Life
Without Puberty

Life
            Without Puberty

Many transgender
people have just one regret: not transitioning sooner.
That may soon be a thing of the past as a growing number of
trans kids turn to puberty-blocking hormones.

The Food and Drug
Administration has long approved hormone blockers for
nontransgender children experiencing early puberty. But a
growing number of U.S. physicians are legally
prescribing these blockers to trans youth at the onset
of puberty—an investigational off-label use. Doctors
argue that medical intervention at that point is safer
than letting trans children endure the wrong kind of
puberty or take medications without supervision.

Some transgender
minors delay puberty until adulthood; others begin
cross-sex hormones soon after starting hormone blockers
while minors. Though the treatment is reversible,
prescribing minors hormone blockers is clearly an
incendiary issue. Psychologist Kenneth Zucker believes that
forcing transsexualism is dangerous for children who simply
don’t fit normative gender roles. Other
practitioners advocate a different kind of
intervention: forcing normative gender roles on
gender-nonconforming children, e.g., making a little
girl, even if she identifies as a boy, wear dresses
and play house.

Can an
11-year-old be sure he or she is in the wrong body? Some
studies seem to indicate gender identification occurs
long before puberty. According to psychologist Marsha
Weinraub, children typically become aware of adult sex
role differences by the time they’re 3, and gender
identity follows closely behind. Other results are less
clear—as in cases of infants whose sex is
reassigned due to cloacal exstrophy, a rare birth
defect. In a Johns Hopkins study of 16 genetic males
affected by cloacal exstrophy, eight of the 14 who had
been reassigned the female sex neonatally later
declared themselves male.

Betsy*, a
Kentucky mom, didn’t wait for her doctors to arrive
at a consensus. She knew her son Tucker was born into
the wrong body and that menstruation and breast
development would traumatize him. By the time Tucker
was 11 he had starting taking hormone blockers, and Betsy
was driving him 300 miles to the nearest doctor who
would treat him.

“It’s financially devastating,” Betsy
says, certain she’s doing the right thing.
“Insurance covered the pills, but they’re not
working. His hormone levels are still rising, so we
plan to switch to injections.”

*Surname omitted by request. Disclosure:
Author is affiliated with TransYouth Family Advocates, a
nonprofit that supports medical intervention for trans minors.

Tags: World, World

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