Saturday, June 2, 2012

On Children and Transition Treatments

I see all to often people who are cisgender, who say such things as "children shouldn't be able to have sex changes! It's just wrong! Don't let them take pills or nothing! Wait till their old enough, then let them start whatever they want when they're old enough to understand!!!"

These types of posts are well-meaning in their intent, that is, to protect children, but the stance is incorrect. This is particular because it lacks an understanding of two key aspects: the medicine causes no long-term negative effects and is completely reversible, and the damage caused by forcing the wrong puberty on a transgender kid.

So lets go over these two points really fast. First and foremost, don't believe the news media who sensationalize it. "Kid Sex Change" makes for an attention grabbing headline which is way off base with what actually happens. No children are receiving surgeries! I repeat, no children are going under the knife. This mistake is part media being blatantly misleading to sensationalize it, part most people's lack of understanding of  how transition works.

What actually happens is they give these kids puberty blockers. These are harmless pills which do one thing: delay puberty. They don't prevent it forever; all one has to do to undergo a natural puberty is cease taking the puberty blockers. The purpose of this is to give the child time to mature. It allows the child to reach the age of 16-18, where they can then make the decision for themselves. If they decide they're not transgender, they can stop taking the blockers and undergo a natural - if a bit late - puberty. However, if they are, they need only to begin taking hormones for their identified gender, and they will undergo a puberty in line with their identified gender.

To reiterate: This is a risk-free endeavor. If your child decides that they're not trans, they can simply cease the blockers and undergo a normal puberty. If they're transgender, then you saved them untold stress, anxiety, depression, and made them considerably more likely to blend in as a typical cisgender person.

This is a huge deal. When people think of a transsexual person, the first thoughts that enter most people's minds are blatantly male, men-in-dresses, over-the-top makeup. This tends to be the immediate thing that I've seen come to people's minds. The reason for this is that those people were unable to receive hormonal treatment at an age where it would make the most difference. Most of the characteristics that people ascribe to transsexuals are caused by puberty and continued exposure to their birth hormones. By preventing them from going through the wrong puberty, they will likely never have to worry about 'passing' as their identified gender. To any onlookers, they will appear to be cisgender.

There's an added benefit: Puberty is awkward enough when you're going through the right puberty. When you're going through the wrong puberty, as a transgender person, it's considerably worse. It feels like your body is betraying you, developing in a way contrary to whats right for you. It's like you're a prisoner in your body as it warps and contorts into something foreign, something distinctly NOT you. This causes all sorts of additional psychological trauma, and leaves them with irreversible marks of puberty which will plague them for life.

So what it boils down to is this: You can allow your transgender child to take a puberty blocker, with no risks, no long-term negative side effects, to allow them to make the choice for themselves when they're old enough. Or, you could force them to undergo the wrong puberty, literally scar them for life (their bodies will never look perfectly cisgender) and cause them tons of undue mental stress, depression, anxiety, and so on.

So there you have it. A basic overview on children transition treatments as I understand them.

Quote of the Day: "Is it any wonder, people pass you by, your plea for understanding, is heard as desperate lies, so nobody listens" Bad Religion, Nobody Listens


(If you have a topic you'd like me to address, or a question you'd like me to answer, please leave it in the comments. I'm always in need of topics to write about! Anonymous posting is enabled, so you shouldn't even need an account to leave a question!)


  1. I did not know about puberty blockers. What a great option for delaying a course of action until children are mature enough to decide. Your description of the trauma of puberty breaks my heart. I have an 11 year old daughter on the verge of puberty. In order to understand better, I imagined how she would feel if she started to develop as her older brothers have. In my imagination, I can see her pain and tears, revulsion and rage, her hopelessness. She would be distraught. Puberty blockers are something that I would want to know about if I were a parent of a transgender child even if, especially if, we were not yet sure. Much love to you for sharing this. Perhaps it will be news to a parent who needs to know. -Ying

  2. Sadly, many parents take an "I know better than you do / will" approach and say "no and thats final"

    Which leaves egg on their face when their kid transitions at 18

  3. Okay, I've been thinking this one over for a while, and I wondered what you thought, since your answers have always been so thoughtful in the past.

    What do you think about having medical requirements for transition? These requirements ranging from sterilisation, to surgery, to living full time, etc. etc. and the stages of transition being anything from surgeries to legal recognition? I ask this in light of Argentina's new law which (I think) lets people change their gender based on nothing else than their say so.

    1. Ug, I messed up my question. Where it says,

      "What do you think about having medical requirements for transition?"

      it should say,

      "What do you think about having requirements for transition?"

      Sorry 'bout that.