May 25, 2012 3:55 pm ET
On the May 24 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham condemned a pair of Maryland parents who decided to allow their daughter to begin living as a boy after he was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Despite medical evidence supporting the parents’ decision, O’Reilly and Ingraham argued that transgender boy should be denied hormone blockers and continue to be treated as a female.
WaPo: Parents Begin Acknowledging Transgender Son As A Boy After He Is Diagnosed With Gender Dysphoria. In a May 19 article, the Washington Post reported:
Kathryn wanted pants. And short hair. Then trucks and swords.
Her parents, Jean and Stephen, were fine with their toddler’s embrace of all things boy. They’ve both been school teachers and coaches in Maryland and are pretty immune to the quirky stuff that kids do.
But it kept getting more intense, all this boyishness from their younger daughter. She began to argue vehemently — as only a tantrum-prone toddler can — that she was not a girl.
“I am a boy,” the child insisted, at just 2 years old.
And that made Jean uneasy. It was weird.
“I am a boy” became a constant theme in struggles over clothing, bathing, swimming, eating, playing, breathing.
They took Kathryn to a psychologist outside of Philadelphia who specializes in treating the transgendered. Michele Angello confirmed what Jean had long suspected: Kathryn had gender dysphoria. She recommended that Kathryn be allowed to live as a boy, a prospect that filled Stephen with dread but his 4-year-old with elation.
Kathryn wanted to be called “he” right away. And Kathryn wanted to be called Talon, then Isaac, but finally settled on a permanent boy’s name in the fall. (The Post is using Tyler, the name his parents say they would have given him if he’d been born a boy.)
“When we finally let Tyler shop in the boys’ clothing department, it was like the skies opened up,” Jean said.
They switched to saying he/him/his and stopped using the name “Kathryn” at home.
[I]n about five years, they will have to decide whether to put Tyler on puberty blockers to keep his body from maturing and menstruating. Using those drugs represents a leap of faith, psychiatrists said, though the effects are reversible if the puberty blockers are halted. [Washington Post, 5/19/12]
Tyler’s Mother: Allowing Son To Explore Gender Identity “Gives Us That Much More Time To Really Know That This Is The Right Thing.” In a video recorded for the Washington Post, Tyler’s mother, Jean, stated:
JEAN: He’s already asked about surgery. I know he’s really young and doesn’t fully understand it but we’ve told him, you know, he has to wait until he’s at least eighteen before he has any surgery.
JEAN: The therapist just really confirmed what I already knew which was that he is most likely transgender and that it’s not likely to change and with the consistency over time that that’s generally how they know it’s not going to change. And we talked a bit about that, you know, if it does change, that’s okay too. That, you know, it may just be gender variance and he may live as a boy for a little while and then go back to being a girl. And it, you know, she said that’s not likely, but it is possible and we should just leave the door open for that.
JEAN: I think that allowing him to explore this at such a young age gives us just that much more time to really know that this is the right thing before we have to deal with puberty, before we have to deal with legally changing the name, or, you know, going through all those kinds of things. We have time to just allow him to live as a boy and make sure that that’s the right thing. [Washington Post, 5/19/12]
Ingraham: Children Can’t Give “Informed Consent,” Might Regret Taking Hormone Blockers. On Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Ingraham said:
INGRAHAM: The concern, though, about this, Bill, is that, look, these are children, right? They can’t give informed consent for hormone blocking drugs that are now being given to children as young as, in California, this famous case from last Fall, an eleven year old child of, I guess it was lesbian parents who decided to give this little boy hormone blocking drugs that prevents him from going into puberty. These are children who, most of whom, you know, we wouldn’t trust to pick what they want to eat for the day. Right? You know, they don’t naturally want to eat broccoli, or they naturally might want to eat candy all day but we as parents guide them according to our own moral convictions about what’s right and what’s wrong. And my concern here is, look, a lot of these kids, according to the very thin research that’s been done on this, a lot of these kids, the majority of them, grow out of this gender variance or gender dysphoria it’s called, by the time they’re adolescent. Most of them grow out of it. So if you intervene, especially medically, which may or may not be done in this case, those kids might grow up to regret that and, heaven forbid, be really unhappy about it, and we don’t know the long term effects of this. [Fox News, O’Reilly Factor, 5/24/12, emphasis added]
WPATH Guidelines Require Informed Consent, Psychological Screening Before Providing Hormone Blocking Treatment. According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) 2011 Standards of Care for transgender children:
In order for adolescents to receive puberty suppressing hormones, the following minimum criteria must be met:
