I have worried before that stopping the normal onset of puberty in boys who believe they are girls, is a form of human experimentation–and on children, no less. And now another case has surfaced of an 11-year-old boy who is being kept medically from entering puberty. From the story:
The lesbian parents of an 11-year-old boy who is undergoing the process of becoming a girl last night defended the decision, claiming it was better for a child to have a sex change when young. Thomas Lobel, who now calls himself Tammy, is undergoing controversial hormone blocking treatment in Berkeley, California to stop him going through puberty as a boy. But Pauline Moreno and Debra Lobel warn that children with gender identity disorder forced to postpone transitioning could face a higher risk of suicide.
I don’t think the lesbianism of the parents should be the focus of this story at all, and in fact, I think it is being used by some as a way to sensationalize the issue. So, let’s not even get into it.
What matters is whether doctors should prevent puberty when there is no physiological indication that such hormones should be given medically, e.g. such as preventing early onset puberty. Time has reported that while there doesn’t seem to be much risk with bone density, and the process is reversible, there could be an impact on fertility. From the story:
Still, there is evidence that hormone blockers can cause infertility. Cheryl Sisk, the head of neuroscience at Michigan State University, who studies the impact of pubertal hormones on neural development, adds that it’s also too soon to know how delaying puberty plays into brain growth.
Gender-variant behavior in children usually begins between ages 2 and 4, according to Ken Zucker, a psychologist and head of the Gender Identity Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The behavior is pronounced, broad in scope and continues over a lengthy period of time…Parents often wonder if their gender-variant kids will grow up to be transgender adults. Statistically speaking, the answer is no. “Between 85 percent and 90 percent of the (young) kids that we’ve seen don’t grow up and want to become the opposite sex. They grow up and are pretty happy in their own skin. It’s only a small minority that we’re seeing that are persisting into adolescence,” Zucker says. Studies suggest that the majority of gender-variant boys will grow up to be gay men, with experts putting the figure at anywhere from 70 percent to 95 percent. (About a third of the gender-variant girls in a small study cited by Zucker later identified as lesbian or bisexual.)
If that is true, is it really wise to interfere with the child’s biology?
Adding to my concern: It is my understanding that this approach has not been approved by the FDA. To me, that means it is experimental, meaning that it hasn’t gone through the usual safety and research processes leading to FDA approval, meaning it should be considered unethical to experiment on human beings in this manner. (This gets us into off label prescribing, which I also oppose, but let’s not get into that now.)
I am not discounting how difficult these situations can be. At the same time the roaring politics of this provocative issue seems weightier these days than the usual research procedures and safety routines. At the risk of being charged with all kinds of phobias and prejudices, I strongly believe we should not experiment on children in this manner.