North Texas is home to the only transgender youth clinic in the Southwest.
Children's Health opened its Genecis Clinic two years ago, and today they're treating more patients than they expected.
The program focuses on helping children and teens with issues surrounding gender dysphoria, a condition that involves an individual who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Gender dysphoria is frequently associated with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicidality.
When Genecis opened in 2015, they treated about two dozen patients.
Today, they treat about 400 transgender children and teens.
"I think we expected somewhere between five to six new patients, and on average we get about 20 patients a month," said Dr. Meredith Chapman, lead psychiatrist at Genecis and associate professor at UT Southwestern. "We have a large population of youth that has been here all along. It's just now that they have access to a program that provides gender-affirming physical and social-emotional health care."
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In order to be a patient in the program, a social worker performs an extensive evaluation with prospective patients, who must between the ages of 4 and 17.
Cases will be discussed with a multidisciplinary team to evaluate recommendations regarding starting puberty suppression therapy (puberty blockers), hormone replacement therapy, as well as mental health and social needs.
The program is also heavily rooted in mental health support, with a suicide attempt rate of up to 60 percent for youth with gender dysphoria.
"This is a group of kids that we need to make life better for, so we are saving lives and we're making life better," Chapman said.
It made life better for 17-year-old Kammie Johnson, who began her transition in fourth grade.
"I don't feel I transitioned. It was more of a transition for my family because I always knew who I was," Johnson said.
She says she started puberty blocking medication in sixth grade, and when she and her family moved to North Texas she became one the Genecis program's first patients.
She's now on estrogen therapy and plans for sex reassignment surgery when she's 18 years old.
"The Genecis program is such an amazing resource for parents and family who want to understand the transgender experience. It's here to help you understand how your child can live a happy and full life," Johnson said.
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