News & OpinionOpinion

Politicians Are Lying About Transgender Health Care for Children

transgender health care
In this op-ed, a Charlotte doctor debunks some of the lies Republican politicians have been telling about health care when it comes to transgender children. (AdobeStock)

For over 25 years, I have worked as a cardiologist serving the Charlotte community. As a parent of two sons, I have learned that nobody knows our children’s health care needs better than loving parents do. That’s why it’s heartbreaking to see parents have to stand before politicians to fight for their child’s health care, as Republicans have repeatedly targeted transgender children with laws that aim to take that care away both in North Carolina and across the country. 

The variety of those I’ve seen sharing their testimonials against such laws is perhaps surprising: police officers, retired Republican congressmen, pastors, small business owners … all pleading with politicians to preserve their child’s continued access to the very medical care they know has saved their child’s life.

It’s understandable that these parents are angry; these politicians are disregarding the health care recommendations put forth by trusted groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. Parents feel their children’s health care providers are genuinely attempting to provide the best care for their children while involving the parents in all medical decision making. 

Somehow the politicians claim that they are trying to “protect children.” Parents to trans children, however, want to know whose kids are being protected, because their children certainly aren’t; these laws prevent their kids from getting the care their providers recommend.

Learn more: Carolinas CARE Partnership Launches LGBTQ+ Life Center During Turbulent Time

The guidelines of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health both say the same thing: Gender-affirming care is beneficial for transgender children.

Thus, treating gender dysphoria is considered not only ethical but also the clinically and medically recommended standard of care. Essentially, it would be considered unethical to withhold medical care from patients with gender dysphoria.

This begs the question: Why cancel the treatment? Trans children are already the most vulnerable among all children, with the highest rates of depression and suicide. Is it the intention of the politicians to worsen their already dire circumstances?

An objective fact: Gender dysphoria, feeling that you were born in a body that doesn’t align with your assigned gender, is a real thing. 

A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2022 found that 95% of trans children continue to transition into adulthood. Puberty blockers, which are given only to adolescents who have begun puberty and are experiencing severe gender dysphoria, safely allows them to pause puberty for several years giving them time to make sure they are truly trans and not going through a phase.

Preventing these adolescents from getting these blockers is actually what causes harm to them. Picture a 14-year-old trans girl who is made to endure the entire male puberty process, resulting in the development of male facial features — a beard, body hair, a deep voice, and broad shoulders. These are all things she will then need to attempt to rectify after she reaches 18. 

Sadly, 40% of all trans people will have attempted suicide in their lifetime, so these decision have life-or-death implications. 

It’s important to set the record straight: The claim that trans children are undergoing “genital mutilation” surgeries, made by many right-wing politicians, is simply false. These procedures are only performed on adults who meet strict criteria, including letters from two mental health professionals, before insurance will consider coverage. 

It is concerning that politicians will deliberately misrepresent certain care these children receive in an attempt to stop them from receiving any gender-affirming care at all.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you trans kids are only trans because they are being “groomed” into that thought process. Trans people have been documented for hundreds of years and are well established in many cultures across the globe. The simple truth is that trans kids are trans because that’s how they were born. It’s always been that way.

Why do I care so much? Because I am a transgender woman, and I know that kindness, support and gender-affirming care has been life-saving for me as well as for many transgender children. 

If any one of these politicians fighting so adamantly to take health care aways from trans children would spend a single afternoon with one, or have a meaningful conversation with their parents, they would know my words to be true. 

Parents of transgender children are simply asking for the right to care for their children the best way they know how. 

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  1. This piece is all over the shop. But then appeal to emotion fallacies usually are.

    Para 1: the author’s familial situation is irrelevant emotional blackmail. Why must one be a parent to grasp the importance of health care for any child? Note the clever elision that transgender treatments, therapy etc. are automatically ‘health care.’ Not only is this fact not in evidence, it’s not even a fact.

    Para 2: There is no proof that giving or receiving care has saved a life. This is more hyperbole and more emotional blackmail along with the invocation of the Fisher Price people.

