Members of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health have raised alarms about the use in teens and young children of “puberty blockers.” Some countries have already scaled back their use, given the horrifying side effects when taken with cross-sex hormones, including sterility and an inability to orgasm.
The side effects are irreversible. And the sad fact is that there are a lot of fakes and charlatans in the transgender health industry who have no business treating kids with serious mental issues like gender dysphoria. They are dispensing puberty blockers to young people with little or no concern for the problems they cause later in life.
That’s the concern of Dr. Marci Bowers, who is due to become the president of WPATH in 2022.
Dr Bowers built her career operating on adults, but she has also operated on teens: in 2018 she performed a “penile inversion” on Jazz Jennings, a 17-year-old who had been put on blockers aged 11. But Dr Bowers told Ms Shrier she was “not a fan” of putting children on blockers early in puberty. She worried, she said, “about their reproductive rights later. I worry about their sexual health later and ability to find intimacy.”
In 2018 Lisa Littman, a researcher, was hounded and lost her job as a consultant after coining the term “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (rogd) to describe the social contagion of trans-identification among teens, mostly girls. Dr Bowers appeared to acknowledge the existence of “this rogd thing” as she called it. “I think there probably are people who are influenced. There is a little bit of ‘Yeah, that’s so cool. Yeah, I kind of want to do that too.’” In some cases, she said, girls with eating disorders were being diagnosed with gender dysphoria, “then they see you for one visit, and then they recommend testosterone.”
And yet, despite ROGD being acknowledged as a problem, the drive continues to authorize puberty blockers and other treatments despite little or no mental health counseling.
In some ways, it’s reminiscent of a medical racket with doctors figuring out that they can flim-flam parents and young adults into getting treatment for a condition that may not even be present.
It is exceedingly rare for health-care professionals in America to criticise—or even question—the practices that have become prevalent in the medical treatment of gender-dysphoric youth. Professional bodies, including the American Association of Paediatrics, have endorsed “gender-affirmative” care, a model that accepts patients’ self-diagnosis that they are trans, and the use of blockers. Anyone who publicly dissents tends to be castigated.
It’s nearly unbelievable. A life-altering — in some cases, life-destroying — treatment is being forced on confused children and worried parents with little thought given to the long-term consequences of the drugs. And there is apparently very little input from mental health professionals — a crucial aspect of dealing with what is still seen as a psychological condition.
Laura Edwards-Leeper, a psychologist who helped found America’s first transgender clinic for children in Boston in 2007, is changing her opinion about puberty blockers.
She says Dr Bowers’s comments, especially about the effects of blockers on sexual function, have “shaken up” many in the field. Yet she notes some doctors are responding by talking about how they might control or slow treatment, without mentioning the role mental-health professionals should play in all this. That they are discussing the risks at all nonetheless constitutes progress.
“Progress” toward what? Why not allow children to grow to adulthood so that if they later decide they are not the gender they were born to be they could make an informed decision on rectifying the situation?
Gender dysphoria has been a recognized psychological condition for more than 50 years. It’s believed that real gender dysphoria afflicts only one or two children per 100,000 live births. Obviously, far more people are alive today who claim to be suffering from gender dysphoria, which could easily be explained by rapid-onset gender dysphoria, where teens, looking to be thought of as special, identify as a sex other than their biological sex. Adults are not immune to wanting to be thought of as special either.
There is no answer to find. Eventually, we might hope that common sense and reason will prevail.