Demand for transgender medical care in Denmark rising

Over 100 boys and girls inquired about gender change in 2016

Denmark is the first country that no longer defines transgender people as being mentally ill (photo: iStock)
December 28th, 2016 10:10 am| by Lucie Rychla

Since January, when the Sexological Clinic at Rigshospital in Copenhagen made it possible for Danes under 18 to apply for hormonal therapy that changes sexual characteristics, the institute has received inquiries from over 100 boys and girls wanting to change their gender.

Initially, the clinic, which is the only place in Denmark that refers transgender people to sex reassignment surgeries, expected about 50 children and teens to take advantage of this offer.

However, already by June the clinic received 55 referrals and the annual figure is estimated to reach 120-130.

According to Linda Thor Pedersen, the spokesperson for transpeople at LGBT Denmark, the surge in hormone replacement therapy inquiries is not surprising as Denmark has only just started offering this service to young people.

READ MORE: Waiting for surgery puts transgender people in Denmark under extreme pressure

Similar trend abroad
The situation is similar in neighbouring Sweden, where the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm hormonally treated four kids in 2012, while the figure is expected to reach 200 this year.

In the UK, 97 children and young people were referred to the gender clinic Tavistock and Portman in 2009/2010. That number has grown to 1,419 in 2015/2016.

In Denmark, kids over 12 years of age who have been diagnosed with gender identity disorder (gender dysphoria) can be treated with hormones that suppress the hormones naturally produced by the body during puberty in order to match their development to their preferred gender identity. The treatment is reversible.

From the age of 16, Danish teens can start taking cross hormones, which means that biological girls will get testosterone (male hormone) while biological boys get oestrogen (female hormone). These hormones cause breasts to grow in boys and deepen voice and increase facial hair in girls. This treatment is partially irreversible.

READ MORE: Denmark criticised for discriminating against transgendered

No longer a mental illness
Transgender Danes aged 18 and older can be assessed for a sex reassignment surgery. The process is rather complicated and lengthy, which has been criticised by rights organisations. Adult transgender people can also apply for a legal sex change, and since September 2014 they do not have to undergo sterilisation.

In May, Denmark became the first country in the world to no longer define being transgender as a mental illness.

“This very encouraging move from Denmark sets a strong example internationally towards destigmatizing transgender people and paving the way for quick and transparent processes for legal gender recognition,” said Leda Avgousti, a gender identity advisor at Amnesty International.

In 2014, Amnesty International estimated there were about 3,000 transgender people in Denmark.

What it takes to change one's sex in Denmark

Legal sex change: Since 2014, it has been possible for transgender people in Denmark to apply for a legal sex change. They receive a new personal identification number in accordance with the sex they want to have. They have to be over 18 years old, and six months after their original application, they have to reconfirm.

Hormonal treatment: In 2012, it has been decided the initial hormonal treatment for sex change can only be received at the Sexological Clinic at Rigshospitalet, after which it can be continued by other doctors. Hormone replacement therapy for transgender people changes the balance of sex hormones in the body in order to develop the secondary sex characteristics of the desired sex.

Sex reassignment therapy:  The Sexological Clinic at Rigshospitalet is the only place in Denmark that provides assessment and refers transgender people to sex reassignment surgeries, such as breast removal or creation, castration or penis creation. The reference from the clinic must be approved by the Danish Health Authority

In the period between 1978-2010, some 106 transgender Danes were approved for a sex reassignment surgery by the Sexological Clinic. A number of Danes chose to get a genital corrective surgery abroad – for instance, in Thailand.

(Source: Magazine Videnskab)