Human Exceptionalism

International Endocrine Society: Block Puberty in Kids with Gender Questions

Things continue to go from the strange, to the surreal. The International Endocrine Society is advocating that drugs be given to children with gender identity questions to block puberty, which is already done in some places. From the story:

Transsexual children as young as 12 should be given drugs to postpone puberty and make it easier for them to change sex at the age of 16 if they still want to. That’s the suggestion of controversial draft guidelines, the first of their kind, issued last week by the international Endocrine Society.
The guidelines state that transsexual children and young teens who have begun early puberty should be given puberty-blockers to avoid inevitable changes to their bodies, which they perceive as out of line with their true gender. In the worst cases, these changes can drive children to self-harm or even suicide. The idea is to buy thinking time for young people so they can decide if they want to begin a sex change using hormones when they are older…However, surgery should be avoided until the age of 18, the guidelines state.

Let me get this straight. We are going to interfere with a child’s biology due to a his or her severe emotional confusion–the seriousness of which I am not denigrating–and basically use medicine to transform a healthy body into one that doctors would treat as an illness if it occurred naturally? Doesn’t that about sum it up?

This is getting into very deep and turbulent waters:

But doctors opposed to early treatment say that young people may not fully understand the full consequences of their actions. For example, blocking puberty in boys who later go on to have hormone treatment and surgery that turns them into a woman means that they will never produce mature sperm…Russell Viner of the Institute of Child Health in London cites the case of a transsexual man who had both surgery and hormones to become a man, but still wanted to become pregnant. “That may not have been possible if they’d had early intervention,” he says. “When is it reasonable to let a young person remove major life choices?”

Remember the “man” who gave birth that Oprah cooed over?

More to the point, what have we come to when doctors urge that natural and normal physical development be blocked? (Remember “Ashley’s Treatment?”) Do we know what the impact of such heavy hormonal interference will be on the health of these young people both long and short term? Do we know what psychological impact it will have? If not, doesn’t this border on unethical human experimentation? This is how we are twisting ourselves into pretzels from a mindset that cares almost entirely about subjective internal states.

In this regard, an editorial in the New Scientist about this story made some good points:

…some 80 per cent of boys who experience transsexual feelings no longer feel this way when they grow up. There is some evidence that those who persist after the first flush of puberty are less likely to change their minds, but this has been based on a handful of cases. So too has our understanding of the side effects of delaying puberty–or in the case of those who go through with gender reassignment, preventing natural puberty from occurring at all.

The issue becomes thornier still when you consider that the age of puberty is falling. Does, say, a 9-year-old have the emotional maturity to make a decision of this magnitude? Unlikely. Intervention to delay puberty could even be complicated by a broader issue: the possibility that the sexualisation of children at ever-younger ages is raising the numbers with temporary transsexual feelings.

If we are going to let doctors intentionally create unhealthy biological abnormalities in patients, where will it stop? When Body Identity Integrity Disorder sufferers point to things such as this and sexual reassignment surgeries, do they not have a point when they say, “If a child’s normal biological development can be arrested in preparation for removing his or genitals, why can’t I, as an adult, have my right arm amputated?”.

Step-by-step and inch-by-inch we get closer to harming people in the name of helping them.


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