Charen: Trans politics must slow down and wait for trans science | News, Sports, Jobs
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas recently used his executive authority to declare that puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for those under 18 meet the legal standard for child abuse in Texas, a decision that authorized the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who had requested such treatment for their children. It is malice disguised as policy making.
Progressives, for their part, anathematize anyone who questions the new gender orthodoxy. Not to go all kumbaya, but both sides to these controversies may have valid perspectives.
Progressives are right that transgender people were treated with some contempt. It is important to correct this. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. But conservatives are right that we rushed into radical approaches to curing children with gender dysphoria because the medical establishment and much of the opinion-shaping commentary treated it as a matter of justice. social rather than a question of what is best for children.
Over the past two decades, the percentage of children identifying as transgender has skyrocketed. A recent survey found that 1.8% of children under 18 identify as trans, twice as many as 10 years ago. Brown University public health researcher Lisa Littman published a study speculating that peer contagion was part of the reason groups of teenage girls came out as trans, and Abigail Shrier’s book followed with information about social media influencers on YouTube and Tik Tok encouraging unfortunate kids to consider this route.
LBGTQ advocates vigorously oppose the group contagion theory, but it is clear that behavior and mental health are affected by social cues. Emile Durkheim showed that suicide was contagious over 100 years ago and that other mental health issues like eating disorders and cuts are associated with particular groups (middle class white women). Positive behaviors like volunteering and charitable giving are also influenced by group dynamics.
While we can’t rule out the possibility that trans people are coming out of the closet for the same reasons gay people have in previous decades – the decline in stigma – there are reasons to be more cautious about the trans trend. .
First, there’s the complicated question of why people seek to transition. Studies have shown that the majority of young people with gender dysphoria who go through natural puberty become non-transgender lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults. Clinicians certainly have a duty to help young people explore their sexuality before prescribing hormones and other treatments that alter the body and brain.
Second, recognizing one’s sexual orientation does not entail risks of surgery or infertility, unlike gender therapy. The “gender affirmation” treatment model, the nearly universal approach of American gender clinics, requires that children who express gender dysphoria be recognized by family, friends, and teachers as the opposite sex. They are encouraged to dress, change their hair, change their name and pronoun, and behave in every way like the opposite sex. They are given puberty blocking drugs to delay the onset of puberty until they are “ready” to decide what they really want to be. And subsequently, they are prescribed cross-hormone treatments (for life) as well as surgery, if desired.
Advocates say puberty blockers and other early treatments are fully reversible, but that’s debatable. As noted by The New York Times, few studies have followed adolescents receiving these drugs into adulthood. Puberty blockers impair bone development and, if given at the onset of puberty, cause permanent sterility.
In addition, children go through stages and it seems unwise to make treatment decisions that will have irreversible effects.
Studies of patients who have detransitioned after hormone treatment or surgery or both reveal that most feel they received inadequate counseling before being prescribed hormones. A quarter said they realized as adults that their discomfort with being gay had caused them to transition, and 38% said trauma, abuse or other mental health issues had caused them to transition.
Clearly, children with true gender dysphoria need sensitive, compassionate care and complete respect. In some cases, it may be preferable to adopt aspects of the gender-affirming approach. But interfering with their bodies and brains before they reach maturity seems drastic, especially when surgeries are performed on teenagers under the age of 18.
Two psychologists, Laura Edwards-Leeper, the founder of the first pediatric clinic of its kind in the United States, and Erica Anderson, a transgender woman, published a Washington Post essay in November 2021 decrying the poor care that has become the norm in the States -United. , noting that many teens who come to gender clinics are prescribed hormones after just one visit.
Other nations have begun to rethink their approach. In 2020, Finland revised its treatment guidelines over concerns that the hormonal and surgical approach was not well supported. Practitioners now focus more on psychological therapy and draw distinctions between early dysphoria and the adolescent variety. Sweden, Australia and New Zealand have also moved to require in-depth mental health assessments of young patients with gender dysphoria.
Progressives rushed to treat transsexuality as a civil rights issue before medical science had a chance to gauge what is really going on and how best to respond. The Conservatives are reacting cruelly. We need to slow down and learn more.
Mona Charen is the editor of The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast. Her most recent book is “Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense”.