By Robin Gericke, Executive Editor
The Liljestrand family walked into a Los Angeles courthouse in May 2017 to have their son’s name legally changed to Melissa Rose and his gender designation switched from male to female. According to the Los Angeles Times, the family described the hearing as “a traumatic experience” due to the judge’s continuous questioning of the child. “Convince me,” he said, as he asked the child how he knew that he was a girl and wouldn’t want to change his mind later. Yet the judge did sign the papers, thus legally changing the name and designation of now Melissa Rose. At the time of the hearing, the Liljestrand’s son was 14 years old.
While I do not condone hostility or cruelty, I do agree with the judge’s questions. How does a young teenager know who they want to be? Do not all children going through puberty feel uncomfortable in their own bodies? I am not making light of gender dysphoria (the distressing feeling that the sex on one’s birth certificate is wrong), but I am questioning the finality our society puts on children and teenagers when they want to make permanent decisions about their identity, going against what nature created them to be. When this desire to have their body mold to that of a different gender starts even younger than teenage years, my doubts rise. For a young child that says he wants to be a girl, there’s another child who says he wants to be a dinosaur.
The Economist reports that the number of children seeking help for gender dysphoria is on the rise. Yet the focus may be on creating children mascots representative of an adult battle over identity, rather than what is best for the children.
There is an alternative. Children and their parents seeking treatment for gender dysphoria may consider puberty blockers, which postpone the natural development of their bodies and buy time for children wishing to make a decision about complete gender reassignment. This is not the safest route, though, as The Economist reports that suppression of these hormones may have harmful side effects. In addition, the changes that result from hormone therapy or surgery are permanent and can cause sterility. More serious than this is the statistic reported by The New York Times, which referenced a Swedish study at the Karolinska Institute. This study found that about 10 years after gender reassignment surgery, transgender people were more than 19 times as likely to die by suicide as the general population.
Confusion surrounds the issue of what is best for children and what it means to be male or female. Even the left cannot agree about gender identity. Some feminists claim that it takes more than the anatomically correct genitalia to be a woman, while some trans activists call this speech hateful. I, as a born female, experienced a similar frustration when Caitlyn Jenner was hailed as a heroic woman after her transition and when artist Cass Clemmer began the #bleedingwhiletrans movement, claiming that periods aren’t just for women.
With so much confusion and so many political and social implications to consider, I believe that this life-altering decision is not one that a child can make, with or without the guidance or consent of their parents. Laws should regulate these transitional treatments. Just as minors cannot legally drink for fear of how it will inhibit or change the development of their mind, minors should not be able to inhibit or change the development of their bodies. In fact, The Economist reports that the majority of gender dysphoric children will likely not become transgender adults. Some research also shows that, even without treatment, most of these children will grow up to be comfortable with their birth gender. For these, going through expensive, painful and life-altering treatment is unnecessary and detrimental.