When you’re 18, you think you know everything. You’re often wrong.
Thankfully, many of the reckless decisions someone might make at this age are reversible. Except when it comes to the uncharted territory of gender identity.
Over the past decade, the number of children uncomfortable with their biological sex has skyrocketed—especially among girls.
According to a 2017 UCLA study, the number of U.S. teens aged 13 to 17 who identify as transgender is approaching 1 percent. And according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of young people in the United Kingdom referred for “gender treatment” has increased 4,000 percent in 10 years.
What’s so disturbing about this increase is that many of these children are being put on a path to “change” their sex through medical and even surgical means. And if their parents disagree with that path, all the child needs to do is wait until their 18th birthday to continue.
Because this is largely a new phenomenon, there are very few studies on how these “treatments” are impacting people who identify as transgender long-term. But contrary to the claims of transgender activists, we do know that these “treatments” have immense negative consequences—many of which are permanent.
As with any decision you make when you’re young, you might change your mind. What happens then?
A Permanent Decision
Many gender clinics take a “gender affirmation” approach to treating children with gender dysphoria, that prevents the children from feeling comfortable with their biological sex. Instead, doctors and mental health professionals will affirm a child’s idea that he or she was “born in the wrong body,” and put that child on a path toward altering his or her body.
This path can entail puberty-blocking drugs for prepubescent children, large doses of cross-sex hormones, and eventually, so-called “gender affirmation” surgery.
Transgender activists love to shroud the terms for these surgeries in euphemisms. But we should be honest about what they are. For girls who identify as boys, so-called “top surgery” involves a double mastectomy and so-called “bottom surgery” involves a hysterectomy. For young adult males who identify as girls, so-called “bottom surgery” involves castration and removal of the penis.
These are radical surgeries that irreversibly destroy a person’s ability to one day have children of their own.
And while that is the most extreme case, less drastic measures still produce life-altering results. Even the so-called experts who advocate these treatments accept that administration of cross-sex hormones is likely to cause lifetime infertility. Women who have been on testosterone and men who have been on estrogen for gender dysphoria suffer from side-effects including a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.
This is a steep price to pay, especially for procedures that often fail to alleviate the stress caused by gender dysphoria. In fact, the American Journal of Psychiatry had to issue a correction on a recent study to say that “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”
Voices of Detransitioners
But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to these young people who were “affirmed” and “treated” for their gender dysphoria, only to regret it later.
Sydney began identifying as a man and taking testosterone when she turned 19. After many health issues and a talk with her grandfather, she decided to stop the “treatment.” Here’s what she had to say:
“After four long, exhausting months of being sick every day and losing the 50 pounds, I finally got back to a semi-normal life.
I’m now more stable, but my body bears the scars of gender therapy. My voice is still deep, and I look very masculine. I’m now $1,000 poorer due to the cost, though that’s a fraction of what insurance paid.”
Nathaniel began identifying as a girl when he was a child. By the time he was 18, he went through with a full surgery to remove his testicles and penis. Now he feels a deep sense of regret.
“I had turned myself into a plastic-surgery facsimile of a woman, but I knew I still wasn’t one. I became (and to an extent, still feel) deeply depressed.”
Nele, from Germany, felt uncomfortable being a woman after she was sexually harassed as a teenager. She decided that she wanted to transition at the age of 19 and began taking testosterone. In her 20s, she decided she wanted to stop taking hormones, but some effects will be with her for the rest of her life.
“My voice will never come back," says Nele. "I used to love singing and I can't sing anymore - like my voice is just very monotone, it works very differently. When I call someone on the phone, I get gendered as male.”
All three of these people have one thing in common—they experienced the painful mental anguish of gender dysphoria as a young person. And while medical professionals allowed—even encouraged—them to pursue a new “gender identity” and alter their bodies, these things ultimately did not help them overcome their gender dysphoria.
A Better Way
Transgender activists often claim that those who identify as transgender have a much higher suicide rate than the general population. That’s true. But what they don’t tell you is that those who undergo “transitioning” surgeries and hormones are still 19 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. There is simply no evidence that surgical or hormonal transition reduces depression and suicide risk for these individuals over the long run.
There must be a better way.
Those experiencing gender dysphoria are often also experiencing other forms of mental illness such as depression and anxiety. As a starting point, medical professionals should try to discover the root of those feelings and help alleviate them. But today, that obvious first step is too often skipped over in the rush to “affirm.”
In some instances, a person with gender dysphoria has experienced trauma that is causing their desire to “escape” their body and become someone else.
“Trans kids most often are suffering from a variety of disorders, starting with depression—the result of personal loss, broken families, sexual abuse, and unstable homes. Deep depression leads kids to want to be someone other than who they are.”
Maureen Collins is a web writer for the Alliance Defending Freedom. She has a passion for writing and her work has appeared on The Federalist.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on Alliance Defending Freedom.