Transgender treatments for youth: safe and appropriate, or far too risky? The issue is heating up in eight state legislatures as advocates, doctors, and studies add to an increasingly complex debate, USA Today reports. South Dakota passed a bill last week banning doctors from using the three main treatments—puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and gender confirmation surgery—to anyone under 16 years of age. Similar bills are poised in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia. The ACLU says transgender rights advocates are prepared to fight such measures at the same time studies raise questions about what's right for young trans people. For more:
- Doctors: "All relevant major medical organizations" disagree with the South Dakota bill, writes child and adolescent psychiatrist Jack Turban at the New York Times. But they do provide guidelines: The Endocrine Society, for example, suggests starting transgender children on puberty blockers around 10 or 11, gender-affirming hormones around 16, and genital surgery no earlier than 18. CNN notes that over 200 medical professionals oppose the state bills in a letter that says "gender-affirming care saves lives."
- Studies: But roughly a dozen studies show that around 85% of gender-dysphoric children who don't take puberty blockers are later satisfied with their sex after completing puberty, if they have counseling, reports the Economist. Most end up being gay. Research links puberty blockers in adolescence to lower odds of suicide, but the Economist says "studies purporting to show the higher suicide risk among trans children are unconvincing," and urges long-term study.
- Politics: Highly polarized. Trans advocates smell prejudice, and compare the right's position on youth treatments to its take on bathroom bills. But conservative politicians see children making decisions (like hormone therapy) that are difficult to reverse. In one battle, BuzzFeed reported last year that a study claiming some teens switched genders due to peer pressure was quickly denounced by critics.
(A trans tweet by JK Rowling caused an uproar