Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas recently used his executive authority to declare that puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for those under 18 meet the legal standard for child abuse in Texas, a ruling that authorized the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who had sought such treatment for their children.
Progressives, for their part, anathematize anyone who questions the new orthodoxy about gender. Not to go all kumbaya, but it just might be the case that both sides in these controversies have valid perspectives.
Progressives are right that transgender people used to be treated with some contempt. It’s important to correct that. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. But conservatives are right that we’ve rushed into radical approaches to medicating children with gender dysphoria because the medical establishment and large parts of the opinion-shaping commentariat have treated this as a social justice matter rather than as a question of what’s best for kids.
While we can’t rule out the possibility that trans people are coming out of the closet for the same reasons that gay people did in previous decades — declining stigma — there are reasons to be more cautious about the trans trend.
First, there is the complicated matter of why people seek to transition. Studies have shown that the majority of youth with gender dysphoria who go through natural puberty become lesbian, gay or bisexual nontransgender adults.
Second, recognizing one’s sexual orientation doesn’t entail the risks of surgery or infertility, while gender therapy does.
Besides, children go through stages, and it seems ill-advised to make decisions about treatment that will have irreversible effects.
Clearly, children who have true gender dysphoria need sensitive and compassionate care and full respect. In some cases, it may be best to adopt aspects of the gender affirming approach. But interfering with their bodies and brains before they reach maturity seems drastic.
Two psychologists, Laura Edwards-Leeper and Erica Anderson, a transgender woman, published a Washington Post essay in November 2021 decrying the poor care that has become the norm in the U.S., noting that many teens who arrive at gender clinics are prescribed hormones after just one visit.
Other nations have begun to rethink their approach, as well.
Progressives have stampeded to treat transsexuality as a civil rights issue before medical science has had a chance to measure what’s really going on. Conservatives are responding with cruelty. We need to slow down and learn more.