I recently received a message from a woman’s whose concerns I suspect are those of enough people that this warranted more than a reply only to her. Here is her note, which I have mildly edited to focus on the key points.
Gina, I have some qualms about all the children who are being treated with hormones for dysphoria. We have long held the attitude that children do not have the ability to make life-changing decisions such as marriage and signing binding legal contracts because they are not mature enough to comprehend the ramifications involved. Yet on the simple assertion of a five-year-old that s/he is the other gender, we are now being ordered to treat the child as if this were truth and even begin medical treatments that have lifelong consequences. From what I have read, most children who make these assertions, if not treated, eventually come to terms with who and what they were created to be. If they don’t, then adulthood is maybe a more rational point for them make these decisions? I know I was something of a “tomboy” as a kid, yet there is now no way I would want to have missed being a woman and a mother. I know that isn’t quite the same thing yet why are we encouraging little children to make these decisions? Not just encouraging but actively forcing reluctant parents in some cases.
I have located three areas of concern to address: 1) children transitioning, 2) a child only going through a phase regarding gender, and 3) the encouraging of children to transition, or the forcing of parents for these children to do so. I will work backward through these topics.
I am horrified at the thought of any parents being forced to set a child onto the path of transitioning, or even encouraging a child, which I heard as “pushing” a child.
Yet, I can imagine the scenario. An over-zealous therapist or doctor, who speaks so strongly with the diagnosis that the child is transgender and will only be benefited by transitioning and that the path should be started immediately, and the parents themselves feel pushed—backed into a corner of guilt if they don’t act.
Sadly, there are people in every profession who do not remain inside their boundaries, whose insights and opinions turn into insistence, which virtually bullies a person into the action which they espouse. It happens with teachers and students, with politicians and citizens, with ministers and congregations, in every sphere of life. I can easily imagine it in the area of gender dysphoria and transitioning. Should it happen, that doctor or therapist should be reported to the appropriate person or group.
You are correct in asserting that most children, who express wanting to be the opposite sex, will move on from this, perhaps even quickly. I addressed this and more in the following:
In that piece, I discuss PIC—persistent, insistent, consistent. Parents should take a PIC of these children. Does she persist in her desire to be a boy? Is he insisting that you see him wrongly by seeing a boy? Is s/he consistent in what s/he is saying about this?
Parents should not be quick in seeking professional help while they calmly and lovingly listen to these children. If a clear PIC forms, that will be the time to act.
Finally, regarding children transitioning. It is correct that some children transition socially, how they dress and what name is used. It is incorrect that they are given hormones—this is to the best of my knowledge and, below, I explain why—or that any medical steps are taken.
The goal of a child’s socially transitioning is to alleviate the dysphoria—that is, the ill feelings regarding the mismatch of mind and body—and to see if this benefits the child. It is a testing period. If the child finds what s/he seeks, displays and expresses peace and joy in finally living as the gender s/he experiences her- or himself, and if this persists, then good has been achieved for the child.
Not only are children not given hormones, there is no need to do so. The accepted path is this:
- Transition socially. If this is sustained, then
- when the child nears puberty, prescribe blockers, which arrest puberty. (For more about puberty blockers in children who begin puberty when very young, see the end of this post.) By postponing puberty, if the child continues into the later teen years and decides to fully transition, the affects of puberty have not adversely affected the child. If the child does not continue, blockers can be stopped and puberty would commence. If s/he desires to transition, at the appropriate time or age
- the child, who now likely is at least eighteen or near it, would begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and experience puberty in the desired sex.
It may be argued that one in the late teens is still a child and should not take measures which profoundly affect the future. I appreciate serious caution. Where I depart from the caution is that, by the time a person would begin the hormone phase of transitioning, several years have elapsed. If anyone has passed the PIC for this long, we are not talking about a passing phase. Even more, as we know of the great emotional and physical distress caused by gender dysphoria, we never forget the 41% attempted suicide rate. HRT often is healing therapy—it was for me—and even a life-saving measure.
In summary, no children, nor their parents as they are advised regarding their children, should be encouraged to transition, especially if information provided causes them to feel they must do so. Parents should listen closely and patiently to their children, showing them love and compassion. If their children pass the PIC, then they should engage a professional. As puberty nears, medical action can then be taken. Hopefully, if these steps are taken, these children will mature into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
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I am thankful for a friend, who is highly educated in these issues, who posted this comment on Facebook regarding puberty blockers:
One point that people miss – hormone blockers that delay puberty have routinely been prescribed for the last 30 years for children with early onset puberty. There are kids who suddenly start puberty at the age of 4 or 5. Helping them put off puberty until they are 16, 17, 18 has been standard procedure for decades and we have years of research that this has no ill effects on young people at all. So delaying puberty for trans kids until they can make informed decisions about their lives isn’t really different.