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What You Might Be Overlooking When You Label a Child "Trans"
One little word can obscure so much
It’s no small thing to call a child “trans.” This one word not only promotes confusion about the relationship between body and personality, but it can set a child down a pathway to puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, surgery, sterility, and a complete derailment of the life they would have had.
This past February, a whistleblower from The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, Jamie Reed, told The Free Press, “we are permanently harming the vulnerable patients in our care.”
A year before that, the French National Academy of Medicine also raised the alarm in a press release:
A great medical caution must be taken in children and adolescents, given the vulnerability, particularly psychological, of this population and the many undesirable effects, and even serious complications, that some of the available therapies can cause.
Kids are often labeled “trans” for many different reasons which are then completely obscured by this one little word. By putting this label on a child, here is what you might be overlooking.
It’s no exaggeration to say that transition is a form of conversion therapy, at least for children who would have otherwise grown up to be same-sex attracted. Many homosexual adults report that they believe they would have identified or been identified as “trans” if they were born later, myself included.
A lot of us preferred toys, activities, clothes, and friends more typical of the opposite sex as children. Many of us would have easily fit the diagnostic criteria for “gender dysphoria.”
In 2019, The Times reported on five clinicians who had resigned from the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a now-closed United Kingdom gender clinic that specialized in working with children. One of the main concerns raised by these clinicians was that they were essentially converting gay children:
So many potentially gay children were being sent down the pathway to change gender, two of the clinicians said there was a dark joke among staff that “there would be no gay people left”.
“It feels like conversion therapy for gay children,” one male clinician said. “I frequently had cases where people started identifying as trans after months of horrendous bullying for being gay,” he told The Times.
Of course, not every child who is gender non-conforming in their youth grows up to be gay. Some girls are just more stereotypically masculine and some boys are just more stereotypically feminine, and no one fits perfectly into pre-described boxes anyway, especially boxes that change depending on who you talk to.
Regardless of future sexuality, no child should be labeled “trans” for simple gender non-conforming behavior. But that is exactly what’s happening. As Reed wrote for The Free Press:
My concerns about this approach to dissenting parents grew in 2019 when one of our doctors actually testified in a custody hearing against a father who opposed a mother’s wish to start their 11-year-old daughter on puberty blockers.
I had done the original intake call, and I found the mother quite disturbing. She and the father were getting divorced, and the mother described the daughter as “kind of a tomboy.” So now the mother was convinced her child was trans.
Gender non-conformity is virtually always offered by parents of “trans kids” as the basis for their choice to transition the child. Feel-good stories and videos of boys who enjoy wearing dresses calling themselves girls and girls who like having short hair calling themselves boys litter the internet. You will be hard-pressed to find such a story without reference to the child’s gender-atypical likes, interests, and behaviors.
It is now well-established that children with autism are far more likely to identify as transgender.
In a 2020 review of its approach to medical treatments for gender variance in minors, the Council for Choices in Health Care in Finland noted that:
Clinical experience reveals that autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are overrepresented among adolescents suffering from gender dysphoria.
Likewise, The Cass Review that led to the closing of GIDS in the UK revealed some astonishing figures:
Approximately one third of children and young people referred to GIDS have autism or other types of neurodiversity.
Overlooking this glaring discrepancy does a horrific disservice to these children and amounts to nothing less than irreversibly damaging their bodies and minds simply for being different.
Natasha Chart was already raising the alarm in 2017 with an in-depth article published on Feminist Current titled “Autistic kids don’t need mastectomies,” where she writes:
Because of atypical interests, discomfort with the body, discomfort with feminine social roles and clothes, and same-sex attraction, a young person just like I was might be told she is transgender, and really a boy. She might be put on puberty blockers, then cross-sex hormones, then given a mastectomy, and probably a hysterectomy not many years after that.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care—Eighth Edition (SOC-8) give some lip service to the need for differentiating “gender incongruence from specific mental health presentations, such as… special interests in autism” but sees nothing concerning about the fact that “TGD [transgender and gender diverse] adolescents show high rates of autism spectrum disorder/characteristics.”
According to the SOC-8, neurodivergent youth may require “extra support” during the assessment process, but there is no questioning of the wisdom of transitioning such youth.
Mental Health Issues
That children who present with gender dysphoria have many comorbid mental health issues is also well-established at this point.
It was noted by the Council for Choices in Health Care in Finland:
A lack of recognition of comorbid psychiatric disorders common among gender-dysphoric adolescents can also be detrimental.
And in The Cass Review:
The majority of children and young people presenting to GIDS have other complex mental health issues.
And it is even acknowledged throughout the WPATH SOC-8.
Reed corroborated these findings with her own experience at The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital:
The girls who came to us had many comorbidities: depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders, obesity.
Besides teenage girls, another new group was referred to us: young people from the inpatient psychiatric unit, or the emergency department, of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The mental health of these kids was deeply concerning—there were diagnoses like schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more. Often they were already on a fistful of pharmaceuticals.
While it is never responsible to start a young person on medical treatments for transition, prescribing these treatments for a child or adolescent with other serious psychiatric issues is a complete abdication of care.
Not only are the symptoms of many of these conditions often conflated with “gender dysphoria,” but asking a young person to make such life-altering decisions while dealing with other mental health problems is unconscionable.
