From the Left: Drawing the line between trans rights and parental sovereignty

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By Lance Simmens

So your 12-year-old son or daughter comes to you, the parent, and informs you that they have been wrestling with a dilemma that has become foremost in their everyday life: Namely, they seriously question their gender and it has become unbearable, maybe even life-threatening. In other words, your son is convinced he is a woman, or your daughter is convinced she is a man, or maybe it’s a mix between the two, identified as non-binary.

You at first pass it off but your child refuses to allow you to downplay it as a childish delusion and informs you that they have considered suicide as it has affected their very existence. You realize you have a serious issue to deal with. (Notice I use the pronoun they so as not to be disrespectful. Welcome to the new world).

This is a worldwide phenomenon. According to the United Nation’s Commissioner for Human Rights “the more specific term ‘trans’ is used to describe persons who identify with a different sex than the one assigned to them at birth … they are caught in a spiral of exclusion and marginalization: often bullied at school, rejected by their family, pushed out into the streets, and denied access to employment.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation “three out of every 10 adults in the U.S. personally knows someone who is trans … and about half a decade ago, only one-quarter of people in the US supported trans rights, and support increased to 62 percent by the year 2019.”

Data collected by the HRC Foundation identify that trans people suffer from lack of legal protection, elevated rates of poverty, stigma, harassment and discrimination, violence, lack of healthcare coverage, and widespread lack of accurate identity documents.

A study by the Pew Research Center released this past September reports that many states are passing restrictions on transgenders that include: making it illegal for health care professionals to provide someone younger than 18 with medical care for a gender transition, excluding coverage of Medicare care for gender transitions from state Medicaid, or making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools.

In addition, 58 percent say they would “favor or strongly favor policies the require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth.”

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health suggests that hormones could be started at age 14, two years earlier than the group’s previous advice, and some surgeries done at age 15 or 17, a year or so earlier than previous guidance. The group acknowledged potential risks but said it is unethical and harmful to withhold early treatment.

The new guidelines offered by the leading transgender health association “include starting medication called puberty blockers in the early stages of puberty, which for girls is around ages 8 to 13 and typically two years later for boys … the drugs delay puberty and give kids time to decide about additional treatment; their effects end when the medication is stopped.”

An update also recommends sex hormones — estrogen or testosterone-starting at age 14; breast removal for trans boys at age 15; and most genital surgeries starting at age 17.

There is considerable debate within the scientific/medical community as to how early to start gender transition treatments. At risk in the debate over the potential benefits and harms of transgender medical treatment is an attempt to improve psychological well-being and reduce suicidal behavior.

Indeed, legislative efforts are afoot to ban treatment until a minimum age. Thus, political interference smack in the middle of culture war politics reinforces the weaponization of issues that ideally should be left to the scientific and medical communities.

Under no circumstances do I pretend to be an expert on the technical medical aspects surrounding this issue. What is unacceptable, however, is the extent to which political considerations are foremost in the public debate over what medical treatments are acceptable and which are not.

Most problematic, from my perspective, is the extent to which culture war politics are being employed to negate and replace professional medical and scientific remedies that require technical expertise by institutions and professionals who are much better situated than those of us who only want to do what is best for our children.

I know and have spoken with several people who have been dealing with the dilemma of how best to cope with transgender kids. It is gut wrenching in that the underlying mandate is to be supportive of and sensitive to the needs of our children. And in the end the need to rely on the medical expertise as to how best to treat your loved ones must take precedence over everything else.

In its purest form, political manipulation of the legislative and judicial institutions of government, in many instances against the will of the populace, are further dividing the country. Shame on those who use political capital to the detriment of our kids.