When you were a child, what kind of decisions did you make on your own? Chances are that the choices you made with autonomy ranged from the flavor of ice cream to determining how best to handle the bully on the playground. Well, our American culture has certainly changed. Now children are making life-altering decisions such as whether to receive hormone replacement therapy for transgenderism. And that’s a far cry from vanilla or chocolate.
Also called gender dysphoria, transgenderism is a condition in which individuals feel as though they were born the wrong sex. It should be no controversy or insult to refer to transgenderism as a mental illness, regardless of its cause. Whether gender dysphoria is the result of a misconception of one’s perceived gender or of truly having the mind of the opposite sex, the condition stems from the individual’s mental state.
Isn’t it a no-brainer that children should not be permitted to make decisions regarding going through a sex change procedure at such an early age? Some doctors, however, find decisions such as these perfectly acceptable for children.
Studies conducted on those with gender dysphoria are unclear on when and how the condition arises, but what we do know is that some experience feelings of being the wrong gender at an early age. Also, clear physiological findings regarding the transgender brain have been found.
One such study showing significant results comes from researchers in Spain. They identified size differences in parts of the brain when comparing transgendered and typical male and female participants. Other studies have confirmed these results of discrepancies in brain structure volumes as well.
Another study out of the Netherlands hints to abnormalities in hypothalamic reactions, a region of the brain that deals with hormone regulation, in children experiencing gender dysphoria. Hormone regulation is partly responsible for brain development, perception, impulse control, and sex characteristics typical of males and females.
The findings of these studies further hint to a mental illness in those with gender dysphoria.
In light of these findings, how should children with gender dysphoria be medically treated? Research certainly supports a physiological basis for what children with gender dysphoria are experiencing. But is there a medically solid foundation for hormone therapy and sex change surgery for children under eighteen years of age?
According to The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, only 6 to 24% of boys and 12 to 27% of girls claiming to be transgender still believe they are the wrong sex by the time they reached adulthood. With this data, hormone replacement therapy should certainly not be prescribed to children before they reach adulthood – that is, if hormone therapy should be prescribed at all.
However, some doctors prescribe children hormone replacement therapy medication during mid-puberty ages, a time when most young people are plagued by significant mental and physical changes. What is most disturbing is that doctors know very well the irreversible impacts of hormone replacement medication. Side effects of these drugs include both physical changes and neurological development as well as possible sterility.
Sadly, according to a study by the International Society for Sexual Medicine, irreversible sex-change surgery has been performed on children under the recommended age of eighteen.
With research indicating that individuals do not have sound decision-making skills before the age of twenty-five, it is certainly ridiculous to expect a thirteen-year-old to make logical decisions regarding an irreversible sex-change procedure. After all, sex change isn’t exactly like a thirteen-year-old who loves blue eye shadow and then cringes when she looks back at her picture at age twenty-one. You can change the eye shadow, the sex — well, not exactly.
Moreover, making sex-change surgery more readily available — and at a young age — is not in the best interest of the child. Examining the current treatment methods for transgender children is not “bigoted,” it’s in agreement with current scientific findings.
Regardless of political affiliation, we must put children first and foremost above political ideology. Scientific findings confirm that children struggling with gender dysphoria require therapy and support, not irreversible damage and changes to their bodies.