The Current

Trans youth need help sooner rather than later, says pediatric nurse

Clinics and hospitals across Canada are reporting a spike in the number of transgender and non-binary youth coming forward with questions about gender identity. We speak with medical experts about the transition process, and what getting help sooner could mean for youth grappling with their identity.

Canadian clinics, hospital reporting spike in transgender youth seeking treatment

Kian Olsheski, 17, was born a girl. Before he transitioned, he said he self-harmed, because he couldn't stand pretending to be someone he wasn't. (Stu Mills/CBC)

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The earlier transgender and non-binary youth access resources to help discover who they are, the better, says a pediatric nurse practitioner in Toronto who works with teens grappling with gender identity.

"It takes such courage for them to come forward," said Cathy Maser, team lead at the Transgender Youth Clinic at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Without medical resources, youth may face mental and emotional anguish.

"The self-harm and the shame — it's all part of the package," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Clinics and hospitals across Canada are reporting a spike in the number of youth seeking treatment to change their gender, or who had questions about gender identity.

Youth self-harmed before transition

But coming out can be a challenge.

Kian Olsheski, a 17-year-old boy who transitioned a few years ago, told CBC Ottawa he self-harmed because he couldn't stand pretending to be someone he was not.

Today, transgender youth have more role models to look up to, and more people are speaking out about gender diversity than in the past, said Maser.

"I think we're creating, hopefully, an environment that's more acceptable to diversity, and that's giving them the courage to come forward earlier," she said.

Dr. Margaret Lawson on the spike in demand at CHEO

3 years ago
Duration 0:42
A children’s clinic in Ottawa is seeing exponential growth in demand to treat teens who don’t identify with the sex they are born with.

To learn more about the transition process and the spike in the number of youth visiting hospitals and clinics, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Dr. Margaret Lawson, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Gender Diversity Clinic at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in Ottawa.
  • Cathy Maser, a pediatric nurse practitioner and team lead at the Transgender Youth Clinic at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Click 'listen' near the top of the page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Kirsten Fenn with files from CBC News. Produced by Samira Mohyeddin, Sarah-Joyce Battersby and Imogen Birchard.

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