New Study Reveals Dangers of Suppressing Puberty in Transgender Children


A new scientific study published by The New Atlantis details the dangerous effects of puberty suppression in treating gender dysphoria, challenging the ideological claim of the LGBT movement that pre-pubescent children should pursue such therapies as early as possible in order to realize their “true” gender.

The paper, “Growing Pains: Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria,” was written by a team of three experts: Dr. Paul W. Hruz, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine; Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, a scholar in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor at Arizona State University; and Dr. Paul R. McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Pyschiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study examines over 50 peer-reviewed studies on gender dysphoria in children and considers emerging treatments for the condition, including hormonal treatments such as “puberty blocking,” i.e. using hormones to suppress biological puberty, and surgical intervention.

A Dangerous Experiment

The report confirms the danger of such radical therapies: most notably, puberty suppression may cause children to persist in gender dysphoria. The overwhelming majority of children with gender dysphoria ultimately come to identify with their biological sex: 80 to 95 percent. Meanwhile, all of the children that used puberty blockers at an experimental Dutch clinic considered in the article continued to identify as transgender. Thus Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh argue that transgender-affirming treatments in children “may drive some children to persist in identifying as transgender when they might otherwise have, as they grow older, found their gender to be aligned with their sex.”

Why does this matter? The Dutch doctors who engineered the puberty blocking treatment claim that the therapy gives children “more time to explore their gender identity, without the distress of the developing secondary sex characteristics.” However, this analysis does not account for the dangerous long-term effects of puberty blocking treatments, nor does it acknowledge that puberty may naturally help children to develop their sexual identity.

Puberty blocking remains experimental, and the long-term effects are serious ones. While the LGBT lobby claims that these treatments are reversible, Drs. Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh write: “If a child does not develop certain characteristics at age 12 because of a medical intervention, then his or her developing those characteristics at age 18 is not a ‘reversal,’ since the sequence of development has already been disrupted.”

Moreover, there are no statistics on whether these procedures are reversible, since very few people have sought to have them reversed as they persist in their gender dysphoria and continue to identify as transgender.

What we do know about puberty blockers is that there are serious long-term health consequences. To name just a few potential risks: “[o]ther potential adverse effects include disfiguring acne, high blood pressure, weight gain, abnormal glucose tolerance, breast cancer, liver disease, thrombosis, and cardiovascular disease.” Finally, as Dr. Ryan Anderson notes, “all of the children who persist in their transgender identity and take puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones will be infertile.”

Furthermore, children who do not experience puberty may actually become more confused about their gender identity. Drs. Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh explain that the therapy proposed by the Dutch doctors “presumes that natural sex characteristics interfere with the ‘exploration’ of gender identity, when one would expect that the development of natural sex characteristics might contribute to the natural consolidation of one’s gender identity.” To put it simply: Children who do not experience the natural “sexual awakening” of puberty due to puberty blocking may struggle even more to understand their sexuality.

Disastrous Consequences

Despite all of the risks, these dangerous treatments are being normalized and made accessible nationwide. In the past ten years, 33 gender clinics have opened nationwide that promote these dangerous and scientifically unfounded methods. Popular media — like the TLC reality show “I am Jazz” and a viral video of a transgender teen being surprised with hormone therapy — aim to legitimize puberty blocking treatments.

The end goal is to force the hand of concerned parents who fear the high suicide statistics for transgender individuals and create a false choice between early therapy and death.

Meanwhile, children are treated as guinea pigs for high-risk, experimental therapies and surgeries with virtually no scientific backing. This is, in essence, child abuse.

Moreover, if these kinds of treatment were to go mainstream, physicians and other medical professionals are put at risk of violating the Hippocratic Oath which is the basis of their profession. Doctors who question the science of puberty blocking may be forced to abandon both good science and privately held religious and moral beliefs in order to prescribe and perform procedures that ultimately harm their pediatric patients.

The Looming Political Battle

The logic is ridiculous. At this very moment, the LGBT movement is lobbying for a legislative act that would ban gay conversion therapy, which simply describes normal psychological counseling that seeks to align a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity with his or her bodily reality. Yet, through a series of mental acrobatics, the movement simultaneously arrives at the conclusion that children ought to pursue radical hormone therapies and invasive surgeries, all in the name of self-determined gender.

Meanwhile, children are at risk of permanently altering their natural biological processes or undergoing permanent mutilation in the name of sexual identity and gender identity theory.

This raises the question: Where are our legislators? Who will protect our children from unsafe, permanent, experimental medical practices that place their long-term well-being on the line?

The LGBT movement has sought to ridicule and ostracize politicians who exhibit basic common sense on matters such as this. However, as The New Atlantis report demonstrates, silence on this issue undermines the integrity of the medical profession, as ideology trumps demonstrable science.

Legislation is needed that protects children from unsafe and untested medical practices. As it stands, the therapies treated in the aforementioned article are non-FDA approved. However, Congress should go further and take action to ban high-risk and untested treatments from being used on prepubescent children, or at the very least, the HHS ought to direct the FDA to issue a warning with such treatments.

Moreover, legislation is urgently needed that protects doctors who refuse to compromise on their integrity as medical professionals and prescribe or perform these risky procedures.

Most of all, legislators are needed who will stand up to the LGBT lobby and be advocates of common sense, promoting legislation that prevents pediatrics from becoming an ideological battleground.

Monica Burke

Monica Burke is a researcher for APP's Religious Freedom Program.

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