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Leading trans health group claims questioning child sex changes is 'misinformation'

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) hit back at a recent NYT article that thoughtfully raised questions about the consequences of pausing puberty in adolescents who believe themselves to be transgender.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has hit back at a recent New York Times article that thoughtfully raised questions about the possible consequences of pausing puberty in adolescents who believe themselves to be transgender.

WPATH, along with its US counterpart USPATH, released a statement on Nov 22 saying that the article titled They Paused Puberty, But Is There a Cost? “furthers the atmosphere of misinformation and subjectivity that has grown to surround the area of gender-affirming medical interventions for transgender youth.” 

The internationally respected organization that recently removed all lower age limits for medical transition from its Standards of Care, as well as added “eunuch” as a valid innate gender identity that even children can possess, accused the New York Times of misrepresenting the literature on the impact of puberty blockers on bone density and criticized the omission of the debunked transition-or-suicide myth of which trans activists are so fond. 

The New York Times article in question acknowledged all the unknowns about puberty suppression in children who believe themselves to be the opposite sex, the uncertainties surrounding the long-term effects of the powerful experimental drugs which are, in the words of Boston Children’s hopsital gender clinic director, “being given out like candy,” and the speed at which this invasive protocol was adopted as the first line of treatment.

In Canada, a recent survey of youth receiving treatment at ten gender clinics across the nation found that 62.4 percent were put on the experimental puberty-blocking drugs on the very first appointment, meaning no psychological assessment or counseling beforehand. This is in line with the affirmation model of care that has been pushed by trans activists in recent years which demands that all people who self-declare a transgender identity must be affirmed and given access to medical transition, even those who are children.

The WPATH statement downplays the possible negative effects these drugs can have on adolescent development, particularly on bone density, by using the transition-or-suicide myth. 

“Concerns about skeletal losses become less significant in an adolescent with active suicidal ideations. Although the significance of the risks may be unclear, there is strong evidence regarding the benefits of GnRHa in transgender youth: it can be a life-changing and lifesaving treatment for a vulnerable population who is at high risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide,” said the statement.

However, there is no evidence to support this. Dr Laura Edwards-Leeper, founding psychologist of the first pediatric gender clinic in the U.S., has said that “there are no studies that say that if we don’t start these kids immediately on hormones when they say they want them that they are going to commit suicide.” Edwards-Leeper calls such a suggestion “misguided.”

“The duration of pubertal suppression with gonadotropin hormone releasing hormone agonists (commonly referred to as puberty blockers) varies, but can extend up to 4 years for younger patients who are not able to provide consent until age 16 for receipt of gender-affirming therapy. Puberty blockers represent an invaluable intervention for these children and adolescents, to reduce anxiety and ‘buy time’ until final decisions can be made about gender assignment,” said Dr. Catherine Gordon who is quoted in the statement.

This belief that puberty blockers are just a temporary pause to give the young person time to figure things out is not supported by existing data. All recently published studies show that approximately 98 percent of young people put on puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones, when in the past on-average 80 percent would desist and not progress to cross-sex hormones. This suggests that affirming children and blocking their puberty makes further medical transition an almost foregone conclusion.

The statement goes on to dismiss detransition as a rare event, while suggesting that most people who detransition do so because of transphobia, and then suggested that the NYT article was inaccurate in saying that England’s National Health Service (NHS) is proposing to restrict access to puberty blockers. 

“In fact, the pivot that the National Health Service took was to enroll ALL youth initiating puberty blockers for treatment of gender dysphoria into a prospective research protocol so that more comprehensive data might be collected,” said the statement. 

This is true but overlooks the fact that the Cass interim report recommends a shift back to psychotherapy as the first line of treatment for these children, and only in the most extreme cases recommends puberty suppression in a clinical trial setting, which is in line with the recent changes made in Sweden and Finland.
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