Even worse, transition is often offered as relief for other mental health conditions. Many young people believe that their anxiety, depression, and other issues will go away if they can just become their “true self” and live life as the person they were meant to be. They are being sold a false and highly irresponsible bill of goods.
Ever since Dr. Lisa Littman published her hypothesis of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) and how it spreads through friendship groups in 2018, it has been a controversial topic. But one has to be wilfully blind to deny the rapid rise in transgender identification over the past several years, especially among girls, and especially via what looks very much like social contagion.
Luckily, the French National Academy of Medicine is not blind and did recognize what seems to be one of the main driving forces behind this steep rise:
Whatever the mechanisms involved in the adolescent – overuse of social networks, greater social acceptability, or example in the entourage – this epidemic-like phenomenon results in the appearance of cases or even clusters in the immediate surroundings.
Reed likewise noticed that a social contagion aspect was obvious among the patients presenting at her clinic:
Frequently, our patients declared they had disorders that no one believed they had. We had patients who said they had Tourette syndrome (but they didn’t); that they had tic disorders (but they didn’t); that they had multiple personalities (but they didn’t).
The doctors privately recognized these false self-diagnoses as a manifestation of social contagion. They even acknowledged that suicide has an element of social contagion. But when I said the clusters of girls streaming into our service looked as if their gender issues might be a manifestation of social contagion, the doctors said gender identity reflected something innate.
Activists are asking us not to apply everything we know about how social contagions work to one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon in modern times. When the fad passes and the money dries up, will they be there to help those who got swept up in it?
Devastatingly, labeling a child “trans” comes with the very real possibility of overlooking child sex abuse.
The Cass Report specifically included “sexual abuse/other trauma” as an exemplar of one of the many complex presentations that may lead to gender dysphoria and medical transition.
The impetus for transition may come from the child, or even from the person who is abusing them. One of the clinicians who spoke to The Times in 2019 noted that a particular case from her time at GIDS still haunted her:
“All the pushing was coming from the father to put the kid on puberty blockers. Thinking back on it now, I fear that the father was a paedophile and the child was being abused.”
I talked to licensed professional counselor Jon K. Uhler about this issue, and he provided me with a list of red-flag indicators of sexual abuse.
Note that many of these symptoms are often presented by activists, activist clinicians, and activist organizations as signs of “gender dysphoria.” Consider these slides from a 2021 WPATH training presentation:
When red flags like these are viewed through the lens of gender dysphoria, either as being caused by gender dysphoria or co-occurring with it (with no question as to why), it makes it much easier to miss potential signs of sex abuse.
Basic Childhood Development
One of the most baffling aspects of gender identity ideology and the entire approach of medicalizing young children who express a trans identity is that it tosses everything we know about childhood development out the window.
We know that children do not have the capacity to make informed choices that will impact their lives in the long term and we rarely let them do so, except, for some reason, when it comes to the choice to transition.
As Antony Lathan writes in his review article, “Puberty Blockers for Children: Can They Consent?”:
The young brain is biologically and socially immature, tends towards short-term risk taking, does not possess the ability to comprehend long term consequences and is highly influenced by peers.
Most crucially when it comes to this topic, the medicalization approach ignores what researchers have known for a long time when it comes to gender dysphoria in childhood: that it usually resolves in puberty.
The Council for Choices in Health Care in Finland included this fact in its report, writing:
Cross-sex identification in childhood, even in extreme cases, generally disappears during puberty.
By using hormone blockers and cross-sex hormones to prevent a child from going through puberty naturally, clinicians are actually withholding the most effective method of relieving gender dysphoria.
The Council for Choices in Health Care in Finland also noted that even in cases where gender dysphoria persists, intensifies, or even emerges in puberty, the first line of treatment should be psychosocial support and psychotherapy.
A Lifetime of Regret
Whatever pathway leads a child to declare a transgender identity, whether I have described it or not, it ultimately causes the parents, teachers, clinicians, and other adults in that child’s life who accept the declaration to overlook a potential lifetime of regret.
Children who progress from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones and on to “gender-affirming” surgeries are having their fertility and sexual function stolen from them, and they are going to have to grapple with that as adults. In fact, we already have a growing number of detransitioning young adults who are having to come to terms with exactly this.
Jamie Reed summed this situation up poignantly in her exposé:
Our patients were told about some side effects, including sterility. But after working at the center, I came to believe that teenagers are simply not capable of fully grasping what it means to make the decision to become infertile while still a minor.
Many encounters with patients emphasized to me how little these young people understood the profound impacts changing gender would have on their bodies and minds.
There are rare conditions in which babies are born with atypical genitalia—cases that call for sophisticated care and compassion. But clinics like the one where I worked are creating a whole cohort of kids with atypical genitals—and most of these teens haven’t even had sex yet. They had no idea who they were going to be as adults. Yet all it took for them to permanently transform themselves was one or two short conversations with a therapist.
Whether a person decides to detransition or not, they now have to navigate sex, love, relationships, and family life with a unique burden. That’s not to say they cannot live happy lives—they can—but one can’t help feeling that it’s such a shame: none of this had to happen if only society had taken a sensible approach.
Instead, captured institutions and so many people who are specifically meant to care for children, like their parents, teachers, doctors, and counselors, chose to harm them instead, all in favor of a nonsense political ideology.
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