Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper: The urgent need for comprehensive assessment

This summary was written by a Genspect parent.

Many thanks to independent journalist Meghan Daum of the Unspeakable podcast for giving the complex issue of best care for gender-questioning children and youth the attention it deserves by hosting a three-part series this week with Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper, journalist Lisa Selin Davis, and affected parents. Listen to the second episode (interview with Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper and two parents) here and the third episode (Lisa Selin Davis) here.

Meghan Daum of the Unspeakable podcast this week has produced a series of podcasts on best care for gender-questioning children and adolescents. In her first podcast, Meghan interviews Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper. Dr. Edwards-Leeper was trained by one of the creators of the Dutch Protocol, the paradigm for transitioning young people, and adapted it to be used in the US. She is the WPATH Chair of the Child/Adolescent Committee and part of the team writing the new guidelines, SOC 8, to be released soon. Of note, Dr. Edwards-Leeper is the coauthor of an opinion piece with Dr. Erica Anderson passed over by the New York Times for being “outside [their] coverage priorities right now.”

In the podcast, Dr. Edwards-Leeper answers questions related to the dramatic increase in transgender-identified teenagers and mentions issues that could explain this rise in numbers, such as the impact of the internet, peer pressure, and autism. This is why she stresses the importance of comprehensive psychological and developmental assessment for all young people before any attempts at medicalizing them. She is also very concerned by the late teens and emerging adults (18-25) cohort who are being treated under an adult model of care. She is equally alarmed by shifts in the field that are moving people forward quickly without proper assessment or mental healthcare in place.

When asked questions about young people who suddenly present as trans, she admits that this phenomenon is really happening, although there are no clear answers as to why. As a trained clinical psychologist specializing in child and adolescent care, she gets frustrated when people dismiss the phenomenon so quickly as if it’s something that could never happen.

“To say that it is impossible for adolescents to experience peer pressure in this area when we know that they experience it in every other area is kind of crazy.”

-Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper

She also acknowledged the social contagion of young people wanting to start hormones because their friends are on them and pointed out that no one is assessing their individual situations to figure out what is really going on and how to best help them.

She noted how trans activists are against any kind of process and don’t speak for the whole community, since regular trans people who don’t agree with these activists feel strongly there must be a process.

Regarding detransitioners, she lamented that the voices of people who have not received adequate care are being silenced to the point that even some providers don’t believe this is occurring. She admitted little is known about detransitioners and that researchers are fearful to investigate them because they are going to be met with criticism and may not like what they’ll find. Her hope is that things will start to shift and everyone will start paying attention to this group, mainly clinics.

She concludes by saying there’s an urgent need to start openly talking about the problems in the field and improve it. She thinks it’s ridiculous and misguided to not talk about these issues and doesn’t see having these conversations as hurting the community. In fact, it is the only way that the field will move forward.

Image from Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper’s website.

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