolescents and young adults up to age 25 who have questions or concerns about their gender, sexuality or sexual development. Patients can be referred by pediatricians or other care providers. They may also self-refer by calling 717-531-2073.

Gender Affirming Care at Penn State Health

Penn State Health adheres to the standards of care outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and other professional organizations in providing medically necessary, gender-affirming health care to minors.

We are committed to protecting the privacy and dignity of patients receiving gender-affirming care and counseling and their families. Penn State Health does not permit intolerance directed at any individual patient, family member or caregiver based on aspects of diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender identity or religion.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What patients does your program care for?

We care for children, adolescents, and young adults up to their 25th birthday who need gender-affirming care and counseling. Patients 18 to 25 are also able to access care through other programs. Legal adults (non-minors) are able to access services without involvement of the parents, just as they are able to access all medical services.

What kind of care and treatment is provided?

We offer counseling (talk therapy) to children, adolescents and young adults of any age before their 25th birthday. We follow the Pediatric Endocrine Society, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines when it comes to minors.

How are parents involved in decisions about gender affirming care for their children?

We recognize that the single most important people in the lives of children are their families. We cannot expect to help and support children without helping and supporting their parents and engaging them in care decisions.

We understand that there are some adolescents and some issues where confidentiality from the family is required by law. There are also some families where open communication with all parents or guardians is not feasible, but our preference is to involve the parents.

Do you perform gender affirming medical or surgical procedures on minors?

Penn State Health requires the use of specific consent forms, requires specific documentation from collaborating behavioral health providers, as well as formal agreement from parents, patients and medical providers that a permanent medical intervention is safe and medically appropriate for the individual patient.

No gender-specific medical or surgical intervention is provided prior to onset of puberty. This aligns with the standard of care guidelines recommended by all relevant professional health care societies and governing bodies for the provision of gendering affirming care.

Families are able to access medications that delay or prevent pubertal development if it is deemed medically and developmentally appropriate for the individual patient. Such treatments can only be provided with specific, documented parental consent. These treatments can only be continued with parent involvement and involvement of a mental health provider.

Children whose parents do not wish for their child to receive gender-affirming care of any type are not permitted to access any services within the clinic, including hormone therapy or surgery.

Do Penn State Health surgeons perform gender-affirming surgery?

The availability of gender-affirming procedures at Penn State Health varies. We provide surgical referrals when appropriate, including to other Penn State Health locations, in collaboration with the patient, parent or legal guardian, and mental health provider.