Children as young as nine are to be prescribed drugs which delay the onset of puberty as the first step towards a sex change operation, according to reports. The issue is intricately complicated and, naturally, has created a war between proponents and opponents of the process being offered to distressed youth.
To begin, we all have a gender identity, that is, the gender in which we ‘feel’ ourselves to be. In some cases, this gender that we feel more comfortable identifying ourselves with may be different than our biologically assigned gender. In this case, a person experiences gender dysphoria, a problem which affects an estimated 0.5% of the population.
The feelings which come along with gender dysphoria can be life threatening, as many people who experience the condition come to suicidal thoughts about themselves. One can imagine the intense amount of confusion and stress that would come along with feeling like your mental and emotional self is different from your biologically granted self. This is especially true for youth who begin to suffer from gender dysphoria at a young age, being left to deal with such a crisis as well as the hardships of adolescence.
Children Are Being Injected With An Approved Hormone Suppressant
The treatment, which will be offered by one NHS trust to children who are so troubled by their gender that they may wish to undergo intensive surgery after adolescence, involves monthly injections of drugs known as hypothalamic blockers. These drugs slow the development of the children’s sexual organs by blocking the production of the testosterone and estrogen, the hormones responsible for the maturation of the sexual organs or other sexual attributes.
The decision was attacked by critics who described the decision to offer the treatment at such a young age as “horrifying” and called for an immediate investigation. The trouble comes with the fact that many children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria do not end up undergoing surgery, coming to terms with their selves as homosexual instead. Although the gender treatment is reversible, there are concerns about the long-term effects on brain development, bone growth and fertility.
Doctors at the Tavistock And Portman NHS Foundation Trust in North London have just completed a three-year trial involving 12 to 14-year-olds, assessing the ‘psychological, social and physical benefits and risks involved.’
The trials were completed with successful results, and consequently, the drugs have been approved for a younger age than previously discussed. Dr. Polly Carmichael, who led the Tavistock trial, said decisions will now be based on the ‘stage’ of sexual development rather than age.
‘We’re talking about stopping puberty in the normal range of puberty, so I guess the younger age might be ten or nine,’ she said.
The clinic was first given public funding in 2009 when, on average, it treated about 100 under-18s every year for the condition. According to The Daily Mail, there are now about 150 transgender support groups in Britain. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria can be prioritised by local councils for housing as ‘vulnerable people.’
Supporters of the injection treatment say the drugs give children who are confused about their gender a much-needed ‘window’ before they take on too many masculine or feminine features. This, they say, prevents mental anguish – and will reduce the amount of surgery needed if they do go ahead with an operation.
Only eight of the 32 children diagnosed with gender dysphoria who took part in the Tavistock trial went on to start the sex change process. But Dr Carmichael said: ‘Now we’ve done the study and the results thus far have been positive we’ve decided to continue with it. So we’ve decided to do “stage not age” [as the criterion] because it’s obviously fairer. Twelve is an arbitrary age. If they started puberty aged nine or ten instead of 12, as long as they’re monitored and the bone density doesn’t suffer, then it is right that the aim is to stop the development of secondary sex characteristics.’
To be considered for the treatment, children need to have ‘demonstrated an intense pattern of cross-gendered behaviours and identity’ for at least five years. This means nine-year-old boys would have had to have behaved like girls, and vice-versa, since the age of four.
While the clinic makes clear that the ‘young person’ must be ‘able to give informed consent’ for the procedure, critics argue that it is beyond the grasp of even the brightest nine-year-old to fully understand the full implications.
Susie Green, chair of Mermaids, the support group for young people with gender identity issues says that making hormone blockers available on the NHS in the early stages of puberty is a hugely positive step,
“The blockers offer the only chance for them to stop the terrible trauma their children have started to go through as they begin to develop into a sex they feel is absolutely alien to them. If you offer hormone blockers at the end of puberty, that is too late. Their body shape will have already changed and they will have had to live through physical developments that have caused massive distress. The self-harm and suicide rate among transgender teens is extremely high so offering blockers saves lives. It’s quite simple,” Susie Green, Chair Of Mermaids.
Green also states that the effects are completely reversible, with the onset of the biologically assigned puberty resuming after cessation of the injections.
On the other side, opponents are keen on their stance, stating that a child at such an age has no proper comprehension of such a drastic procedure and life change. They also feel that no drugs should be given to children so young, and that the children should be left to develop naturally until they are of an age, at least 16, to give valid consent to treatment.
This is obviously a pretty hot topic, we want to hear your guys’ thoughts! Has modern medicine gone too far? Should young children have autonomy with this kind of decision?
Source: The Daily Mail