Pro-traditional marriage author and Heritage Foundation researcher, Ryan T. Anderson, published a blog post Monday on a new paper released by three medical experts who warn against using puberty-blocking drugs on children experiencing gender dysphoria.
The paper, “Growing Pains: Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria,” features the medical opinions of Washington University School of Medicine professor Dr. Paul W. Hruz, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine scholar Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, and university distinguished service professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Paul R. McHugh.
In their paper, the three co-authors assess more 50 peer-reviewed studies on the subject of gender confusion in children. Their conclusions, Anderson writes, “should make all of us pause before embracing radical medical treatments for children.”
Puberty Blockers for gender dysphoria is entirely experimental. It is not supported by any rigorous science. https://t.co/Zn4vwasOSZ
— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanTAnd) June 21, 2017
“Increasingly, gender therapists and physicians argue that children as young as nine should be given puberty-blocking drugs if they experience gender dysphoria,” Anderson writes. But the paper, published by The New Atlantis journal, “reveals that there is little scientific evidence to support such a radical procedure.”
Anderson notes that while the number of pediatric clinics offering hormone treatment to child struggling with gender confusion is rapidly increasing, “very little is known about gender identity in children—and many therapies amount to little more than experimentation on minors.”
Despite the lack of research, a growing number of medical professionals are arguing in favor of children receiving puberty-blocking drugs as early as age 9, and cross-sex hormones at age 16. The Food and Drug Administration has not even approved such drugs for treatment of gender dysphoria, Anderson writes.
In their article, Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh explain that puberty-blocking treatments for children who believe they are transgender “may drive some children to persist in identifying as transgender when they might otherwise have, as they grow older, found their gender to be aligned with their sex.”
“Gender identity for children is elastic (that is, it can change over time) and plastic (that is, it can be shaped by forces like parental approval and social conditions),” the doctors write.
Because of this, encouraging children to identify as the opposite sex could lead to unnecessary and potentially harmful “hormonal and surgical interventions.” Such treatments, they write, “may have solidified the feelings of cross-gender identification in these patients, leading them to commit more strongly to sex reassignment than they might have if they had received a different diagnosis or a different course of treatment.”
The Dutch doctors who first used puberty-blocking drugs as a treatment for gender confusion argue that it gives children “more time to explore their gender identity, without the distress of the developing secondary sex characteristics.”
But as Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh explain, this argument “presumes that natural sex characteristics interfere with the ‘exploration’ of gender identity,” when a more logical expectation would be that “development of natural sex characteristics might contribute to the natural consolidation of one’s gender identity.”
Given this, the doctors express concern about the medical community’s widespread acceptance of puberty-blocking treatments for children.
“Puberty suppression as an intervention for gender dysphoria has been accepted so rapidly by much of the medical community, apparently without scientific scrutiny, that there is reason to be concerned about the welfare of children who are receiving it … ,” they write.
Echoing this concern, Anderson writes, “In essence, doctors are engaging in a giant experiment on minors by blocking their maturation, and they are doing this without even coming close to the ethical standards demanded in other areas of medicine.”
Further, Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh note that these transgender-affirming medical treatments pose known long-term health risks.
In both boys and girls, puberty-blocking treatment negatively affects growth rates in terms of height.
“Other potential adverse effects include disfiguring acne, high blood pressure, weight gain, abnormal glucose tolerance, breast cancer, liver disease, thrombosis, and cardiovascular disease,” Hruz writes.
In addition to these risks, Anderson notes that every child who persists in taking puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones is guaranteed to be infertile.
“Rejecting human nature has real human costs,” he writes.
The doctors conclude their paper with a section titled, “What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us,” in which they condemn blindly embracing such powerful, irreversible treatments:
We frequently hear from neuroscientists that the adolescent brain is too immature to make reliably rational decisions, but we are supposed to expect emotionally troubled adolescents to make decisions about their gender identities and about serious medical treatments at the age of 12 or younger. And we are supposed to expect parents and physicians to evaluate the risks and benefits of puberty suppression, despite the state of ignorance in the scientific community about the nature of gender identity.
Anderson tackles the subject of transgenderism and gender dysphoria in his forthcoming book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.” The book, which is slated for a February 2018 release, tackles a range difficult questions: Can a boy truly be “trapped” in a girl’s body? Can modern medicine really “reassign” sex? Is sex something that is “assigned” in the first place? What’s the loving response to a friend or child experiencing a gender-identity conflict? What should our law say on these issues?
Based on extensive research, he concludes that “the best biology, psychology, and philosophy all support an understanding of sex as a bodily reality, and of gender as a social manifestation of bodily sex.”
“Biology isn’t bigotry, and we need a sober and honest assessment of the human costs of getting human nature wrong,” Anderson writes in his blog post. “This is especially true with children.”