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Stanford University School of Medicine

Stanford launches short online course to boost understanding of transgender kids

In 2011, Stanford Medicine lecturer Maya Adam, MD, had just finished teaching her undergraduate course on critical issues in child health when a student approached her with some feedback. "I loved your class, but you are missing one issue," the student said. "You need a lecture on transgender children's health."

Adam's response was "You're right ... but I know so little about that." Her own medical training had never mentioned transgender children; she was unsure what difficulties they faced. Adam soon realized this knowledge gap was common, not just among physicians but also among teachers and other professionals who work with kids.

This week, which happens to be LGBT Health Awareness Week, Stanford is launching a free online course that Adam created to fill the gap. The course, which consists of 18 short videos, grew from her desire to raise awareness of the needs of transgender children beyond the small audience of Stanford students she teaches. In the videos, Adam interviews Stanford experts and gives basic explanations of what it means to be transgender.

In addition, some videos -- such as the one above -- showcase interviews with transgender children and their families. In this segment, a young transgender child tells his mom that it took four tries for him to muster the courage to tell her he was really a boy; in another, a girl describes how she feels about looking out for her transgender little sister; a dad shares his concerns that his beloved transgender child won't be accepted by society; a mom talks about how, in spite of the challenges her transgender teenager has faced, she has never wished she had another child.

"There is something magical that happens when you meet a real family and see similarities between that parent and you, between that child and yours," Adam told me. Her videos feature parents’ and kids’ voices under cartoon animation; the families’ anonymity is preserved, but their emotions come through.

"There are themes of hope and incredible love in these stories," Adam said. "Every parent we interviewed has gone above and beyond to create an environment that will allow their child to thrive."

Since Adam first began learning about transgender children in 2011, transgender people have been in the news more frequently, but the cultural environment can still be very hostile toward transgender kids. Adam hopes her videos will help change that.

"Ideally, I would like to get the course into every K-12 school and into the hands of every pediatrician and every medical school in the country," she said. "We have an obligation to build a society that is set up to love each of our children."

For more resources, the journal LGBT Health is offering free access to its top five most-read papers until April 10.

Previously: Film honors transgender pioneers, Study finds ER avoidance in transgender individuals needing care and Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination against transgender patients

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