Puberty Blockers for Children

Within the last decade, many doctors, politicians, psychologists, and others accepted the premise that there was a “gender identity” that was separate from a person’s biological sex. You could be a biological male feeling that you were trapped inside a female body and vice versa. There was consensus in many countries that children who identified with gender dysphoria be placed on puberty blockers so that the secondary sex characteristics did not develop (masculine voice, facial hair, broad shoulders, etc., for boys going through puberty and breasts for girls). After taking puberty blockers for several years, they would be placed on testosterone or the female hormones of their identified gender. That would allow them to pass more easily as their chosen gender in adulthood, with or without surgery.

There has been growing pushback against this protocol, and I will list some arguments for this.

Not everyone against the protocol is a right-wing Christian extremist. Not everyone for the protocol is a sweet loving pacifist.

Last week, the Cass Report was released in Britain in response to criticism of this protocol. This was a four-year study to look at the protocols for gender dysphoria treatment in children and adolescents. Great Britain and several European countries have now stopped prescribing puberty blockers to children. Here are some of the reasons.

The long-term effects of puberty blockers are unknown. There are some studies showing problems with bone growth and cognitive development. Transgender activists denounce these studies.

Puberty blockers may leave clients sterile or with underdeveloped genitalia when they become adults. Some may lose the ability to orgasm as adults. This raises the question – are children capable of making these decisions for themselves? In some countries and states, children can be given puberty blockers without parental knowledge. Can a prepubescent child grasp the consequences of what they are asking for?

There are accusations of the “trans train.” Children expressing gender dysphoria were to be affirmed as transgender immediately. Critics point out, and rightly so, that there was little counseling to help these children explore their gender dysphoria; instead, teachers, social workers, and health care workers were instructed to tell the children that they might be transgender and then shuttled them into services offering puberty blockers.

Last week, a Dutch study following 2700 children with gender dysphoria for 15 years found that over 50% of children had resolved their dysphoria following puberty and did not want to transition through surgery or hormones. The majority of those 50% identified as same-sex attracted (lesbians or gay men).

Others cite studies saying that denying puberty blockers will put more children and adolescents at risk of suicide, others debunk those studies saying the blockers improve the mental health of some children and worsen it in others.

Adding to the murkiness is the possibility that social contagion may be partly responsible for the explosion of children claiming to be transgender in recent years. Kids who do not usually think about it are getting the idea from other kids (bulimia, anorexia, and cutting all have an element of social contagion).

A growing number of detransitioners have also been finding their way into the media recently.

In the States, the Advocate proclaimed the Cass Report full of errors, but LGBT organizations in Great Britain did not. Where does that leave us? It leaves me confused and heartbroken. Some children who will transition later as adults will now have a more challenging time. Many boys who have gone through male puberty have a tough time “passing” when they transition later in adulthood. However, the children who are put on puberty blockers and hormones when they would have outgrown their gender dysphoria at puberty may be harmed. They didn’t need medical intervention. Many of them just needed counseling and support from their families and friends.

No sooner does one study arrive than the other group tries to debunk it. There is also a high incidence of autism in children identifying as transgender and a high number of children with behavioral health issues.

There are extremists on both sides. You have a few transgender activists claiming there is no such thing as a gay man or lesbian; instead, we are all repressed transgender people. Then you have others thumping the Bible, quoting, “God created them, male and female.”  Add a few transactivists punching women and threatening biological women who don’t want them in single-sex spaces with violence.

There are no easy answers. Excluding the rabid extremists, I believe the majority of people on both sides of this issue are trying to do what is best for the children. Science is weak, and the ideology on both sides is strong. In the end, it is not about theories or ideology; it is about what is best for kids. Godspeed to the parents, teachers, and health professionals grappling with all this. It’s going to be a long, bumpy road.   

Transgender woman in single-sex spaces (Changing rooms, women's shelters, and women's prisons) - April 14th