Transgender Medical Treatment of Minors

Current Research: Certainly, the topics of transgender identity, gender dysphoria, and medical treatments for people with gender dysphoria are very important issues. However, the most important and controversial issue is regarding the medical treatment of gender-confused minors. There is limited high-quality or long-term research on the impact of these treatments and procedures. We found the most complete review of the current published research regarding the medical treatment of gender-confused minors in Transgender Research: Five Things Every Parent and Policy-Maker Should Know”© published by The Institute for Research & Evaluation (IRE) in September 2022, updated November 2022 (the IRE Article). The IRE Article identifies and summarizes key published studies and reviews of the research on this topic that were being cited as evidence on both sides of the argument.

The following excerpt is taken directly from the IRE Article, with permission. It contains three of the questions posed in the article, each with (a) a summary answer, and (b) a summary of the research reviewed:

What does research show about the benefits and harms of cross-sex medical treatment for minors?

Research evidence does not support medical intervention for gender-confused minors: Scientific evidence has not shown that cross-sex medical treatments are beneficial to children or adolescents. The research making these claims is not scientifically reliable. In fact, there is evidence of harmful impact. Consequently, a growing number of scientific agencies do not recommend such treatments. Instead, they recommend counseling and watchful waiting for gender-confused youth.

Summary of Evidence: Many scientific agencies—both U.S. and international—do not recommend medical “transition” for youth because the research claiming to show positive effects from cross-sex hormones or surgery is methodologically flawed and not scientifically reliable. The limitations of these studies include a lack of control groups, small sample sizes, recruitment bias, nongeneralizable study populations, short follow-up times, and high numbers lost to follow-up. However, studies finding negative outcomes from medical transition tend to be of adequate scientific quality. In other words, reliable studies have shown harmful effects. “Watchful waiting,” is the option recommended by many scientific agencies. It means deferring transgender interventions for gender-confused children or youth for an extended time during which counseling can occur and a natural resistance or persistence process can play out.

What does research on medical gender transition tell us about preventing suicide in trans youth?

Medical transition procedures have not been shown to reduce youth suicides: Research does not show that medical gender transition is necessary to prevent suicide. In fact, there is evidence that medical transition procedures may increase suicide risk in gender-confused teens.

Summary of Evidence: The “transition or suicide” claim—that parents must choose between a “live trans son or a dead daughter” (or vice versa)—is not supported by scientific evidence. Widely cited studies claiming that suicidality in gender-confused youth is reduced by cross-sex hormonal and surgical interventions have been found to have significant methodological flaws and therefore should not be relied on. Scientifically sound studies have found either no reduction or an increase in transgender suicidality after youth have received cross-sex medical procedures.

Is gender dysphoria in children a permanent condition, and one that requires medical treatment?

Childhood gender dysphoria usually dissipates on its own by adulthood: Research shows gender dysphoria in children usually goes away on its own by young adulthood, if “transition” is not encouraged. This avoids the harmful effects of cross-sex medical interventions.

Summary of Evidence: There is strong evidence showing that the vast majority of children (averaging about 85%) who experience gender dysphoria will resolve their gender identity confusion and accept their biological sex by the time they reach young adulthood, that is, if they are not subjected to “social transition” or cross-sex medical intervention. But for those who are the subject of early transition efforts, the large majority will most likely persist in a “trans” identity. (“Social transition” refers to cross-sex dressing and social reinforcement of a transgender identity for children by adults.

© The Institute for Research and Evaluation, September 2022. Full document available HERE.

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