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Gender Development


Gender development services at Lurie Children's are outpatient services aimed at supporting the physical, mental and social health of patients and their families as youth progress through gender identity development. As specialists in pediatric and adolescent gender development, we recognize that when it comes to providing effective care “no one size fits all.” Therefore, our goal is to keep our families most informed of their treatment options, supporting them with medical and behavioral health care along the way.

Patients who come to our gender identity clinic to receive high-quality, family-centered care. Our patients generally fall within one or more of the following groups:

  • Gender non-conforming or gender expansive children: Children and adolescents who exhibit behavior that is not typical of their assigned birth sex.
  • Gender-questioning youth: Children and adolescents who are questioning their gender identities (e.g., “I was born a girl, but I wonder if I’m really a boy?”).
  • Transgender and gender-fluid youth: Children and adolescents who identify as a gender different from their assigned birth sex (e.g., “I was born a girl, but I am really a boy.”).

Learn more about respectful gender terminology.

Services & Support

Lurie Children's provides medical consultation, medical intervention (e.g., cross sex and pubertal delaying hormones) and health research with gender non-conforming youth across the developmental spectrum of pediatrics and adolescence. In 2013, we expanded our program to include mental health services, non-clinical support -clinical support services and capacity building with other youth-serving organizations. Our services include:

  • Comprehensive medical and psychological consultation for families with gender non-conforming, gender-questioning and transgender children and teenagers
  • Routine consultation, administration and monitoring of medical treatments:
    • To reversibly pause pubertal development among gender-questioning youth entering puberty
    • To initiate gender affirming hormones among transgender adolescents

In addition to these services, we offer access to support services, including:

  • Connection to legal consultation services (e.g., legal name changing, etc.)
  • Trainings and consultation with school systems
  • Ongoing play, socializing and support groups 
  • Peer to peer parent mentor program ParentWISE®
  • Consultation for community providers and clinicians to enhance gender-affirming care
  • A growing research program that aims to advance the understanding of gender identity development from childhood to young adulthood
  • Vocal therapy (in collaboration with Northwestern University)

Support for Transgender & Gender Non-conforming Students in School​

As school districts strive to include all students and celebrate diversity in school, a need for comprehensive gender inclusion on a systemic level has emerged. Schools and educators are working to support a growing population of transgender and gender diverse youth living as their affirmed gender identity. To address this, Lurie Children's and other collaborators created the Model Policy and Administrative Procedure to guide schools as they navigate how to support gender inclusion, something that is important for all students.​ Download the Model Policy and Administrative Procedure guide.​

To find out more information about our program, call Jennifer Leininger at 773.303.6056 or e-mail Jleininger@luriechildrens.org​.

We are also actively advocating for transgender and gender non-conforming youth in matters of public policy. View our policy statement.

Our Philosophy

For even the most loving, affirming and resilient families, navigating childhood gender identity development can be confusing, distressing and sometimes unclear. It can become more challenging as our patients and their families encounter difficulties posed by others, including extended family members, school officials and other community members. We help navigate these challenges by providing our families with education, exceptional and affirming clinical care, support, and ongoing consultation to ensure that children and families flourish safely in an environment that is both nurturing and affirming.

Appointments

To find out more information about our gender development services or to request an appointment, call Jennifer Leininger at 773.303.6056 or​ e-mail Jleininger@luriechildrens.org.

Specialists & Experience

Our entire staff is dedicated to evaluating and treating pediatric patients from infancy through adolescence. Our specialists include:
  • Pediatricians
  • Endocrinologists
  • Urologists
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Ethics consultants
  • Nurse practitioner
  • School consultants
  • Social workers

The heads of the programs, Director Robert Garofalo, MD, MPH, and Director Earl Cheng, MD, started the program in 2013. 

Dr. Garofalo is board-certified in pediatrics and adolescent medicine. He also directs Lurie Children’s Adolescent/Young Adult HIV Program, the Division of Adolescent Medicine and the Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at the Stanley Manne Research Institute. He is a national expert on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health issues, as well as adolescent sexuality and HIV infection.

Dr. Cheng is a board-certified pediatric urologist. Dr. Cheng completed his urology residency at Northwestern University and his pediatric urology fellowship at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He is a national expert in complex reconstructive urology and has a special interest in the medical and surgical management of individuals with differences of sex development.

Meet all of our specialists.

Locations

The Gender Program's services are available at the following locations:

Resources & Support

We have many helpful resources for gender-questioning, gender expansive, and transgender youth, as well as their educators, fellow students, parents and allies.

View all resources.

