Department of Defense (DOD) medical providers in Europe are stepping up efforts to identify civilian providers of hormone therapy and other sex-change treatments for the children of U.S. military personnel stationed abroad, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday.
DOD has only one physician stationed on the continent who specializes in transgender treatments for minors, leading to a recent decision to discontinue medical treatment and counseling for new patients, Stars and Stripes reported, citing military health officials. Providers at U.S. military medical facilities in Europe have increased referrals to local health care facilities and are looking for more that will accept the Pentagon’s military health plan, Tricare.
Tricare is “actively working to identify additional clinics who can provide care” to dependents of American servicemembers seeking sex change options, a spokesperson for the Landstuhl hospital serving the Rheinland-Pfalz Army base in Germany, told Stars and Stripes.
Staff shortages at Landstuhl prompted it to stop accepting new patients in October, the spokesperson explained.
Landstuhl is the only other U.S. military hospital in Europe that provides transgender services, including counseling, hormone therapy and puberty blockers, to minors, Defense Health Agency spokesperson Peter Graves told Stars and Stripes. Since 2016, those services have been paid for under Tricare, although the program does not support sex change surgeries for minors.
The hospital in Germany did not disclose how many transgender military children it had on its treatment roster “to protect patient privacy … (and) to avoid connecting the dots,” Sanchez told Stars and Stripes.
However, the number has increased rapidly since Tricare began providing hormones and other related treatments to transgender military members and their families, according to the outlet.
A study found that the number of transgender minors in the military health system increased from 135 in 2010 to 528 within the first four months of 2017, Reuters reported.
Just two clinics within an hour’s drive of Landstuhl offer transition-related procedures, Stars and Stripes reported.
#MEDCoE joins the Department of Defense and the Nation in paying tribute to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer #LGBTQ community during Pride Month 2022.#DoDPride #PrideMonth @TRADOC @DennisLeMaster7 @ArmyMedicine @ArmyMedHistory pic.twitter.com/yfffYAoWRo
— MEDCoE (@medcoe) June 1, 2022
German medical professionals say American children should be able to obtain regular, patient-specific visits with gender transition providers in English.
“These are in-depth conversations about gender identity,” Stephanie Lehmann-Kannt, a pediatric endocrinologist at Saarland University Hospital in Homburg, told Stars and Stripes. “It is not enough that the patient says, ‘I’d like to be a girl,’ and receives puberty blockers,” she said.
Germany requires individuals who wish to transition to complete at least 12 counseling sessions before starting on hormones, since both testosterone and estrogen treatments can lead to long-term negative effects on fertility, Lehmann-Kannt told Stars and Stripes.
She rejected patient inquiries from two American military families sometime in the last two years, citing her long waitlist and lack of ability to provide long-term care for the patients, according to Stars and Stripes.
The U.S. has one of the world’s most relaxed transgender treatment regulations, according to a study by Do No Harm. Most European countries have implemented greater hurdles to accessing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sex change operations, determining that most or all treatments available are experimental.
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