Fact Check: Washington Post Reports Transgender Puberty Blockers Are ‘Reversible’

Max Briggle, right, holds a sign as he joins other members of the transgender community during a rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol, Monday, March 6, 2017, in Austin, Texas. The group is opposing a "bathroom bill" that would require people to use public bathrooms and restrooms that …
Eric Gay/AP Photo

CLAIM: The Washington Post reported youth puberty blockers are “reversible” in an article critical of a South Dakota proposed law that would criminalize treating transgender young people with medical treatments or surgery.

VERDICT: FALSE.

South Dakota could become the first state in the nation to criminalize treating transgender youths under 16 years old with medical treatment or surgery.

A WaPo piece published on January 28 stated:

Hormone treatment, which can be used to delay puberty, is reversible and medical evidence suggests allowing transgender children to delay puberty until they are 16 can lower their risk for developing mental health conditions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children under 18 very rarely undergo sex-reassignment surgery.

The Pediatric Endocrine Society also touts that “the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the largest academic organization of pediatricians in the US, has released a Policy Statement supporting the approach to gender-affirming care” that is consistent with that of the Society.

“Gender identity can be different from the gender that is presumed based on the sex assigned at birth and interventions intended to change one’s gender identity are not only ineffective, but harmful,” the Society states.

The group adds that “gender-affirming care” includes allowing a child or adolescent “to explore their gender identity freely, and in some circumstances allow for a social transition (change of name, pronouns, attire).”

The Society clearly states “gender-affirming care” may include:

Puberty suppression once puberty has started. This is a reversible treatment that decreases the distress of having the “wrong” puberty. This treatment alone does not cause infertility.

More physicians and analysts of the transgender movement, however, are publicly asserting the claim that drug treatments such as puberty blockers or suppressors are a “reversible treatment” is blatantly false. One of the primary reasons all agree the claim is false is that no long-term studies have been conducted on children who have had their normal puberty suppressed with drugs.

Idaho-based endocrinologist Dr. William Malone told Breitbart News in November puberty suppression is “frequently called reversible, but it’s not.”

Malone explained:

Normal bone density development is interfered with and probably brain development too. Almost all children placed on puberty blockers go on to cross-sex hormones—meaning puberty blockers solidify and sometimes intensify dysphoria.

It’s hard to call these impacts reversible. There have been no long-term studies done on children who have had normal puberty blocked. In no other area of medicine would a medical society be so cavalier about treatments with unknown consequences. Caution is the rule in such situations, and always has been. This departure from the typical standard of care deserves more scrutiny.

“It is also not clear why the Pediatric Endocrine Society has abandoned the previous standard of care for gender dysphoria – which was supportive, exploratory counseling,” Malone added:

There are approximately ten studies in the literature showing that, on average, 85% of children and adolescents with gender dysphoria have resolution or significant lessening of their dysphoria by early adulthood, without hormonal or surgical interventions. There is no scientific justification for departing from that established standard to the current affirmation-based approach.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, said emphatically the Pediatric Endocrine Society’s claim that puberty suppressors are a “reversible treatment” is “a bald-faced lie.”

“There are no long-term studies of puberty blocker use for gender incongruence in children,” Cretella explained to Breitbart News. “Ergo, no one can say blockers are completely reversible and without harm.”

Cretella pointed to documentation, however, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that links “harm,” i.e., thousands of deaths, to Lupron, a drug prescribed with FDA approval for several conditions, including prostate cancer and endometriosis.

Nevertheless, Lupron is also being used, without FDA approval, as a puberty blocker on children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.

She explained:

Puberty blockers, like Lupron, effectively “castrate” children of both sexes at the level of the pituitary gland in the brain, chemically turning boys into eunuchs and sending girls into a pre-teen menopause. This is why many girls treated for FDA-approved conditions with Lupron have developed osteoporosis in their twenties. Puberty blocking prevents the normal maturation of all organs – including the brain – that depend upon the child’s natural sex hormones to develop. Adults treated with Lupron for FDA-approved conditions experience memory deficits. What are we doing to the brains of gender incongruent but physically healthy children?

The pediatrician emphasized the “harm” caused by professionals urging transition affirmation.

“They are absolutely harming kids with blockers because they rob them of the very developmental period during which the vast majority come to embrace their biologic sex,” Cretella stressed. “Even if a child comes off blockers, we can never give back the period of normal physical/psychosocial development that was stolen from them.”

California-based endocrinologist Dr. Michael Laidlaw testified in support of the South Dakota bill, HB1057, a measure that is seeking to protect children who are confused about their identity from harmful drugs, such as puberty blockers, surgeries and treatments.

Instead of affirming the premise, as WaPo appeared to do, that gender confused children need puberty blockers to “lower their risk for developing mental health conditions,” Laidlaw asserted a high proportion of adolescents with gender confusion already had other psychological problems prior to the appearance of gender issues.

A study from Finland, he noted, showed 75 percent of gender confused children “had been or were currently undergoing psychiatric treatment for reasons other than gender confusion.”

Laidlaw observed another study that found “26 percent had autistic spectrum disorder” and 68 percent had an initial contact with mental health services because of reasons other than gender confusion.

In 2018, Dr. Lisa Littman set out to understand why the number of young girls identifying as transgender at Britain’s Gender Identity Development Service had increased from 41 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2017.

Littman found 62.5 percent of the girls whose parents participated in the study had been diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder prior to the onset of their gender confusion. For example, nearly half of the children had already attempted to harm themselves or had experienced a trauma.