Treatments & Evaluation

We want to work with you to determine the best care for you and your family. Some of our most common treatments include pubertal suppression therapy and hormone therapy for transgender males and transgender females.

While we believe in providing safe and effective care for our patients, the long-term consequences of some of the treatments are still unknown.

Learn more about our treatments.

Research

Transgender Youth Care Study, “The Impact of Early Medical Treatment in Transgender Youth” (RO1 NIH)

This is a longitudinal observational study at four sites (Lurie Children’s, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of California at San Francisco) to examine the outcomes of existing medical treatment protocols for gender dysphoria in two distinct cohorts: youth initiating puberty suppression and youth pursuing a phenotypic gender change.

Survey instruments are used to collect demographic, mental health, psychosocial and behavioral data. Routinely collected anthropometric and physiologic parameters are obtained through chart abstraction. Enrollment began in August 2016 and will go through December 2018.

Trans Youth Fertility Study ​(Society of Pediatric Psychology & Internal REACH Grant from Northwestern University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences​)

Puberty blocking medications and gender-affirming hormones are becoming more widely accepted as standard of care for transgender youth, but they may have an effect on long-term fertility potential. The goal of this study is to explore existing knowledge, attitudes and beliefs related to fertility and reproductive health among two cohorts of transgender youth (ages 9-13 and ages 14-24) and their parents/guardians. The study will examine whether current practices for fertility counseling are meeting patient/family needs to make informed treatment decisions. Key-informant interviews will be conducted to identify fertility-related decisional needs, which will aid in the creation of a fertility-related decision aid for trans youth.

If you are interested in learning more about the study, please contact project coordinator, Afiya Sajwani, BA, at 312.227.8372 or ASajwani@luriechildrens.org.

Trans Youth Decision-Making Project (R21 NICHD)

Puberty suppressing medications are becoming more widely accepted as standard of care for transgender youth in early puberty. Guidelines provided by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health recommend youth meet with a mental health clinician to assess understanding and expectations of treatment prior to initiating these medications. The goal of this study is to better understand how cognitive and emotional functioning affects transgender youth’s medical decision-making. Study findings also will inform the development of an assessment tool that would assist mental health clinicians in objectively assessing youth’s breadth and depth of understanding the potential risks and benefits of pubertal suppression treatment.

If you are interested in learning more about the study, please contact project coordinator, Victoria Kolbuck, LSW, MSW at 312.227.6336 or VKolbuck@luriechildrens.org.


Philanthropy

The creation of the  Gender and Sex Development Program at Lurie Children’s was made possible, in part, through private contributions. Your support is vital in helping us continue to make a difference in the lives of all of our patients and families. Lurie Children’s relies on philanthropic funding to enhance its programs, services and research for children. To learn more, please contact Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation at foundation@luriechildrens.org, call 312.227.7251 or make a gift today.​​​

Support of Safe School Environments for Transgender & Gender Expansive Youth

The Gender & Sex Development Program at Lurie Children's fully supports the statement linked to below from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which identifies the need to protect and support transgender and gender expansive youth. It is essential for all children to be provided with safe school environments where they can learn and thrive.

Lurie Children's will continue to advocate for transgender and gender expansive children and adolescents in healthcare, in their schools and in our communities.

Read the statement from the AAP.


​Become Part of Our Voice & Communication Group for Trans Youth & Young Adults

The "Be Heard for Who You Are" group helps trans people (up to age 24) find a comfortable voice and communication style that reflects their affirmed gender.

The start date is yet to be determined. Call 847.491.3165 to learn about fees and registration.

Learn more.


Growing Up Trans:
A FRONTLINE Documentary

In Growing Up Trans, a 90-minute special on PBS, FRONTLINE takes viewers on an intimate and eye-opening journey into the lives of transgender patients in our Gender and Sex Development Program.

Watch the full documentary online.

While we believe in providing safe and effective care for our patients, the long-term consequences of some of the treatments are still unknown. Visit PBS.org to read an article in which our doctors discuss the risks and reasoning behind our care.


Our Patients & Families
Tell Their Stories

Patients and families from the Gender and Sex Development Program were featured in the FRONTLINE documentary, Growing Up Trans. They also  shared their personal stories with us on our blog. Visit the links below to read their posts.





​Award Winning LGBT Care

In 2017, our program earned the Business Leadership Award from Equality Illinois, an organization dedicated to advancing equal treatment and social justice through education, advocacy and protection of the rights of the LGBT community. Watch the video below to learn about award.



Recognized Leader in
LGBT Care

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation recognized Lurie Children's as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” based on our top marks in meeting non-discrimination and training criteria that demonstrate our commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBT patients and their families.