1. The adolescent has demonstrated a long-lasting and intense pattern of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria (whether suppressed or expressed);
2. Gender dysphoria emerged or worsened with the onset of puberty;
3. Any co-existing psychological, medical, or social problems that could interfere with treatment (e.g., that may compromise treatment adherence) have been addressed, such that the adolescent’s situation and functioning are stable enough to start treatment;
4. The adolescent has given informed consent and, particularly when the adolescent has not reached the age of medical consent, the parents or other caretakers or guardians have consented to the treatment and are involved in supporting the adolescent throughout the treatment process. [WPATH Standards of Care, 2011]
Endocrine Society Recommends Transgender Youth Hormone Blockers For Most Children As They Change Their Minds As Teenagers. From the Endocrine Society’s guidelines:
Transsexual persons seeking to develop the physical characteristics of the desired gender require a safe, effective hormone regimen that will 1) suppress endogenous hormone secretion determined by the person’s genetic/biologic sex and 2) maintain sex hormone levels within the normal range for the person’s desired gender. A mental health professional (MHP) must recommend endocrine treatment and participate in ongoing care throughout the endocrine transition and decision for surgical sex reassignment.
The endocrinologist must confirm the diagnostic criteria the MHP used to make these recommendations. Because a diagnosis of transsexualism in a prepubertal child cannot be made with certainty, we do not recommend endocrine treatment of prepubertal children. We recommend treating transsexual adolescents (Tanner stage 2) by suppressing puberty with GnRH analogues until age 16 years old, after which cross-sex hormones may be given. [The Endocrine Society, September 2009, via Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, citations removed for clarity]
Center Of Excellence For Transgender Health Supports The Use Of Hormone Blockers For Transgender Youth. The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, whose mission “is to increase access to comprehensive, effective, and affirming health care services for trans and gender-variant communities,” states:
Pubertal suppression would be appropriate (with parental/guardian informed consent) for those patients who have had a persistent and consistent cross sex identity from childhood who are entering puberty and have reached Tanner Stage 2. Occasionally, there may be patients who desire halting their pubertal trajectory who are further along in their development. For these patients, GnRH analogues may be useful, but it is important to note that side effects are more common when a person already has circulating adult levels of sex hormones. [Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, accessed 10/18/11]
WPATH: Hormone Blockers Are Fully Reversible And Give Children Time To Explore Their Gender Nonconformity. According to WPATH’s 2011 Standards of Care for transgender children:
Fully Reversible Interventions
Two goals justify intervention with puberty suppressing hormones: (i) their use gives adolescents more time to explore their gender nonconformity and other developmental issues; and (ii) their use may facilitate transition by preventing the development of sex characteristics that are difficult or impossible to reverse if adolescents continue on to pursue sex reassignment.
Puberty suppression may continue for a few years, at which time a decision is made to either discontinue all hormone therapy or transition to a feminizing/masculinizing hormone regimen. Pubertal suppression does not inevitably lead to social transition or to sex reassignment. [WPATH Standards of Care, 2011]
Gender Identity Experts: Hormone Blockers Are “Lifesavers” For Transgender Children. According to Stephani Brill and Dr. Jennifer Hastings, two experts on gender dysphoria in children and adolescents:
One of such a suspension’s great advantages is that a child, family, and gender team can effectively press a “pause” button on puberty and gain the time necessary to determine if the individual would benefit from administration of cross-sex hormones. Suspending puberty is especially helpful for a pubertal or pre-pubertal teen who has recently revealed to their family that he or she is transgender. The suspension allows the family time to come to terms with what the child is saying and establish whether he or she is truly transgender before committing the child to unwanted physical changes. It also decreases the likelihood that the child will resort to street hormones or suicide to cope with the agony caused by living in the wrong physical body. These fully reversible medicines are lifesavers, and all medical providers working with older children and adolescents should become familiar with their purpose and function. [Women’s Health Activist Newsletter, May/June 2009]
O’Reilly: I Would Force Transgender Son To “Have Girl Things And Dress Like A Girl.” O’Reilly stated:
O’REILLY: If I’m the father of Kathryn, who’s born a female, it’s on her birth certificate, that’s what her physical makeup is, Kathryn’s a girl, alright? Okay. So Kathryn at two, when she starts to be able to talk, or three, says “oh I want to be a boy, daddy.” Okay Kathryn, you can be a boy, but we’re still going to call you Kathryn and you’re still going to have girl things and dress like a girl, but if you want to climb the tree or get a bazooka, you can do it, you can be a tomboy.
