When we first heard about “puberty blockers” being used as treatment for children claiming to have been born in the wrong body, we were assured that the treatment was simply a way of “buying more time” for these kids. They would be given space to see how they felt a few months down the line, and make a decision over changing sex without the pressure of impending puberty.
We were also told that puberty blockers were in no way an incentive for further medical intervention, otherwise known as ‘trans-healthcare’ – although we may choose to describe it more accurately as hormonal and surgical intervention on children’s bodies.
When concerns were raised, we were assured that there were no possible negative effects from taking drugs to stunt the natural development of the entire body, including the brain. Transgender activists aggressively dismissed the concerns put forward by feminist campaigners, as well as by medics and other experts in the field. Predictably, those concerns have been validated.
The use of puberty blockers was based in part on the results of a 2011 study, conducted in part by the Tavistock gender clinic. The conclusion was that there were “no changes in psychological function” during this medical intervention. The study was small, and had no “control group” of participants who received no experimental treatment.
Despite these limitations, advocates seized on it and in 2014, the prescription age for blockers was lowered from 16 to 11. Polly Carmichael, the director of the gender clinic, said “…if you stop the injections, it’s like pressing a start button and the body just carries on developing as it would if you hadn’t taken the injection”.
The data from this study has now been re-analysed. For a whopping 34% of those 44 children, there was a negative effect on their mental health. This leaves precious little justification for the continued application of blockers; the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has already said in 2021 that existing studies on the use of puberty blockers were both small and “subject to bias and confounding”, and that evidence for their use was “very low”. Health authorities in Finland and Sweden – the paradigmatic liberal European nations – have found much the same. It’s no news to me, or to the other critics of puberty blockers who have said this all along.
On top of this, other studies have shown that the majority of children who develop gender dysphoria go on to be lesbian or gay later in life. Left to their own devices, they will continue to live as their biological sex – as long as they manage to avoid being “affirmed” as trans and going down the medical pathway.
In the past, lobotomies were performed on people suffering from mental illnesses or psychosis. Today, distressed children are being fed the line that they are trapped in the wrong body, and drugs and surgery are the solution. When and how did it become acceptable to pump children full of harmful drugs, rather than to offer them therapy?
When kids are put on a possible pathway to unnecessary surgery because they are experiencing psychological distress, it’s difficult to see it as anything other than a human rights violation. It is high time we saw it for what it is. We must stop medicating healthy young bodies, and provide proper, appropriate care and support for these vulnerable children.