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How Conversion Therapy Bans Will Trap Transgender Children


On April 25, Democratic lawmaker Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) reintroduced a bill to ban therapy in the United States that seeks to change “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

While attempts to make gays straight may have little value, that little “or gender identity” nonchalantly added to the end is a live grenade. In disguised language, it ensures no American child unhappy with his or her natural sexed body will have access to therapy other than drastically changing the body.

Consider this scenario, based on real events: One day, your high-school-age daughter comes to you with a surprising announcement. She has a history of psychological problems and is unhappy with the pressures of being a young girl. She has spent a great deal of time online reading about transgender and is certain she must really be a transgender man: her gender identity is that of a man. She wants to go on testosterone and cut her breasts off.

After you talk it over with her, she agrees to find a therapist to see if she could be happy with herself without drastic treatment. However, a nationwide law bans any professional from offering care that doesn’t uphold her feeling she is transgender. Instead, your teen daughter takes hormones, which sterilize her healthy body, lower her voice, and change her bone structure, and goes to live as a man. Years later, her body irreversibly damaged, she changes her mind and bitterly regrets losing her fertility. “Why did they let me do this to myself as a child?”

Seven U.S. states have passed similar bills that ban “gender identity conversion.” These bills enforce what clinicians call the “gender-affirming” approach to children unhappy about being boys or girls. If a child’s claims about his or her gender are “insistent, persistent, consistent,” this is taken as evidence that the child is transgender, and should transition, turning the child into what used to be called a transsexual.

Transitioning Children Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Transitioning may involve changing clothing and pronouns for young children; putting children on the drug Lupron to suspend puberty; lifelong doses of hormones to change their appearance; and surgery to remove breasts and genitals. This is not just for girls who say they’re boys, but for kids who say they’re “non-binary,” too. Common sense asks why we’re so anxious to label children at all, let alone give them treatment that will change their adult sexual identity. What does a boy know about being a man, or a woman, or whatever non-binary might be?

But the bill also ignores an important fact: even if a child’s claimed gender identity is “insistent, persistent, consistent,” the best evidence is around 90 percent of such children will outgrow it if they are simply left alone. Some will grow up to be gay and lesbian adults, and some will grow up to be straight. But new treatments, social transition, and blocking natural puberty with drugs, followed by hormones, reinforce the child’s unhappiness with his or her own natural body instead.

As clinical psychologist Devita Singh says, “I have predicted that we would see rates of persistence increasing over time as more children engage in social transitioning in childhood.” In other words, by labeling the child trans, and transitioning children younger, doctors set up a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates transgender adults. But children’s best interests hardly matter to a society obsessed with the latest so-called civil rights frontier.

This Eliminates Professional Choice and Judgment

Claims that such children have a high risk of suicide do not stand up, either. No historical record supports it. Children with gender dysphoria are less likely to kill themselves than children who are psychiatric patients for other reasons. So how can anyone, parent or child, give informed consent to transition when they’re given an alarming false choice between transition and death? Uncontrolled evidence that transitioning can make dysphoric kids happier in the short term hardly refutes the point they would be better off as adults by coming to terms with their own natural bodies.

“Conversion” bans on gender identity leave no mental health professional free to make her own decisions to help a child become more comfortable with his or her own body. Child psychologists and therapists understand how children’s identities take a long time to form, and how children can change their minds, but the law will bar them from acting in the child’s best interest.

Bill co-sponsors Murray and Sen. Cory Booker do not have medical degrees, but presume to know better than doctors and therapists. Some therapists will end up sending a dysphoric child on a “journey” to becoming a sterilized, permanent medical patient. Others may decide the legal risks are too great, and refuse to see any gender patients.

Gender Treatments Are Dangerous and Understudied

Not only is it highly questionable to take away the independence of medical professionals, but treatments used by gender clinics are dangerous and understudied. Powerful and irreversible drugs are being used off-label on healthy children. But gender clinicians claim prescribing these drugs is a no-brainer and will give adolescents hormones “after one visit.” The drug Lupron, used for treating premature puberty, not only has no data for continued use in older children and teens, but has serious side effects and is made by a company that blocks access to clinical trial data. “Trans children” on puberty blockers, like “I am Jazz” star Jazz Jennings, even have permanent genital disfigurement that makes sex-change surgery more difficult.

A conversion therapy ban would prevent a therapist from taking a child’s traumatic past or a school environment where “trans was trendy” into account in determining the best treatment. But transgender expression in children has exploded in the last five years. The United States now has nearly 100 child gender identity clinics.

Up to 5 percent of girls in some schools, or in one survey even 12 percent of young people, place themselves on the trans spectrum. Surely not all will go on medical treatment, but can these be the true numbers? If this is simply a matter of kids “coming out,” why is there no huge rise in adults? An Australian psychologist has described transgender in children as “the new black” and explained that girls who have been sexually abused often want to identify as boys.

