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Child Health Experts Query Gender Treatment

by | Tue, Feb 20 2024

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The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) says allowing teens to transition genders socially or medically does not lead to better mental health outcomes for those struggling with gender dysphoria. At the same time, the founding psychologist of the first pediatric gender clinic in the United States believes the practice is not being regulated as it ought to be.

An official ACPeds position statement titled Mental Health in Adolescents with Incongruence of Gender Identity and Biological Sex wrote that “social transition, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones have no long-term benefit on the psychosocial well-being of adolescents with gender confusion,” following a review of 60 case studies.

“We urge medical professionals and parents to affirm the truth about childhood gender dysphoria in the presence of harmful thoughts and address the underlying mental illness, adverse events, and family dysfunction,” lead author and Vice President of ACPeds, Dr. Jane Anderson wrote.

CBN News reports that ACPeds has been pushing back against the pro-transgender message for many years. In 2016, the college urged educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to believe that identifying with a gender other than their biological one is beneficial. Their latest position statement also underscores studies that have already led many European countries to reject transgender interventions in adolescents.

Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper who is the founding psychologist for the Gender Management Service at Boston Children’s Hospital, the first hospital-based clinic in the United States to offer assessment and interventions to trans-identified youth, has expressed concern that “as far as I can tell, there are no professional organisations who are stepping in to regulate what’s going on.”

She told the New York Times that when she began her practice in 2007, most patients had longstanding and deep-seated gender dysphoria and that transitioning was the appropriate course of action for most of them. She added that most mental health issues they suffered from were generally resolved through gender transition. But she warned: “That is just not the case anymore. The population has changed drastically.”

Dr. Edwards-Leeper stressed that for young people without a long history of experiencing discomfort with their biological sex: “You have to take time to really assess what’s going on and hear the timeline and get the parents’ perspective in order to create an individualised treatment plan. Many providers are completely missing that step.”

She added that many of the students she trained as psychologists have left “gender-related care” behind. “Some have told me that they didn’t feel they could continue because of the pushback, the accusations of being transphobic, from being pro-assessment and wanting a more thorough process,” Dr. Edwards-Leeper observed.

The New York Times article included testimonies from de-transitioners who regret undergoing gender surgeries as minors. One expressed her wish that: “There had been more open conversations. What should be a medical and psychological issue has been morphed into a political one.”

Another de-transitioner who suffered “severe medical complications” is now a practicing psychotherapist who has founded an organisation that supports therapists who do not agree with the push to provide all youth with gender dysphoria with transitions.

Concerns about the long-term impacts of surgical and hormonal gender interventions on youth have prompted 23 US states to pass laws prohibiting minors from obtaining them. In the United Kingdom, the government shut down what was once its largest gender identity clinic at the Tavistock and Portman Trust in London. It has moved to a new provider model through specialist children’s hospitals after a formal review. In 2022, the UK’s National Health Service issued guidelines advising doctors not to so easily encourage minors to socially transition during what may be a “transient phase.”

Image: Children’s Health Queensland