Guest Editorials, Opinion

Gender-affirming care needs more research, not more politics

It is hard for most of us to imagine what it is like to have a child who is experiencing gender dysphoria. Even as the number of children expressing such feelings has been rising at a concerning rate across the country, such cases remain a tiny fraction of the total population.

The correct response from all people — regardless of their perspectives, whether scientific, faith-based or otherwise — is compassion and care for parents and caregivers trying to support a child during this time.

The wrong response, and one that stands to hurt the cause of more fully understanding and addressing gender dysphoria, is the one we are seeing now from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott. Parents who are working through a child’s depression, fear and confusion don’t need the threat of being prosecuted for child abuse, a specter Paxton raised and Abbott joined in the lead-up to last Tuesday’s primary election.

This all became very real after Abbott ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the use of hormone therapy, specifically puberty blockers and cross-gender hormones. One state employee with a 16-year-old transgender child was placed on administrative leave as a result. The family has sued and now a judge has blocked Abbott’s order, at least for now.

None of this is good, and we are left to wonder why Paxton and Abbott have focused so much energy on this tiny segment of the population now, and why parents and caregivers would be targeted even as they follow medical treatments that are prescribed by doctors, often in concert with therapists.

That is not to say we do not have concerns about the care being prescribed. But that is a scientific and medical question that needs careful, honest and open study that helps advance our understanding of the causes of gender dysphoria and the best standards of care to address it.

It is not a political question. And it is certainly not a question that is so settled parents should face prosecution for following a doctor’s advice.

The standards come in part from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. But as we have noted here before, those standards are unevenly applied and, just as important, are being challenged by health care systems worldwide.

An April 2021 study in the Journal of Homosexuality revealed that there are many reasons people regret undergoing gender-affirming care: 70% said they detransitioned after realizing their gender dysphoria was related to other issues, 62% cited health concerns, and half said that transitioning didn’t help their gender dysphoria.

Plainly, this is not a closed medical question. More research is needed, especially considering that puberty blockers and cross-gender hormones can have permanent biological effects.

This editorial first appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Monday. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.