Parental responses showed 87 percent of the teens announced they were transgender after increased time on social media and/or after “cluster outbreaks” of gender dysphoria in their groups of friends. Responses indicated most children who “came out” as transgender became increasingly popular as a result of their announcement.

“Peer contagion has been associated with depressive symptoms, disordered eating, aggression, bullying, and drug use,” Littman observed.

Attorney and researcher Jane Robbins recently examined  at Townhall the relationship between the transgender industry and medical associations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Endocrine Society.

Robbins noted AAP has partnered with the radical Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — known for its bullying and coercive attacks in order to force acceptance of the LGBTQ lifestyle in public places, including schools.

“But do the views of HRC and AAP leadership align with those of AAP’s over 65,000 physician members?” Robbins asked. “We don’t know, because the pro-experimentation policies were passed without input from those members.”

She explained that AAP’s positions statements are drafted by a small committee and then voted on by a board of directors consisting of about a dozen members.

“The broader membership has no direct input into the statement and would generally learn of it only after it’s issued,” Robbins said. “So, the only thing the AAP policy tells us is that less than 0.05 percent of the pediatricians who are still members of AAP believe in experimenting medically on gender-confused children.”

In September 2018, Dr. Susan Bradley, a child psychiatrist who founded the Toronto Gender Identity Clinic, told National Review she is “deeply concerned that AAP’s guidance has gotten so far ahead of the current knowledge base about gender dysphoric children.”

Bradley stated:

We know from multiple studies that around 80 percent of gender dysphoric children will desist from their cross-sex identification in childhood to identify with their natal sex. Most of these will grow up to be gay or lesbian; a substantial minority have also been diagnosed with autism.

Yet the AAP guidance incorrectly dismisses these studies as flawed and outdated. There is no professional consensus on medical treatment of gender-dysphoric children and young adolescents.

Similarly, Robbins noted the Endocrine Society, which approves of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for gender-confused children, admits that 68 percent of its transgender guidelines are of “very low” or “low” quality.

“In fact, none are supported by high-quality evidence,” she observed. “The Society thus admits the scientific evidence for its recommendations is weak at best. Yet physicians across the country are using these guidelines to justify horrendous interventions that cannot be undone.”

In November,  Laidlaw told Breitbart News organizations such as the Pediatric Endocrine Society “have created an institutionalized childhood pathway towards sterility.”

“Why would organizations, that are ostensibly out to help children, actually harm them in a most profound way?” he asked, and then explained that medical societies have been infiltrated by radical transgender activists with “one of the most insidious child sterilization programs ever devised”:

It’s really critical to understand that our medical organizations beginning with the Endocrine Society and moving on to the Pediatric Endocrine Society and American Academy of Pediatricians, that with respect to this topic they have been taken over by the most radical elements. These radical trans activists were involved in writing the Endocrine Society guidelines in 2009 and 2017. These are low to no quality evidence guidelines, and anyone can read for themselves the poor evidence they have for these treatments for children and adolescents.

Laidlaw cited a study in which the majority of children prescribed puberty blockers went on to cross- or wrong-sex hormones, and the majority of these went on to sex reassignment surgery.

“All of those who started on puberty blockers and went to cross-sex hormones are infertile,” he said. “Those who had gonads removed are sterilized.”

He said this path begins at the earliest phase of social transition, when the child is “affirmed” in dressing as the opposite sex and changing his or her name.

“Social transition has the psychological effect of convincing the child that they are in the wrong body,” he explained. “The puberty blockers are a drug-induced model of not only blocking essential aspects of development, but also solidifying the belief that they must take wrong-sex hormones to escape from their situation.”

More young adults in psychological distress who ultimately identified as transgender and then “detransitioned” are speaking out about the harms that came to them through experimentation with the trans lifestyle.

Chiara Canaan, 22, a founder of the Pique Resilience Project with three other young women who experienced Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), identified as a “trans man” when she was 16, but then “detransitioned” at 19.

Writing at the Velvet Chronicle in March 2019, Canaan said she latched onto the trans community on social media in high school after ending a lesbian relationship:

My immersion into this online space kicked off a period in which I very quickly developed intense social and body dysphoria. I became convinced that I was a boy trapped in the body of a girl, and that the only way forward was for me to begin a medical transition. I began to envision myself as a straight guy (rather than a gay girl), which alleviated a large amount of the discomfort I felt with my sexuality.

I begged my mother to let me take testosterone and wanted to schedule “top surgery” (a double mastectomy) right away. My mother wouldn’t allow it, but she voiced support for me to be as “gender-non-conforming” as I pleased. Our relationship remained rocky until I graduated high school at seventeen and traveled to another state for a nine-month internship on a horse farm. While working there, I had limited internet access, which shifted my focus; I started paying attention to other things going on in my life. This shift, coupled with the emotional maturity I gained during that time, allowed me to return home and take a step back—to question the narratives I’d been exposed to online.

Canaan wrote she would have “greatly regretted medical transition” and is now “immensely grateful my mother knew better.”

Canaan has exited her trans experience with greater psychological insight because of her time away and her introspection. She also warns that detransitioners have been “silenced” by the media.

“Identifying as a ‘trans man’ set me back years in accepting my own sexuality,” she explained. “In the interest of young people’s ongoing health and self-image, we need to acknowledge that there is an epidemic affecting kids at an alarming rate. Medical transition isn’t a frivolous, easily-reversed experiment; it is a significant undertaking.”

 

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