Some children have gender dysphoria – the feeling of discomfort with their sexed body. In the past, the approach taken was either “Watchful Waiting” and/or supportive counselling (therapeutic approach) to help the child accept their natural bodies. Gender dysphoria is often associated with other mental health conditions such as autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress. As such, it makes sense for clinicians to make some effort to get at the root of a child’s distress. Unfortunately, this is no longer happening.
The Affirmative Approach
Rather than discovering the root of a child’s distress and assisting the child to become comfortable with their natural bodies, it has become the accepted practice to affirm their feelings, as though the child has discovered some precious new identity that needs to be protected and nurtured.
The affirming approach involves several stages. The first is social transition which involves adopting a name, pronouns and dress of the preferred gender. If a child has not started puberty, he or she may be given a puberty blocking drug. This is followed by cross sex hormones, which will trigger changes in physical appearance to match the desired gender. The final step is one or more “gender affirming” surgeries.
These procedures are being performed at much younger ages than previously. In the USA there have been cases of mastectomies being performed on trans-identified females as young as 13 years old – they are removing healthy breast tissue. Likewise, vaginoplasty (removal of penis and testicles and construction of an artificial vagina) is being performed on trans-identified males as young as 16 years of age.
Are Puberty Blockers Reversible?
Puberty blockers are being advertised as reversible and described as a “pause button” that gives children time to make up their mind. However, this is false – puberty blockers have long-term, permanent affects. In addition, studies have found that around 80% of children who experienced gender dysphoria as children desisted when they started puberty. Therefore, blocking puberty means blocking a natural process that allows children to become comfortable in their natural bodies and thus prevent unnecessary medical interventions. In other words, once puberty blockers are started, children are denied the opportunity to experience the very thing that would help them resolve their gender dysphoria. Furthermore, the vast majority of children who get started on puberty blockers move on to cross-sex hormones.
It must be noted that in 2009 the number of children referred to gender clinics each year was very low, with natal boys slightly outnumbering natal girls. Today the number of referrals has massively increased and natal girls outnumber natal boys by two to one. There has been a 1000% increase in the number of girls identifying as “transgender” and many of these girls did not show signs of gender dysphoria in early childhood but rather it appeared suddenly in adolescence. This is referred to as Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) which is thought to be the result of social contagion spread through schools, friendship groups and ‘influencer’ videos. This phenomenon is explored in the book titled “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” by Abigail Shrier.
Medical transition has serious health risks. The use of puberty blocking drugs, cross sex hormones and surgery result in permanent damage to the child’s health, including irreversible sterilization, loss of sexual function, arrested bone growth and weaker bones, and increased risk of heart disease, blood clots, strokes and osteoporosis. Once hormone treatment is started, it generally continues for life. As noted in this article, Sweden’s Karolinska Hospital has now ended the use of puberty blockers for children due to concerns of medical harm.
Members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities have a particular concern. Past research has shown that many people who showed signs of gender confusion as children grew up to be same-sex attracted adults. Some people in the LGB community see medical transition of gender confused children as a new form of conversion therapy (“transing the gay away”). Youth who are uncomfortable with their same-sex attractions may seek transition so they can be “straight”, or they may feel pressured by external homophobia.
No Child is Born in the Wrong Body
It is time to return to the more cautious, “watchful waiting” / therapeutic approach and once again start addressing the underlying causes for a child’s gender dysphoria. Children need to be supported in becoming comfortable with their natural bodies. There is no such thing as a wrong body.