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Chicago Doctor Wants To Develop Clinic For Transgender Children

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A doctor at Children's Memorial Hospital he would like to help develop a clinic for transgender children.

Dr. Joel Frader, who is also a professor at Northwestern University, made the remarks following a report published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics, which indicated that a growing number of teens and even younger kids are experiencing gender identity disorder.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Brandis Friedman reports


Frader says he would like to model the clinic after a similar one at Children's Hospital Boston. Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Norman Spack is the author of one of three reports on transgender children published by Pediatrics Monday.

WBBM Newsradio's Brandis Friedman reports experts say a child or adolescent facing gender identity issues can be left feeling isolated and depressed.

"Many of them do cut themselves or otherwise harm themselves," Frader said.

Children with gender identity issues also sometimes face severe psychiatric problems and higher risks of abuse and posttraumatic stress in adulthood, CBS News reports.

Public awareness about the needs of transgender youngsters has been growing in recent years. In 2009, the public radio program "This American Life" featured a well-received segment on two 8-year-old girls – Lilly and Thomasina – who were both born boys, and who bonded at a conference on transgender parenting their families attended.

In the segment by "This American Life" producer Mary Beth Kirchner, Thomasina's mother recalled a remark by her transgender daughter, originally called Tom: "He said, 'I'm mad at God, because I'm a girl, but I'm not.'"

But intervention isn't always easy, Dr. Scott Leibowitz of Children's Hospital Boston told CBS News.

"Parents don't always want to bring their kids in for treatment. It's a stigmatized issue," he said. "Pediatricians don't always fully understand how to handle the complex issues."

The study says transgender teens and young children are getting sex-changing treatment at U.S. clinics, including drugs to stop puberty and sex-changing hormones.

"At the time that they enter puberty, the administration of hormone-blocking agents which prevents the development of what doctors call secondary sexual characteristics," Frader said.

The numbers of children and teens receiving such treatment are small, but on the rise.

The Associated Press reports the study followed 97 girls and boys, the youngest of whom was only 4. They received reversible treatments that delayed puberty, and all but one ended up going ahead with further treatment.

Spack's clinic does provide low doses of sex hormones, but does not conduct gender reassignment surgery that would involve the creation or removal of a penis, which is reserved only for those over 18, the Associated Press reports. His clinic has worked with surgeons on breast removal surgery with 16-year-old girls, but such surgery can be minor if puberty is halted, the Associated Press reports.

While switching gender roles and play-pretending to be the opposite sex is common in young children, the ones receiving treatment actually feel they are in the wrong bodies, the Associated Press reports.

Some ethicists say the treatment of transgender children under 18 raises concerns. But doctors who provide it reiterate that these kids often try suicide or self-mutilation until they get sex-changing treatment.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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