In 2020, bills were introduced in six state legislatures which would prevent the prescription of “puberty blockers,” or drugs which delay secondary sex characteristics like the deepening of the voice in those assigned male at birth or the development of breasts for those assigned female, to minors. Advocates for Youth opposes these bills.
Q: Why does Advocates for Youth oppose anti-puberty-blocker bills?
A: Puberty blockers are medications that put puberty “on pause.” Since they prevent the changes that come with puberty such as the development of breasts and some body hair, they can have benefits for transgender young people who often experience strong anxiety as puberty approaches and/or those who decide they want to fully medically transition. They are prescribed under the care of an expert in transgender and pediatric health, in consultation with the child and their families, and after the child and family work with a therapist. The effects of puberty blockers can be reversed if the young person ultimately decides they wish to reverse them.
Many transgender individuals identify that they have been misgendered very early in life, even in early childhood. Their sense of their own gender identity is strong. Transgender young people, like all young people, deserve a chance to experience joy, to learn in a safe environment, to get the health care that they need, and to thrive. When the government proposes laws that would stigmatize them and undermine their care, they lose those opportunities.
Anti-puberty-blocker bills are not based in concern for child welfare, but rather in fearmongering and transphobia. Currently, there are no studies that illustrate that puberty blockers or other gender-affirming strategies create greater harm to the long-term health of transgender young people than the negative consequences for a transgender person’s self-confidence and overall mental health when they are misgendered. In fact, for transgender people, experiencing a rejection of their identity increases their risk of suicide attempts. (1)
Transgender young people face a heightened risk of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide. Fortunately,when transgender young people are allowed to use their preferred name and their gender is socially affirmed, their risk of suicidal behavior is cut in half. (2) And when transgender young people are fully supported in their identities, they do not have increased risk of depression and suicide compared to cisgender young people. (3)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving adolescents “access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.” (4) When legislators introduce bills that undermine medically recommended protocols, they risks harming transgender young people in catastrophic ways.
Transgender young people have the right to safety and affirmation, and to be celebrated for who they are. Legislators should be working to ensure these young people are safe in schools and communities, not spreading misinformation.
(1) Williams Institute. Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-Williams-Suicide-Report-Final.pdf
(2) Journal of Adolescent Health. “Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth.” https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(18)30085-5/fulltext#intraref0010a
(3) Pediatrics. “Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities.” https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/137/3/e20153223
(4) Pediatrics. “Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents.” https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/4/e20182162