    Para 3: The AAP and the APA are largely political groups now. Lobbyists. They have an agenda and most of it has nothing to do with medicine.

    Para 4: At no point does the author concede that this ‘care’ is a cash cow. A money maker. Insurers have not yet caught up to the providers claiming this or that treatment or surgery is medically necessary. Insurers have often deemed certain surgeries ‘elective’ even when they are not but in this topsy-turvy trans world the surgeries are all elective – yet insurers are paying eye-watering sums. You can be as pro-trans as you like while still countenancing the financial realities.

    Para 5: ‘Beneficial’ is very weak tea. Why isn’t counseling, treatment etc. in the other direction also beneficial – not least because it requires no surgical or chemical intervention? The eternal question: can anyone, medical expert or otherwise, name a condition in which medical providers seek to PROLONG or WORSEN that condition? Do we give the alcoholic a bottle of vodka to celebrate his sobriety? Do we tell the man who thinks he can fly to jump off a tall building and land softly on the sidewalk below? Do we take vertigo patients to ride on a roller coaster? Of course not.

    Para 6: Another elision. Several of them in fact.

    Para 7: Are the politicians worsening the situation – or are the providers? Is it ethical to tell a male he can become female or vice versa when such a thing is literally impossible? As above, would a provider tell a 5-5 overweight woman she can win the 100m dash in the Olympics because lying to her would somehow be ‘ethical?’ Wigs and makeup and dresses and heels are one thing. Altering DNA, anatomy, the muscular system, the skeleton and the endocrine system are something else entirely. Something unobtainable, as it happens. Doing all these things prior to puberty is not only risky physically it’s also risky mentally especially in light of studies and statistics showing the number of so-called dysphoric patients who revert or return to live as men (if they are men) or women (if they are women) after adolescence.

    Para 8: A motte & bailey argument. Gender dysphoria may be a real thing. But that has nothing to do with the medical and political issues the author is raising or railing against. Flu is a real thing too. It’s perfect rational and reasonable to debate the best treatment of flu and even its prevention.

    Para 9: ‘Safely’ is badly misused here. Proof by assertion.

    Para 10: More emotional blackmail. And an admission that natural processes trump artificial ones.

    Para 11: 40% of any population segment attempting suicide seems a rather high and alarming number. Why aren’t clinicians addressing the suicidal thoughts rather than merely giving in?

    Para 12: If children aren’t having genital surgery or breast removal then the good doctor and others won’t mind if such things are outlawed.

    Para 13: More proof by assertion.

    Para 14: ‘Trans were born that way’ is an odd formulation given that the 13 previous paragraphs claimed the opposite.

    Para 15: Here we are. The injection of the personal agenda. Me me me. The person who was ‘Sander’ has an axe to grind. And is also conflating his/her personal circumstances with those of children. If every case is different why is a medical professional generalizing?

  2. On point! Unless you actually talk to a trans child or their family, you will not understand how hard it is to be different! Nobody wants to be in that situation and to make it even harder for them is criminal behavior!

  3. The author claims that people are “lying” about trans health care and then proceeds to lie about currrent guidelines and requirements!

    Since February 2023, only ONE letter is required for surgical care and there are NO minimum ages. Here is a good overview of the new changes in WPATH SoC8, which this author has either not bothered to read or is deliberately misleading everyone about:

    What about the claim that only adults are allowed to get genital surgery? That turns out to be a lie too, even BEFORE WPATH’s recent changes. That’s because those guidelines have always been entirely discretionary, and many practitioners have been ignoring them for years anyway:

    Here’s what is even more interesting. Virtually all of the doctors surveyed in the study I cite above (the ones who were performing vaginoplasty on minors even before the SoC8 came out) said it was important to keep the requirement for two letters but even that was scrapped in the final version released in 2023. So WPATH is even more extreme than doctors castrating children.

    I won’t go over all the other problems with this article. The title is ironic. let’s leave it at that.

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