Children With Gender Identity Disorder

A debate is brewing over the treatment of children who are confused about their gender. Picture a little boy in a pink tutu, fairy wings and ballet pumps. Now imagine that five-year-old boy being treated with hormone-blocking drugs in a clinic established to diagnose and treat children who believe they were born in the wrong body.

Gender Identity Syndrome, first identified by the American Psychiatric Association in the 1990’s, has spawned a new industry, one where children as young as five, are receiving puberty suppressing injections, despite a paucity of research with respect to the side effects or medical dangers that may accompany these treatments.

At Tavistock Clinic in the United Kingdom over 165 children are being treated by the clinic’s team of social workers and child therapists. Seven of these children are under the age of five, despite Tavistock’s own research that indicates that up to 80% of these children will change their minds about living in the wrong body, once they reach adolescence.

Nonetheless, proponents of hormone therapy believe the treatment is worthwhile to prevent the mental distress these children will experience as their bodies mature. The treatment is also said to be beneficial to those children who will eventually have gender-changing surgery. Others say the treatment reduces suicide and self-harm rates.

Contrary opinions abound. Professor Russell Viner, a hormone specialist at London’s Institute of Child Health believes the impact on a child’s developing bones and brain has not been ascertained and warns of the potential danger. He notes the drugs definitely reduce a patient’s fertility level.

Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a world authority on gender issues, has a children’s clinic in Toronto and is opposed to hormonal treatments for children. He says:

“Suppose you saw a black kid that wanted to be white. Wouldn’t you try to understand what was happening…You certainly wouldn’t recommend skin-bleaching.”

He is of the view that gender confusion is an issue of nurture, not nature and believes dysfunctional families or cultural backgrounds play an important role.
Expert Dr. Donald Drescher of the New York Medical College also favors a “wait and see” approach and decries the use of hormone therapy for young children.

The medical and ethical issues of prescribing intrusive treatments on vulnerable children certainly requires more intense scrutiny than it has received to date.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


5 thoughts on “Children With Gender Identity Disorder

  1. I saw a program a month or so ago on children with this diagnoses. It was quite disturbing to see these young children cross-dressing and passing themselves off as the other gender. I agree with the professionals that say ‘wait’ and if the child still has issues as he/she gets older, then think about options, not at 5-6 years old! They are too young to make that decision.

  2. What these parents are doing on behalf of their children is indeed disturbing, especially given the data as the children get older. It clearly causes more harm than good. I’d be inclined to lump these parents in with ‘pageant moms’ in terms of the consideration they are giving to their children’s well-being. No reasonable parent would choose gender reassignment for a child given the ‘failure rate’ and uncertain side effects.

    That said, I don’t think ‘cross-dressing’ on its own should be considered disturbing in a child of any age. Outdated gender roles are something that ought not to be encouraged. If a little boy wants to play with a baby doll or if a little girl wants a set of plastic power tools, those behaviours should be encouraged as harmless behaviours that make the child happy.

    (In fact, I can’t help but wonder if rigidly enforcing gender stereotypes actually causes some gender confusion in certain children. If a little boy is told that his interests are ‘for girls’, then he might wonder if he should have been born a girl.)

  3. Children as young as five are NOT receiving puberty blocking drugs. Kids that young don’t go through puberty, ergo, they do not need such medication.

    Zucker is a quack.

    What is Gender Identity Syndrome? There’s no such medical term and even looking at it, it’s a nonsense. There is such a thing as gender dysphoria, a profound discomfort caused by being forced to live as the wrong gender.

    Some kids are born with a mismatch between brain and reproductive system. This is caused by those systems developing at different stages of gestation. There is clearly an opportunity for a hormone imbalance, however caused, to intervene and cause one of these processes to digress from the other resulting in a trans child.

    No-one intervenes in the medical sense until the moment it becomes necessary, ie just before puberty. Surgery is a matter of informed consent.

    All humans become aware of gender at age 4-5 but for most it is seamless as their bodies are not in conflict.

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