In a significant development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has this month issued a warning label about the risk of puberty blockers after six minors (ages 5-12) experienced severe symptoms. The minors, who were all biologically female, suffered from symptoms of “pseudotumor cerebri” (tumor-like masses in the brain), including visual disturbances (seeing bright lights that aren’t there), headache or vomiting, papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve), increased blood pressure, and abducens neuropathy (eye paralysis). Five were undergoing treatment for central precocious puberty and one for transgender care.
And in the UK, the Tavistock transgender clinic is to be shut down by the NHS after a review found it is “not safe” for children. According to media reports, NHS England will move young people who believe that they are trans into regional centres which will take a more “holistic” approach to treatment and look at other mental health or medical issues they may have. The decision is a response to the interim Cass Review, which warned that medics at Tavistock had felt “under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach” to gender identity rather than going through the normal process of clinic assessment with young people.
Medical professionals and groups – including The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) – are sounding growing international concern around the use of puberty blockers to treat young people with gender dysphoria because of the low certainty of benefits but the significant potential for medical harm.
The New Zealand government should pause the use of puberty blockers for teenagers while further research is undertaken, a sentiment supported by a majority of New Zealanders.
Sweden’s leading gender clinic – Stockholm’s Astrid Lindgren children’s hospital – recently ended routine treatment of minors under the age of 18 with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and may only be provided in a research setting approved by Sweden’s ethics review board.
At the 2021 conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 80% of AAP members supported a resolution calling for “more debate and discussion of the risks, benefits, and uncertainties inherent in the practice of medically transitioning minors.”
In Australia, The Australian reports on a new paper involving gender clinic staff from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, which says that “gender clinicians are under increasing pressure to enable ‘conveyor belt’ medicalisation of children who arrive already convinced that hormonal drugs are the only solution to their distress. In the Westmead study, there were high rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideas, behavioural disorders, autism and “adverse childhood experiences” such as family conflict, exposure to domestic violence, parents with mental illness, loss of important figures through separation, and bullying.
The authors say; “(Yet) families tended to medicalise the child’s distress, attributing it solely to gender dysphoria as an isolated phenomenon, with the consequence that the family identified the medical pathway as providing the only potential way forward.”
Finland revised its treatment guidelines in June 2020, prioritising psychological interventions and support over medical interventions, particularly for youth with post-pubertal onset of gender dysphoria.
A recent poll of 1,000 New Zealanders surveyed by Curia Market Research found that 51% support a ban on puberty blockers for under 16s and 28% disagree.
It’s not only medical experts that are sounding the alarm. Parents are right to be concerned about the criminalising of parents and carers who oppose puberty blockers, chest binders, cross-sex hormones and surgery as a solution to gender dysphoria. and who wish to affirm the biological sex of their children. – but this is the very real effect of the recent ‘conversion therapy’ ban.