Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: The Pre-Puberty Conundrum

James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose recently wrote in Areo magazine:

It is significant that some studies have found that gender identity and sexual orientation are almost perfectly confounded in teenagers who do not yet possess the mature brain or the experience necessary to distinguish between these. There are serious ethical problems with having this decision [receiving surgery and/or taking hormones which permanently alter their bodies] made for them by well-meaning adults. Given that most cases of gender dysphoria in children resolve after puberty, often with the realization that the child is gay or lesbian, transitioning children is difficult to justify ethically.

11 Comments for “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: The Pre-Puberty Conundrum”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    It is significant that some studies have found that gender identity and sexual orientation are almost perfectly confounded in teenagers who do not yet possess the mature brain or the experience necessary to distinguish between these.

    I wonder if it is wise to make public policy based on “some” studies, by which I assume you mean a minority of relevant studies. It seems to me that it would be better to make public policy decisions based on the best available information.

    There are serious ethical problems with having this decision [receiving surgery and taking hormones which permanently alter their bodies] made for them by well-meaning adults.

    I agree with this, although I wonder who is going to make the decision, if not the parents, working together with medical/psychiatric counselors. If the government, then I’m off the boat.

    Given that most cases of gender dysphoria in children resolve after puberty, often with the realization that the child is gay or lesbian, transitioning children is difficult to justify ethically.

    What evidence do you have that “most cases of gender dysphoria in children resolve after puberty”, and how solid is that evidence?

    Reply
  2. posted by JohnInCA on

    Is there some epidemic of (pre-)teens medically transitioning that I’m not hearing about? For how much conservatives are concern-trolling on the topic, you’d think there was an epidemic, but I can’t find any evidence of any teens medically transitioning. The most I hear about is puberty blockers which are explicitly deployed to give kids time to figure things out rather then letting the year force a choice.

    Does anyone have any evidence that this is anything more then a red herring?

    Reply
  3. posted by Matthew on

    More proof that trans is a form of ex-gay therapy and that saying you can support this and be pro-gay is like saying you can support Jews and Nazis at the same time.

    Reply
    • posted by JohnInCA on

      Given how many trans folk were “straight” before they transitioned and are “gay” after transitioning, this seems to be a most curious hypothesis.

      Reply
  4. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    More proof that trans is a form of ex-gay therapy and that saying you can support this and be pro-gay is like saying you can support Jews and Nazis at the same time.

    I’m not sure that I’m reading you right, but my takeaway is that you think that treatment for gender dysphoria is a form of ex-gay therapy, that is, a attempt to convert a gay/lesbian man or woman into a straight man or woman of the opposite gender. If I’m reading you right, it leads me to wonder how many transgender persons you know, and if you know any, whether you think that their experience is a sham.

    I know four transgender people, three of them well. Each of the three that I know well (my friendship with one goes back 60 years, the other two over ten years) experienced gender dysphoria in childhood, struggled with it for years, and were treated as adults. The treatment process was a long process in each case, and the medical/psychiatric treatment professional. All report that post-treatment they feel “whole” and are happy with the gender transition.

    In a word, although I don’t pretend to understand what it is like to be transgender, the life stories of these three men and women has convinced me over the years that although I don’t understand what it is like to transgender, gender dysphoria is real, and treatment appropriate. I don’t believe that gender dysphoria is a sham, and I don’t believe that any of the three were gay/lesbian and trying to work that out.

    The life experience of my three friends was similar to my experience as a gay man in the sense that we all knew early (in my case by 5th grade) that we were gay (in my case) or transgender (in the case of my three friends). At that point, our experiences diverge, of course, because coming to grips with sexual orientation and coming out is necessary different from coming to grips with gender dysphoria and transitioning.

    I don’t see any evidence at all that and significant number of irresponsible parents are pushing gay/lesbian teens to declare as transgender and transition. I suppose that there are some parents who are so opposed to a child coming out as gay/lesbian that they would do so, but that is the point of having the gender dysphoria process involve careful medical/psychiatric evaluation.

    It seems to me that we should trust the witness of transgender persons that gender dysphoria is not a sham, and it seems to me that we have no choice but to allow parents, working with medical/psychiatric professionals, to make decisions concerning their children. Who else is going to make the decision? The government? Get real.

    Reply
  5. posted by David Bauler on

    It’s been awhile since I became familiar with the transitioning process, but it’s [unless something changed] pretty involved and involves long conversations with a mental health professional, voice coach, etc.

    If teens don’t know the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, I’d hope that the doctors [therapist] would.

    Reply
    • posted by Jorge on

      It’s been awhile since I became familiar with the transitioning process, but it’s [unless something changed] pretty involved and involves long conversations with a mental health professional, voice coach, etc.

      If teens don’t know the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, I’d hope that the doctors [therapist] would.

      That, too.

      It seems to me that we should trust the witness of transgender persons that gender dysphoria is not a sham, and it seems to me that we have no choice but to allow parents, working with medical/psychiatric professionals, to make decisions concerning their children. Who else is going to make the decision? The government?…

      Well, in New York City, when children are removed from their parents, the child, working with medical/psychiatric professionals, with parental consent obtained or overridden, and with the government making sure: the medical/psychiatric professionals practice in line with the World Professional Association of Transgender Health ethical guidelines, parental consent is obtained or overridden, and there is informed consent by the child.

