An increasing number of children, both here in America and around the globe, are experiencing deep discomfort, confusion, and alienation from their sexed body, a condition known as gender dysphoria. Unsurprisingly, people disagree about how best to respond to this condition in order to help these kids. How we navigate that disagreement will prove critical.
Some people insist that the proper course of action involves experimental interventions directed at the boy or girl’s body itself—puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and surgery. Others suggest that therapy be directed to the child’s thoughts and feelings, not the body.
Physical interventions on minors to “affirm” a mistaken “gender identity” violate sound medical ethics and should be prohibited. And yet, in all fifty states, such interventions are entirely legal.
At the same time, a more radical movement is seeking to make it illegal to use a psychological approach to help these children rather than a hormonal and surgical one. An increasing number of jurisdictions—both in the US and in other countries—are banning therapy that aims to help minors with gender dysphoria feel comfortable about their own bodies without transforming their bodies. Federal legislation has been introduced that would create nationwide censorship of such therapy, and the UN has claimed that such therapy violates human rights.
This turns medical ethics—and the law—upside down. Good therapy should never be prohibited. Children deserve access to the therapeutic assistance they need to feel comfortable being what they are as a plain and ineradicable matter of biological fact: male or female. And parents have a natural right to seek this care for their children.
What’s Wrong with Therapy Bans
Some argue that any attempt to help children feel comfortable and thrive as the sex they are, without transforming their bodies, is not good medicine, and they accuse practitioners of using abusive, harmful techniques. But they never provide credible evidence, and the therapy bans they support don’t target harmful practices. Instead, they prohibit working toward goals and outcomes that sexual progressive activists oppose. That is, these therapy bans aren’t focused on techniques that cause harm, but on certain objectives being sought—namely, being comfortable with one’s body.
As a result, one-on-one counseling to help a teen struggling with body image due to anorexia would be permitted, but the very same counseling would be prohibited if the goal is to help a teen struggling with body image due to gender dysphoria.
Activists use emotionally charged language, labelling all such techniques “conversion therapy.” They do not apply this label only to certain discredited techniques (such as electro-shock therapies), but to any therapeutic service—including basic talk therapy—to help a gender dysphoric youth feel comfortable without “transitioning.” Their argument is that if the true “gender identity” of the child is not being “affirmed,” then the child is being harmed. They claim that if a boy who “identifies” as a girl is helped to be comfortable with his actual and unalterable bodily sex, then “conversion therapy” is taking place—regardless of the counseling techniques deployed.