Skip to main content

Suffer the (transgender) children

A thought-provoking article from the Times highlighted a new therapeutic concept. It also provided a reminder that, despite recent reductions in inequalities for homosexuals, the disabled and the like, transgenderism remains the last frontier.

Puberty is not only a difficult psychological and emotional stage of development, but one of great physical changes that are gender-defining. It usually marks the last time that gender disguise is easy, if not possible and provided the impetus for a new paradigm. Instead of allowing adult development in the ‘wrong’ orientation, puberty is blocked with hormones that delay its onset. The theory suggests that if the secondary sexual characteristics are not allowed to develop, surgical body modification will be far easier. There is a potential for it not being required at all so obviating sometimes rather obvious scars, not to mention any complications of surgery and anaesthesia.

One should not yet rush to this apparent El Dorado as the first trial of puberty-blocking hormones was only conducted in London last year and the annual cost of the drugs is in excess of £30,000. Whilst believed to be temporary, and therefore reversible on stopping the drugs, we do not yet know if there will be no long term consequences. Finally, and most importantly, a vigorous ethico-legal debate will no doubt ensue regarding consent. Whilst many trans-men and –women are aware of their gender dysphoria at a relatively early age, who will be giving consent for such treatment? Can society expect a 9-year old to have sufficient capacity and therefore be competent? After all, a parent has to provide consent for their children below the age of 18: this is stressful enough for an apendicectomy of a cleft lip repair, but imagine the implications of permanently altering another person’s gender. At present, the incidence of regret with request for reversal in the UK is believed to be of the order 1 – 1.2% and this in adults assessed by multiple practitioners who have been required to live in role for a number of years. A space to be watched with interest!

Times Magazine ‘My name is Isaac and I was born a girl’

Go back to Our Blog