According to new guidelines released yesterday, a leading international health organization is encouraging children under 16 who identify as transgender to undergo highly experimental hormonal therapies — such as puberty-blocking treatment and cross-sex hormones — aimed at making their bodies appear to be that of the other sex, despite the possibly damaging side effects of these therapies.
The new clinical guidelines were developed by an international medical team and published by the Endocrine Society. Because of this organization’s vast membership base, its recommendations are expected to exert widespread influence on the type of medical care given to children around the world who suffer from gender dysphoria.
The American Psychiatric Association includes gender dysphoria in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and describes its occurrence in children to be a condition involving criteria such as a strong preference for the clothes, play, toys, and playmates of other gender; or a strong insistence one is the opposite gender. And yet, the reality is that nearly all of these criteria are based on stereotypes of boys or girls that come from societal expectations, not biology.
Nevertheless, the increasingly popular “gender-affirming” approach many now advocate for gender dysphoric children is to pump them up with hormones in order to block the effects of puberty and try to make their bodies appear to be that of the opposite sex.
While the Endocrine Society’s previous guidelines, which were last updated in 2009, contained restrictions on giving hormone therapy to children under 16 years old, its new guidelines now recommend that children be given “a safe and effective hormone regimen.”
NBC News reports that the new guidelines do require that the minor has “sufficient mental capacity to give informed consent” before receiving the hormone therapy. However, given that there is standard acknowledgment within the medical field that minors cannot give informed consent, it will be interesting to see how, or even if, this “informed consent” requirement is followed.
Aside from the obvious practical issues of meeting the new guidelines’ criteria for “informed consent” before giving a child hormone therapy, there are numerous medical and psychological concerns.
A June scientific study in The New Atlantis published by experts from Washington University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Arizona State University examined over 50 peer-reviewed studies on gender dysphoria and puberty blocking treatments and found that “the evidence for the safety and efficacy of puberty suppression is thin, based more on the subjective judgments of clinicians than on rigorous empirical evidence”:
While there is much that is not known with certainty about gender dysphoria, there is clear evidence that patients who identify as the opposite sex often suffer a great deal. They have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicide than the general population. Something must be done to help these patients, but as scientists struggle to better understand what gender dysphoria is and what causes it, it would not seem prudent to embrace hormonal treatments and sex reassignment as the foremost therapeutic tools for treating this condition.
Commenting on the new study, Ryan T. Anderson at The Heritage Foundation put it simply: “Biology isn’t bigotry.” These puberty blocking hormones thwart natural biology, and while the extent of their damage to children is yet unknown, the best interests of children demands that doctors not experiment on them. Acknowledging this fact is not bigotry, but rather expresses real concern for the children who suffer from gender dysphoria.
The National Pulse’s own Monica Burke wrote an article back in July outlining “Five Facts Every Parent Should Know” about gender dysphoria and puberty blocking hormonal treatments. The announcement of the Endocrine Society’s new guidelines warrants a re-examination of these concerns:
1.) There is no medical consensus on transition-affirming treatments for gender dysphoria.
2.) The majority of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria come to identify with their biological sex after puberty.
3.) The drugs used to disrupt puberty in gender dysphoric children are not FDA approved for that purpose and must be prescribed off-label.
4.) The side effects of puberty blockers are severe.
5.) Puberty blocking is not a “fully reversible” treatment.
In short, puberty suppressing hormonal therapies are experimental, their harmful side effects are still being discovered, most children naturally grow out of gender dysphoria, and children cannot give informed consent. Why, then, is a leading international health organization endorsing the practice of such controversial and harmful medical therapy on young children? Such careless experimentation is not the answer to helping these young children who suffer from such a serious mental disorder.