America News Analysis

The Supreme Court, gender dysphoria, and the plight of parents

A rally was recently held on the steps of the Supreme Court timed to coincide with oral arguments in RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc v Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At issue in the case is whether “discrimination on the basis of sex” in our civil rights laws means just that, or whether “sex” should be expanded by the court to mean “gender identity”.

All the speakers at the rally supported the position that sex does not mean gender, but there the unanimity ended. They were a wildly diverse group. One man said he regrets “transitioning” and is now painfully walking the process back. One girl said she was suing her high school for sacrificing her right to privacy in the locker room. Another speaker was a proud lesbian speaking out for self-acceptance of the female body.

I found all their viewpoints compelling. But the testimonies of two of the women who spoke were jaw-dropping. They were the mothers of transgender children. They used pseudonyms for fear of alienating their son and daughter as they plaintively detailed their excruciating experiences. What they described is an educational, medical and activist establishment that irreparably harms children and makes it impossible for their own parents to protect them.

One mother, who used the pseudonym Elaine, described how her 14-year-old daughter, in the midst of a troubled adolescence, suddenly diagnosed herself as “trans” after spending time on the internet and receiving encouragement from peers and teachers at school. The school counsellor and the therapists immediately recommended affirmation and cross-sex hormones. When her parents objected to their daughter being rushed into a lifetime of drugs and mutilating surgeries, Elaine said, the counsellors and therapists questioned the parents’ love and concern for their daughter. Without parental consent, an endocrinologist reportedly administered testosterone. Soon after their daughter ran away to Portland, Oregon. There, Medicaid pays for hysterectomies and mastectomies in children as young as 15.

Unsurprisingly, the state has become a magnet for troubled teens. Elaine told the appalling tale of seeing homeless shelters full of teens where gender clinics allegedly solicit clients. Her own daughter received a hysterectomy and mastectomy on an outpatient basis while living in a Portland homeless shelter. Medicaid paid for this – and the skin graft and phalloplasty she had at 19. A year later, she is still dysphoric and homeless, scarred and wondering if a penile implant will bring her happiness.

Elaine is one of many parents who today find solace in the Kelsey Coalition. This is a grassroots organisation dedicated to exposing the grave harm being done to gender-dysphoric children. The Coalition has compiled hundreds of first-hand accounts which have troubling similarities. All, for instance, describe a mad rush to affirm a child who suddenly shows signs of dysphoria – even a young child or a child with disabilities. A wait-and-see attitude with talk therapy to try to help the child grow into a healthy acceptance of their own body is actually illegal in 18 states. As one account says, “Due to laws prohibiting any exploration of alternative causes of bodily distress … we were unable to find a US-based therapist who can … explore how her OCD, ADHD, same-sex attraction and peer pressure may be contributing to her sudden desire for a medical transition.”

When parents bring their children to gender clinics (which have increased from a handful to more than 50 in just 10 years) they expect the professionals there to give them options. Instead, they report being coerced into consenting to medical interventions – sometimes on the very first visit. This, according to parents’ accounts, is often achieved through fear. The parents are reportedly told that their children are in grave danger of suicide if they are not affirmed, even though no clinical studies have been done to show that this will save them from the sky-high suicide rates of adult transgender persons.

Parents are also told that the treatment protocols are safe and extensively researched. This is, of course, patently false. Not a single longitudinal clinical study proving the efficacy or safety of puberty-blocking and a lifetime of cross-sex hormones has been published. Parents who have read the long list of harmful side effects of testosterone and estrogen administration in adults and want to explore other options hit a brick wall. They’re immediately labelled hateful, bigoted and transphobic.

The Kelsey Coalition is doing a great job of uncovering the medical, therapeutic and educational malpractice that today passes for care of gender-dysphoric children. The coalition’s fear – which all parents should share – is that if the Court redefines “sex” to include “gender identity” in the context of anti-discrimination laws, it may cement these dangerous practices in place. And that would make for both bad law and bad medicine.

Dr Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for The Catholic Association and host of the podcast Conversations with Consequences