(NEWS CENTER) -- Being transgender isn't just a state of mind, it is a diagnosed medical condition called Gender Dysphoria.
Doctors can identify symptoms and begin treating Gender Dysphoria before children become adults. Maine Health recognized a need for that treatment and established a gender clinic at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital.
Four years ago, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Jerrold Olshan was treating just one or two children for Gender Dysphoria. Today, he sees between 20 and 30. He says all children have quesitons about gender, but sometimes those questions run deeper. That's when parents are likely to take a child to see a specialist. It can happen at a very young age.
"When you talk to these kids as adults they will say frequently, 'I've known since I was four I was in the wrong body. I was born, they wanted me to be a boy, I just I knew I was a girl'" Olshan told NEWS CENTER.
The child may see a doctor, but there is no medical intervention until the first signs of puberty. At that point, he or she is put on hormone blockers to stop puberty. Then, between the ages of 13 and 16, doctors will begin hormone therapy with testosterone or estrogen. All the while, the patient is meeting with a psychiatrist and social worker.
"These children and families have had a lot of stress, and often there is comorbidities," said Olshan. "There's things like depression associated with these conditions, probably because of the struggles of their identity being different than how society identifies them."
So why does all of this matter to physicians? Doctor Orsham says he started treated transgender childen because of their extremely high mortality rate. A recent study of trans youth in New York City found that 46% of them had considered suicide, and 25% of them had attempted it.
"If we can intervene early, the hope is, and what we are seeing fortunately is that we can really lower the risk of death in these kids."
There are several organizations in Maine that provide resources for people struggling with gender identity, advocate for transgender equality, and work to educate the community. Here are a few links to learn more: