Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Children As Young As Nine To Be Offered Sex Change Hormones

Children as young as nine are to be prescribed drugs which delay the onset of puberty as the first step towards a sex change operation, according to reports. The issue is intricately complicated and, naturally, has created a war between proponents and opponents of the process being offered to distressed youth.
Gender Dysphoria

To begin, we all have a gender identity, that is, the gender in which we ‘feel’ ourselves to be. In some cases, this gender that we feel more comfortable identifying ourselves with may be different than ourbiologically assigned gender. In this case, a person experiences gender dysphoria, a problem which affects an estimated 0.5% of the population.

The feelings which come along with gender dysphoria can be life threatening, as many people who experience the condition come to suicidal thoughts about themselves. One can imagine the intense amount of confusion and stress that would come along with feeling like your mental and emotional self is different from your biologically granted self. This is especially true for youth who begin to suffer from gender dysphoria at a young age, being left to deal with such a crisis as well as the hardships of adolescence.

Children Are Being Injected With An Approved Hormone Suppressant
The treatment, which will be offered by one NHS trust to children who are so troubled by their gender that they may wish to undergo intensive surgery after adolescence, involves monthly injections of drugs known as hypothalamic blockers. These drugs slow the development of the children’s sexual organs by blocking the production of the testosterone and estrogen, the hormones responsible for the maturation of the sexual organs or other sexual attributes.

The decision was attacked by critics who described the decision to offer the treatment at such a young age as “horrifying” and called for an immediate investigation. The trouble comes with the fact that many children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria do not end up undergoing surgery, coming to terms with their selves as homosexual instead. Although the gender treatment is reversible, there are concerns about the long-term effects on brain development, bone growth and fertility.

Doctors at the Tavistock And Portman NHS Foundation Trust in North London have just completed a three-year trial involving 12 to 14-year-olds, assessing the ‘psychological, social and physical benefits and risks involved.’

The trials were completed with successful results, and consequently, the drugs have been approved for a younger age than previously discussed. Dr. Polly Carmichael, who led the Tavistock trial, said decisions will now be based on the ‘stage’ of sexual development rather than age.

‘We’re talking about stopping puberty in the normal range of puberty, so I guess the younger age might be ten or nine,’ she said.

The clinic was first given public funding in 2009 when, on average, it treated about 100 under-18s every year for the condition. According to The Daily Mail, there are now about 150 transgender support groups in Britain. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria can be prioritised by local councils for housing as ‘vulnerable people.’

The Dispute

Supporters of the injection treatment say the drugs give children who are confused about their gender a much-needed ‘window’ before they take on too many masculine or feminine features. This, they say, prevents mental anguish – and will reduce the amount of surgery needed if they do go ahead with an operation.

Only eight of the 32 children diagnosed with gender dysphoria who took part in the Tavistock trial went on to start the sex change process. But Dr Carmichael said: ‘Now we’ve done the study and the results thus far have been positive we’ve decided to continue with it. So we’ve decided to do “stage not age” [as the criterion] because it’s obviously fairer. Twelve is an arbitrary age. If they started puberty aged nine or ten instead of 12, as long as they’re monitored and the bone density doesn’t suffer, then it is right that the aim is to stop the development of secondary sex characteristics.’

To be considered for the treatment, children need to have ‘demonstrated an intense pattern of cross-gendered behaviours and identity’ for at least five years. This means nine-year-old boys would have had to have behaved like girls, and vice-versa, since the age of four.

While the clinic makes clear that the ‘young person’ must be ‘able to give informed consent’ for the procedure, critics argue that it is beyond the grasp of even the brightest nine-year-old to fully understand the full implications.

Susie Green, chair of Mermaids, the support group for young people with gender identity issues says that making hormone blockers available on the NHS in the early stages of puberty is a hugely positive step,

“The blockers offer the only chance for them to stop the terrible trauma their children have started to go through as they begin to develop into a sex they feel is absolutely alien to them. If you offer hormone blockers at the end of puberty, that is too late. Their body shape will have already changed and they will have had to live through physical developments that have caused massive distress. The self-harm and suicide rate among transgender teens is extremely high so offering blockers saves lives. It’s quite simple,” -Susie Green, Chair Of Mermaids.

Green also states that the effects are completely reversible, with the onset of the biologically assigned puberty resuming after cessation of the injections.

On the other side, opponents are keen on their stance, stating that a child at such an age has no proper comprehension of such a drastic procedure and life change. They also feel that no drugs should be given to children so young, and that the children should be left to develop naturally until they are of an age, at least 16, to give valid consent to treatment.

This is obviously a pretty hot topic, we want to hear your guys’ thoughts! Has modern medicine gone too far? Should young children have autonomy with this kind of decision?

Sources:
The Daily Mail

6 comments:

  1. I’m not certain about this. I knew at age seven that I had a crush on a boy and that it was something society frowned upon. I believe it was that societal attitude that made it difficult to accept myself as I am and I also believe that if society had been supportive it would have saved me from a lot of pain. But I also know that age seven I wasn’t anywhere near having an understanding of what that crush really meant. I also did not have a full understanding of what romantic love really is on an adult level nor did I have a sexual identity at that age. So I can’t fathom a transsexual child really understanding the full scope of their identity thoroughly enough to make an informed decision about their gender identity. At the same time I can’t have a full understanding of what it means to be transsexual at a young age so how could my opinion really matter? If you haven’t been there done that then your opinion has absolutely no relevance. We have to trust the licensed professionals and their patients who have been there done that. If an adult transsexual truly believes this is helpful and necessary for the psychological well-being of the child then we have to trust their their opinion and their understanding. It’s not up to those of us who could never fully and truly understand the balance of pro’s and con’s in the debate. Plus it’s all reversible so it not a permanent change until the child is old enough to fully understand and make that informed decision as an adult.

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  2. Yes I disagree , the professionals don’t know , and they’re asking you . Otherwise ,they’re using the first ones, to do experiments with .
    I totally don’t trust anyone , nobody works on a drug that they aren’t certain of on anything , much less a child .
    I’ve seen it too many times , from a ship that was unsinkable , to it sinking on it’s first , A form of making electricity that was going to cure our need for energy , and was completely safe , all for free , to , 3 nuclear disasters .
    The last one causing who knows ?

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  3. It’s easier for one to change his or her body nowadays than it is for one to change his or her mind. That’s pretty damn frightening, to be honest.

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  4. I don’t know what I think of this yet. My immediate thought is this breaks my heart. One of the first tenets of medicine is “first do no harm” I think we know that one has been tossed for the sake of profit. This may be a genuine attempt to help but how does a parent make that decision? We’re assuming they are themselves gender assimilated and heterosexual. How could they ever have the insight to weigh this. I suppose it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve heard of incorrectly performed reassignment on children who later identified with their birth gender. Imagine that trauma..in a world where men are outraged for being circumcised without consent.

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  5. So, the pro side is: “This will save lives of people who are certain of who they are”, with studies proving that gender identity and sexual orientation develops as early as infant stages.

    The opposition side is: “They’re ignorant little runts who’d learn to live with it if we just force them to”, with nothing at all supporting their position.

    And that’s a “debate”?

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  6. This certainly is a hot topic and not one that I think about often. Putting it simply I support the fact that people have a right to be happy and if a sex change can do that then so be it. I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea that such young children are allowed to make a major decision to have chemicals pumped into their healthy growing bodies. There can be many implications and serious side effects not only with these injections but with all other types of prescribed drugs, even Panadol has a list full. I understand when they say that they would like to stop further trauma as their patients bodies take full form in later years they still need to raise the legal age of this process. Sometimes, children no matter how serious their behaviours and attitudes towards something is, can and do change some kids go through stages this is common. By delaying the sex change a child’s health won’t be at a potential risk and it gives them time to be completely certain and to have a much better understanding of the entire process. Counselling, support, caring and understanding is essential for all emotionally confused and suicidal individuals. They need professional support as much as they require medical assistance. I hope they make the right choice in the best interest of innocent children.

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