O’REILLY: I don’t understand all this. Just let Kathryn be Kathryn. If it evolves when she’s eighteen, that she wants to be Jake, then she’s going to make that decision like Chaz Bono.
INGRAHAM: Yeah, she can decide, right. Right, and I think, look, these are children, and we as parents guide our children, so–
O’REILLY: Yes! I don’t understand that. And why do you have to, at five years old, define what psychologically, you don’t know. As you said, she might grow out of it.
O’REILLY: This is just unnecessary drama, you know, with two dopey parents with, who I don’t think can control their environment. That’s what it looks like to me. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 5/24/12]
Study: Family Acceptance Protects LGBT Youth Against Depression, Substance Abuse, And Suicide. From a 2010 article in ScienceDaily:
For the first time, researchers have established a clear link between accepting family attitudes and behaviors towards their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and significantly decreased risk and better overall health in adulthood. The study shows that specific parental and caregiver behaviors -- such as advocating for their children when they are mistreated because of their LGBT identity or supporting their gender expression -- protect against depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in early adulthood. In addition, LGBT youth with highly accepting families have significantly higher levels of self-esteem and social support in young adulthood.
The study is published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.
"At a time when the media and families are becoming acutely aware of the risk that many LGBT youth experience, our findings that family acceptance protects against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression and substance abuse offer a gateway to hope for LGBT youth and families that struggle with how to balance deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children," said Dr. Caitlin Ryan, PhD, Director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University. "I have worked on LGBT health and mental health for 35 years and putting our research into practice by developing a new model to help diverse families support their LGBT children is the most hopeful work I've ever done." [ScienceDaily, 12/6/10]
Professor Stuart Chen-Hayes: Rigid Gender Norms Put Gender Variant Youth At Risk Of Self-Hatred, Self-Mutilation, Suicide. According to Stuart Chen-Hayes, Associate Professor of Counselor Education at Lehman College:
In schools and families where rigid gender expectations are the norm, gender-variant children and youth are the targets of multiple victimizations or oppression. Internalized oppressions can include hypervigilance, poor self-esteem, self-hatred, alcohol and other drug abuse or dependence, overachieving, self-mutilation, or suicide attempts. Suicide attempts of transgendered youth are estimated as high as or higher than they are for lesbian, bisexual, and gay youth. [Whole Person Counsel, 8/2/10]
WPATH: Families Should Provide An “Accepting And Nurturing Response,” Not Try To Change Their Child’s Gender Identity. According to WPATH’s 2011 Standards of Care for transgender children:
When supporting and treating children and adolescents with gender dysphoria, health professionals should broadly conform to the following guidelines:
1. Mental health professionals should help families to have an accepting and nurturing response to the concerns of their gender dysphoric child or adolescent. Families play an important role in the psychological health and well-being of youth. This also applies to peers and mentors from the community, who can be another source of social support.
Treatment aimed at trying to change a person’s gender identity and expression to become more congruent with sex assigned at birth has been attempted in the past without success, particularly in the long. Such treatment is no longer considered ethical. [WPATH Standards of Care, 2011, citations removed for clarity]
WPATH: Withholding Medical Interventions For Adolescents Could Provoke Abuse, Stigmatization. According to WPATH’s 2011 Standards of Care for transgender children:
Refusing timely medical interventions for adolescents might prolong gender dysphoria and contribute to an appearance that could provoke abuse and stigmatization. As the level of gender-related abuse is strongly associated with the degree of psychiatric distress during adolescence, withholding puberty suppression and subsequent feminizing or masculinizing hormone therapy is not a neutral option for adolescents. [WPATH Standards of Care, 2011, citations removed for clarity]
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