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OPINION

What Can Protect Children From the Harms of Gender Experimentation? Courage.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Courage can be a catalyst for much-needed change. And courageous truthtellers—like detransitioners, who wish to re-identify with their biological sex, and whistleblowers, those who reveal truths others would rather keep hidden—are exposing the devastating harms of gender experimentation, especially on children.

Jamie Reed—a former case manager at the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital—has boldly blown the whistle on pediatric “gender-affirming care” (experimental interventions like puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries to address what is often temporary gender identity confusion) and the actual irreversible harms it is causing children. What has ensued are the expected efforts to discredit her for her bravery.

Politicized American medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society have touted hormones and surgeries as the only way to treat gender dysphoria in children. They assert that their guidelines should become the standard of care for treatment, despite the lack of evidence that surgical and hormonal changes to a child’s growing body result in improved mental health outcomes. They are pressing forward with an ideologically driven approach to medicine, endangering the minds and bodies of thousands of vulnerable children.

Evidence shows that 61% to 98% of gender-dysphoric children will outgrow what has been called a “transient phase.” However, the harms and destruction of potentially sterilizing hormones are life-altering and enduring.

Several countries in Europe (like Sweden, England, and Finland) have already made a drastic U-turn away from this approach—which uses hormones to try to conform children’s bodies to their subjective beliefs about their gender rather than address objective biological realities. The rush to gender transition often ignores serious underlying mental health issues (like anxiety, depression, suicidality, and eating disorders). After conducting their own systematic reviews of the evidence, these countries recognized that gender-confused children need compassionate psychiatric and psychological care, not harmful drugs which forever alter their bodies and cause long-term health complications.

The number of children identifying as the opposite sex has nearly tripled in just a few years. More than 300 pediatric gender clinics now operate in the U.S. to rush these children towards experimental attempts at gender transition. This sharp increase in the number of children questioning their gender is due in large part to social contagion, and the growing phenomenon of schools across the country playing a key role in introducing children to the idea that they may have been born in the wrong body.

School officials are pushing kids to use different names and pronouns at school without parental knowledge or consent. And schools—like those in Madison Metropolitan School District and Harrisonburg City Public Schools—are adopting policies which require staff to actively hide this information from parents.

According to experts, this attempt at “social transition” is a powerful psychotherapeutic intervention with real consequences. Once children are socially transitioned, the odds radically increase that they will persist in that gender identity over the long-term. Social transition cements a child’s incongruent gender identity, leading to referrals to gender clinics for hormones and surgeries, a lifetime of medicalization, and even sterility. Recognizing this reality, this trajectory has been coined the “school-to-sterilization pipeline.”

Gender clinics stand to gain financially from children who are referred for medical interventions on their bodies. It is not surprising then that a recent Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the same center which was the subject of Jamie Reed’s whistleblower account advised a local school to “affirm and validate” a group of 5th-grade girls identifying as transgender—despite a teacher’s concerns about social contagion (that is, young girls wanting to be like their friends).

Reed’s courage has been a formidable catalyst for a more in-depth review of “gender-affirming care” (and hopefully change) in Missouri. Other states—like Arkansas, Alabama, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Tennessee—have already taken steps to place legislative limits on the use of hormones and surgeries for gender dysphoria in minors. And Florida has set an example for the nation by commissioning its own independent systematic review of available data and research, adopting an evidence-based standard of care (rather than an ideological one) which appropriately prohibits these harmful interventions on minor children struggling with gender confusion.

Some may hesitate to speak out against the use of these experimental regimens on children for fear of being “cancelled” or labeled “transphobic,” but we must all have the courage to point to the science and speak truth about the harms children are suffering as a result of these “gender-imitating medical interventions.” Protecting vulnerable children from unnecessary and irreversible harm—and getting them the best help possible—must be everyone’s priority, come what may.

Without courage, there can be no change. Jamie Reed clearly understands this—as do the brave detransitioners whose amplified voices will sound the alarm March 12 on Detrans Awareness Day. They are the courageous truthtellers of our time, unafraid to risk their privacy and reputation for the common good. As Franklin D. Roosevelt so aptly stated, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

Sharon Supp is senior research analyst for Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal).

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