Toronto's top children's hospital rejects mental health treatment for gender dysphoric minors

One of the largest pediatric gender clinics in Canada doesn't offer psychotherapy to the distressed youth it treats, preferring instead to fast-track children onto a pathway towards sterility and the amputation of healthy body parts.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

One of the largest pediatric gender clinics in Canada does not offer psychotherapy to the distressed youth it treats, preferring instead to fast-track young people onto an invasive and irreversible pathway toward sterility and the amputation of healthy body parts. 

The Transgender Youth Clinic at SickKids in Toronto boasts of taking an “affirming approach to gender identity and care.” Its website states that “being transgender is not a pathology” but rather “an identity.” The clinic has a vision “to provide care to transgender youth and to remove barriers so they can access the gender-affirming care they need more easily.”  

According to the experts at this gender clinic, “when a baby is born, we assign them a gender based on their genitals.” This statement is ideological, not scientific. Doctors do not assign a baby’s sex, they observe it - either at birth or in utero via ultrasound.  

The clinic’s FAQ page goes on to give outdated and incomplete information about puberty blockers, calling them “a reversible treatment that puts physical changes associated with puberty on pause and gives patients and their families time and space to figure out the path they want to take.”

When the practice of puberty suppression for children suffering from gender dysphoria was first conceived, the drugs were indeed intended to be a pause button to give the young person more time to figure out their identity, but as an investigative report into the protocol recently stated, they have become a "self-fulfilling prophecy." 

All studies to date show that almost every child put on puberty blockers goes on to take cross-sex hormones, meaning that the drugs are better thought of as a start switch for further medical transition. In the past, most children would desist and come to accept their birth sex after going through puberty, if not affirmed, and put on a medical pathway.

The growing list of harmful side effects also calls into question the suggestion that they are fully reversible. Studies have shown the drugs to have a detrimental impact on bone density, fertility, and sexual function, and recently noted concerns that the treatment can “interfere with the ability to make rational decisions.” Last year, the FDA added a warning to its packaging that the drugs can cause a dangerous form of brain swelling and permanent vision loss.

Many pediatric gender clinics in Canada will start children on these powerful, experimental drugs on the very first appointment. One recent study published by Trans Youth Can revealed that a whopping 62.4 percent of children were put on puberty blockers on the very first appointment. 

SickKids, however, waits until the second appointment before offering the controversial drugs. The FAQ section on the clinic’s website informs patients that “medications are rarely prescribed at the initial visit.” 

One parent whose daughter suddenly announced a transgender identity at the age of 14 told of how doctors immediately affirmed the child’s gender identity, advised starting puberty blockers as soon as possible, dismissed their concerns, and minimized the risks of the drugs. 

“We left the hospital shocked at the outcome. Not feeling that a one-hour-long interview with a child and ignoring all parental input and concerns was sufficient to start on a course of hormones.  We never returned to Sick Kids hospital,” said the parent in an article.

Throughout the FAQ section, the clinic pushes a dangerous suicide narrative, telling the vulnerable youth who visit the page that they are at a high risk of suicide. “Those between the ages of 14 and 18 are at high risk for self-harm and suicide,” says the gender clinic’s own website, seemingly without realizing that suicide is socially contagious and distressed youth are particularly susceptible to such messaging. 

Numerous studies have shown that youth suffering from gender dysphoria are no more at risk of suicide than those suffering from other mental health issues. Moreover, long-term studies have shown that the suicide risk remains high post-transition for this group, meaning affirmation and medical intervention do little to lower the risk.

“For those who make the decision to move forward with gender transition, the next step is usually hormones that start a second puberty in the direction the youth wants,” says the clinic, without addressing the irreversible nature of these drugs, nor the long-term health risks associated with a lifetime of taking wrong-sex hormones. 

Also absent is mention of the sharply rising rates of detransition and regret. Instead, the clinic claims “what we see most often is that they open up, blossom in front of us, and grow into themselves.” 

Lawsuits are underway elsewhere in the world brought by young people who were irreparably harmed by the treatment protocol offered by SickKids Toronto. Sweden, Finland, and England have also undertaken systematic reviews of the evidence for this treatment approach and found it to be of such poor quality that each country has pivoted away from attempting to perform child sex changes and instead now offers only psychotherapy to help the young patients overcome their distress. This however is considered to be conversion therapy in Canada.

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