Currently there is public concern about puberty blockers because they are being used on kids. Puberty blockers are defined (by Planned Parenthood) as drugs that put a stop to the patient’s puberty. The current purpose of the blockers is to aid children who have gender dysphoria. This allows children to grow into their the gender matching their internal experience, as opposed to their biological sex. The gender-affirming process helps individuals understand what medical care they need and to comfort their decision in transitioning as they might feel alone on their journey. From what I can find and understand, children can only get this care in person from a medical provider and with parental consent. What is the controversy then?
Much of the controversy comes from the media. The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Medical News Today, and Cleveland Clinic all state blockers are safe and all the effects from the medication are reversible. We even have these drugs labeled as “completely reversible” by The Texas Tribune. Some of the listed websites also state that withholding blockers are worse as this can increase mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. They found that there is a high attempted suicide among trans-adolescents and an increased suicide rate among LGBTQ+ youth. Where we do have physiatrists like Jack Turban, who has an interesting history, stating puberty blockers are safe and reduce suicidal behavior. There is a medical establishment consensus that affirmation of someone’s gender and the transition will reduce suicide rates and aid that person’s gender dysphoria. This increase in mental health issues has created the dilemma, “would you rather have a living son or a dead daughter?”
But yet, I usually hear “if this thing doesn’t happen I’ll kill myself” in toxic relationships, and all medication has its potential health risks. So, how can this just be magically reversible? The controversy comes from the idea that the media seems to be hiding the potential dangers of these blockers. What, if any, are the risks?
The medical field has used these puberty blockers for a long time, and we understand the possible effects. To be more specific, the Cleveland Clinic specifies the medication as Goserelin, Histerlin, Leuprolide, and Triptorelin. These blockers aren’t experimental drugs. They are, however, being used experimentally–as we don’t know the long-term effects they have on healthy children. It is important to confine this discussion to healthy children, as some girls develop a condition known as precocious puberty, which is treated with the same drugs. The Atlantic specifies some of the risks for girls with precocious puberty (if not treated) as they gain an increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease, depression, and diabetes. Also, there are psychological and physical effects that need to be researched more. Back to the topic at hand, what do puberty blockers do for healthy children?
The PHSA states that in males, these drugs stop or limit hair growth, deepening voice, broadening shoulders, Adam’s apple growth, and penis and testes growth. In females, the drug stops or limits breast development, hips broadening, and monthly bleeding. In both sexes, it stops or limits height growth, sex drive, rebellious behavior, fertility, and calcium going into bones. What do other sites say? The Cleveland Clinic states that some possible effects are crying, restlessness, injection site pain, acne, rashes, headaches, and effects on bone density. Moreover, they have to monitor the bone density of children and recommend exercise, balanced vitamin intake, and getting a stable amount of calcium when on blockers. We know some serious side effects that constantly need to be monitored, but has this medication been used anywhere else?
In the last paragraph, I listed the specific names, and to my surprise their the same drugs used for the chemical castration of sex offenders. MedIndia names the same medication just listed. What is chemical castration though? Chemical castration is a process to stop hormone production with drugs specifically. In regards to sex offenders, these same drugs are used to stop their sex drive. The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences researched the medication for chemical castration and found it diminished the sexual fantasies and urges of sexual offenders. The journal states sexual offenders undergoing the treatment may gain osteoporosis, hot flashes, depression, impaired glucose, infertility, anemia, cardiovascular disease, lipid metabolism, and infertility. A Bustle article states it’s a myth puberty blockers are equivalent to chemical castration. It continues and quotes Dr. Stephen M. Rosenthal who thinks it’s ridiculous to think puberty blockers will lead children to a life of sterilization. But if you continue reading, Dr. Rosenthal contradicts himself and states if people continue with the gender-affirming treatment they will become infertile. It’s fascinating to see the media label the same medication as reversible to children. Going back to the journal, the minimal treatment (for individuals with severe paraphilia) is only 3-5 years, and spending more time on the drug increases teh risk of side effects.
Seems like if you’re on these blockers for only 1-2 years that you most likely won’t get any of these serious side effects. There shouldn’t be much harm if children are on these drugs for the same period. The only problem is children with gender dysphoria are given puberty blockers when they have started puberty which is around 8-13 years old and it’s not recommended to switch to hormones until the age of 16. It seems children are susceptible to the same potential risks as adults, or more for that matter especially if they’re on the same drugs for equal or longer periods. We generally know how long children are on these blockers, but how are they administered?
Children under the age of consent must go to get treatment in-person with parental consent. In the clinic, doctors have to inject the medication into the children, and, depending on the drug used, kids may need an injection per year or every 1-4 months. How much is this medication if a child is going to need a shot every month? Based on a story from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) a family had to pay $500 for each injection for their transitioning daughter. This treatment is expensive and can even cost from $1500 to $2000. Where we should make sure parents are buying the correct treatment for their kids and not hurting them even more.
The media has stated these blockers are safe and reversible, so what evidence backs that up? A City Journal article called Affirmative Abandonment found that there aren’t any good studies on the risks of healthy children having their puberty halted. The article continues and specifies what we can be certain of is children who move from puberty blockers to the standard cross-sex hormone therapy become infertile. A Fatherly article calls puberty blockers causing infertility, sterility, and other irreversible changes a myth. It quotes physician Stephanie Roberts saying puberty blockers are “fully reversible medication.” Another website called the Transgender Trend finds the evidence for affirmation is insufficient and allowing young individuals to transition isn’t the correct action for aiding gender dysphoria. They also note that the puberty blocker Triptorelin has a common side effect of depression. The City Journal mentioned at the start found that the research on the long-term effects show these blockers don’t lessen the risk of suicide. The British Broadcasting System (BBC) reported that the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence found that evidence for puberty blockers being effective is “very low.”
The blockers we are giving to children have a high risk, so why are we giving them to children? We are possibly endangering children more by allowing them to take this medication; why is the medical establishment allowing this action? The same City Journal article mentioned earlier would interview several doctors and an endocrinologist and find the medical establishment has no interest in researching the risks of transgender medicine. It continues by stating that medical establishments adopted the affirmation idea and must give medical care to individuals with self-prescribed gender dysphoria. Since there is no research or debate on what the ethical and physical risks are, doctors can prescribe the medication to patients and dodge the responsibility of health risks. It’s scary to think we are just giving families the ability to just let children make these life-changing choices. We have a media that is covering up health risks with these drugs. Individuals who are self-prescribed are less informed about the medical risks and are told the drugs are “fully reversible.” My question is why is the media covering up these dangerous health risks? What would they gain from hiding these disastrous risks from children? We can only hope for children who are currently undergoing this care to be safe and aren’t being negatively affected by puberty blockers though.