We’ve forgotten that children are children. Children believe what they read online, what adults tell them, and do not understand the nuances and stereotypes around sex and gender. If we tell children that a boy liking pink means he might be in the “wrong body” we put them at risk. Just because a child says something doesn’t mean it’s true or we should accept it. Especially children who are different, like tomboy girls, boys with a feminine side, girls unhappy in puberty or who feel attracted to other girls, and autistic children are at risk of misinterpreting their feelings. Article after article on “trans children” show kids coerced into a lifetime of under-researched treatments and surgeries because they don’t conform to gender roles.

Let’s Ask Why the Rush to Trans Pre-Pubescent Kids

Backing for “trans kids” and “anti-conversion” bills come from LGBT groups, as the transgender community places great importance on child transition. Many transgender adults claim they were once “trans kids,” and transitioning these children would simply avoid the difficulties they had in their own lives. We should be skeptical. Most such children did not end up transgender, and most transgender adults were not labelled “trans” as children.

When activists take an interest in making permanent medical changes to other people’s children, we should apply the same scrutiny to them.

These children are gender-nonconforming: many prominent transwomen, like Caitlyn Jenner, were unremarkable in their youth and lived successful heterosexual lives before transitioning. Trans adults often did not have genital surgery and do have kids of their own, even as they falsely claim dysphoric children will kill themselves if they don’t have drastic, sterilizing medical treatment. But it’s certainly useful for trans adults to claim they were like these kids.

As ex-military activist Autumn Sandeen said, “I’ve always said there are two groups that are going to make change in transgender legislation… It’s going to be trans youth because they take, you know, they demystify it and take the sex right out of the trans experience.”

Wealthy transgenders, such as Obama ally Jennifer Pritzker, help bankroll the huge rise in child gender clinics. But when activists take an interest in making permanent medical changes to other people’s children, we should apply the same scrutiny to them. These activists feel threatened by the idea their own identity might not be thought of as fixed. Their insecurity is such they even harassed a New York Times writer for acknowledging her tomboy as a girl and not a transgender boy. Trans identity politics demands any child labeled “trans” is theirs, and must end up that way—the child’s best interest be damned.

Deceptive Tactics Used to Push This Agenda

There’s a pattern of trans activists hijacking medicine to change guidelines around transitioning. Dana Beyer, a transwoman activist with no psychiatric qualifications, was on the DSM-5 workgroup that declassified being transgender as a mental disorder.

In 2015 activists used false accusations of abuse to fire Professor Ken Zucker from the Toronto CAMH clinic, which tried to help dysphoric children accept their own bodies. Zucker’s crime, in their eyes, was attempting to “cure” children of the feeling they were transgender. In the UK, health service guidelines recommend child referrals to gender clinics and ignore alternatives. Of the guidelines’ authors, 14 are either staff of gender identity clinics or transgender activists.

Why else might we think transgender activists want to increase the real and perceived numbers of trans-identified children? Maybe because they sometimes say so themselves, and “grooming” can often be seen happening on online fora.

What kind of movement is this? Even though whole university departments exist to explain the postmodern mysteries of gender to college kids, nothing about gender identity makes sense. The notion of “brain sex” gets brought up, alongside questionably interpreted science, but nobody can explain how you could know you feel like the opposite sex.

A clue to the real nature of transgender is this: psychologist Ray Blanchard, and many others, described two types of transwomen. Around 90 percent are late-transitioning straight men with a sexual fetish for being and living as women, and a history of cross-dressing—autogynephilia.* The rest are early-transitioning, effeminate gay men who find it easier to live as women.

Many on the virtue-signaling Left are unwisely backing an activist agenda they do not understand, and can’t see is actually dangerous.

Blanchard’s two-type finding is the elephant in the room. It’s this simple: gender identity is an alibi for activists’ real motives. The truth that adult transitioning is usually sexually motivated, in a way we’d consider deviant, would be hard to sell to the public, and would embarrass transwomen.

This does not mean transgender women are harmful or predators. But the gender identity myth promoted by the trans movement has spawned a medical craze that is harming women’s and children’s rights, and has forced something like a religion on the rest of us. The flawed belief in gender identity practically compels a demand to label some children “trans.”

Trans rights are the social-justice cause of 2017. But many on the virtue-signaling Left are unwisely backing an activist agenda they do not understand, and can’t see is actually dangerous. Bills to take away freedom from medical professionals will funnel children towards sterilization and serious lifelong harm. So-called conversion therapy bans ironically prevent unhappy children caught in the trans contagion from accepting their natural bodies, and benefit an increasingly profitable gender clinic industry. They act as a Trojan horse for the transgender movement, who, almost unbelievably, are interested in vulnerable children as raw material to manufacture more transgender adults.

Opposing this dystopian bullsh-t of making children into transsexuals shouldn’t even be a political debate between Left and Right. It’s just about a basic moral assurance that we shouldn’t harm kids. So let’s stop it.

* The trans community goes to great effort to claim the science establishing autogynephilia, which is based on many lines of evidence over dozens of studies and thousands of patients, has been discredited. Those claims are based on a flawed and misleading survey asking men and women different questions, which was rebutted by the transwoman researcher Anne Lawrence (2010).

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the state Murray represents.