November 4, 2019
As if child custody cases are not already complicated and heartbreaking enough, last month a Texas jury faced a highly controversial case that involved seven-year-old James Younger’s health. In a video that went viral, Younger’s father claimed that the boy’s mother, Dr. Anne Georgulas, had been telling James for years that he was a girl. Now, she’s pushing for puberty-suppression hormone treatments for her son once he reaches the age of nine, which would lead to a host of permanent biological changes including chemical castration. Shockingly, a Texas jury voted in favor of Georgulas, but Judge Kim Cooks ruled that any healthcare, including Younger’s gender transition therapy, would require both parents’ consent, at least for the time being.
This case not only determined James’ parental custody, but it also decided whether he would continue seeking a gender transition, exposing the potential conflicts that will come with the rise in gender transitions among minors. For the most part, the American government has done a good job of protecting the rights of children without impeding on those of their parents. Children are more or less restricted in their ability to make life-altering decisions, and parents cannot grant them permission to override the law. We have legal age restrictions on driving, voting, drinking alcohol and getting married, so shouldn’t there also be a limit on when a child has the ability to choose such a drastic medical treatment?
It’s a matter of protecting James’ right to make future decisions for himself once he is an independent adult and capable of doing so, regardless of whether he will pursue the transition later. What if James decides he wants to have kids and a family, yet a decision his parents authorized at the age of seven may lead to permanent infertility? After all, a majority — 65 to 94% — of children with gender dysphoria no longer experience it after 10 years. This is certainly not to say that gender dysphoria treatments shouldn’t be available, but minors present unique situations that ought to be given careful attention, especially considering that puberty-blocking treatment is not approved by the FDA.
Some well-intended parents claim that they want to satisfy their child’s request for hormone treatment because of fear of increased risk of suicide. While this is certainly a valid concern, suicide rates between gender dysphoric people who have and have not had hormone treatments are about the same. According to a UCLA study, 45% of individuals who have had hormone therapy have attempted suicide, compared to 40% of those who haven’t. Every parent is within their right to do what is best for their child, but these treatments are not necessarily promoting a child’s long-term wellbeing.
I’m not undermining the challenges that come alongside gender dysphoria, nor am I attacking transgender individuals. However, children ought to have the rights to protect their future selves from a medical decision with unknown and potentially irreversible long-term consequences. While some parents have good intentions in seeking these puberty-blocking treatments for their child, this seems naive and irresponsible. In some more extreme cases, there may be manipulation leading to psychological disorders, such as in the case of James. This manipulation is evident in this case as James Younger’s father has claimed that James refuses to wear dresses in the absence of his mother. Additionally, his father shared that when James chose how to portray himself at school, he continued to go by his birth name and dress as a boy. It seems that parents should not be permanently damaging their child’s health by using long-term hormonal treatments, especially without both parents’ consent.
Parents should have the right to protect their child’s well-being, but using hormone treatments may be closer to harming kids than helping them. The safety and consequences of puberty suppression hormones ought to be further researched before we normalize using them to treat gender dysphoria in young children. Rather than encouraging a seven-year-old to make a life-changing decision with significant risks, we should step back and make sure it is in the best medical and personal interest of the child.