RI doctor leads effort on caring for transgender children
"Gender and sexuality are absolutely a part of medical care."
That is pediatrician Michelle Forcier's specialty.
"We work with a number of patients whose brain and heart gender identity doesn't necessarily match up with some of the parts they got," Forcier told NBC 10 News.
Working through Hasbro Children's and Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, Forcier said she has about 400 patients in various stages of a potential transgender journey.
"Kids as young as two, three, four know what their gender is," she said. "And so we need to listen to kids. That doesn't mean they're transgender."
Forcier said she has no reason to tell patients to be transgender, but it's healthiest for patients to live the life they identify with.
For younger children, Forcier said care is mostly about support and education.
Later on, it can include medication to block puberty and then hormone therapy.
"She pays attention to each person, their case, and she knows that no two trans people are going to be the same," transgender teen, Liam Fifer, told NBC 10. "She really helped me through adolescent years, which are really hard already."
Forcier argues what she helps patients with is like other medical issues, like if a child has diabetes.
"Should we let them die when we have medicine for diabetes?," she said. "And we're really talking about the same level of intervention. When gender non-conforming, transgender kids and adults are not supported (and) are stigmatized, then they can't be healthy."
She acknowledged parents can have a hard time.
"The big message is listen to your kid, love your kid, and sort of work with them to figure out who they are and help them figure out in a healthy, safe way who they are," Forcier said.