      …Get real.

      By the way, I heard that LGB and Transgender youth have a high incidence of trauma history and its psychosocial effects. I wonder what that could mean for the government’s quest to carry out the ethical requirement of informed consent so meticulously? I think it means that some lives will be successfully saved. No, I’m not talking about reducing the suicide risk (although there’s that), I mean showing proof to someone that their rights and their power matter, and their “citizenship” matters. And I think that’s true for more people than will go through medical care.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t want other transgender people making that decision for people they don’t know, either. What gay activists think changes over decades, and gays don’t all think alike. So in the case of gender identity and expression, I think the parents should make the decision for the individual.

      But I live and work in a state where helping professionals aren’t allowed to tell parents their daughters are pregnant because we’re afraid they’ll beat them to death.

      Reply
  6. posted by Jorge on

    (The what?)

    Also, this is the first time outside of Final Fantasy XII I have even encountered the word oubliette. I had no idea it meant something vertical rather than horizontal.

    You know, the article makes a *lot* of reasonable, common-sense points, but that’s its weakness. For all the times it says “We don’t know for sure”, the article makes deductions that that seem to make sense and runs with them to say, “these are definites, we don’t have time for you if you’re not going to accept that we just herded you into a trap.” But the actual supporting evidence isn’t always described, so, they don’t. In all I encountered about a half-dozen errors of logic, poorly supported assumptions, and internal inconsistencies.

    Trans activists should avoid authoritarianism but anti-trans activists should accept that trans identity is none of their business? That’s a little contradictory; someone has to make them mind their own business.

    “If you insist that gender is entirely determined by the biological sex of a person’s gonads, you necessarily dismiss the neuroscientific and endocrinal evidence that gender differences exist. In this case, we can only ask that you consider leaving individual trans people alone and making your arguments less ideologically and more generally upon universal principles of human rights and dignity. ”

    Sorry, no. I’m with the constructionists on this one. Gender is defined. Why, then, is it okay to define gender with support from one biological category, but not okay to keep defining it the way it is currently defined with support from another biological category. If we can say some men can become pregnant, why isn’t it equally valid to say all men have penises? Because we think it’s a better idea to “support” an individual who is not in the mainstream than to “insist they come to terms with” being out of the mainstream. This kind of decision cannot be based on science alone. It has to be based on values, on moral judgments. And that means ideology.

    “With regard to this common line of argument in general, the very idea of saving people from themselves and banning things to protect people from themselves is profoundly illiberal.”

    Good government is not illiberal when it the result of an open exchange of ideas and information. When someone has a mental illness that can result in suicide, we prevent the suicide and treat the sickness, so that that individual can avail themselves of their equal right to life and happiness in a better state of health. Similarly, the ethical arguments against assisted suicide are only partly about saving people from themselves and in large part about preventing situations in which outside forces are apt to take advantage of the weak.

    Framing transgender medicine in analogous terms remains logical. That’s where the authors concern about medical intervention before and during puberty comes from.

    “The military is well-prepared for evaluating psychological and physiological fitness and needs among its personnel and to fittingly assigning them to duties and roles in accordance with those needs and capabilities”

    Really? I missed the headline about the results of the military’s study on the impacts of trans-inclusiveness. It is also perfectly capable of finding people with flat feet and diabetes ineligible for service. You might want to actually put some effort into defense on this one. You kinda need to make sure you don’t get sent home with an idol in your pocket.

    In all there are enough blunders to make the article devolve into a stream of incessant, self-righteous yapping, even if I agree with most of it.

    Reply
  7. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Off topic, this is interesting: Inter-American Human Rights Court backs same-sex marriage

    I have no idea how it will play out in the countries that do not recognize same-sex marriage, and I assume that it will take some time for the process to work itself through, but it looks like we are about to see universal recognition of same-sex marriage throughout the Americas.

    Reply
    • posted by Jorge on

      “The court was established by the regional body, the Organization of American States (OAS), and signatories to the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights are bound by its rulings.”

      Information on Wikipedia suggests that this depends on which part of the Convention was cited. Let’s suppose it’s the core charter and not one of the addendums that not every country signed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Convention_on_Human_Rights#Additional_protocols

      I hate to cite Wikipedia alone, but I fear the more scholarly article on the topic I looked up is outdated, and a little confusing.

      Also, I think the Wikipedia article on recognition of same-sex marriage in the Americas errs by implying that the three signatories to the Convention that do not accept the court’s jurisdiction are still bound by it. That makes 16, not 19 states that will need to change their laws, or denounce the Convention and leave it.

      Reply
    • posted by Jorge on

      I have no idea how it will play out in the countries that do not recognize same-sex marriage…

      Eh, I’ll put up the article I read anyway.

      http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Inter_American_Human_Rights.html

      Assuming the BBC article you linked to got all its labels correct, as I think I probably did. Oh, and some countries already ratified “reservations” to the Convention when they ratified it, others have “denounced” it. Yikes!

      I conclude the most likely enforcement mechanism will be domestic treaty law in each country–petitioners will say, “This ruling happened, we have a treaty binding us to this ruling” And boom. Or bust. *Shrug.* Where the Inter-American Court will become involved is in abuses of a certain gravity–murder, imprisonment, and government corruption turning a blind eye to the law. I do not believe it has much power elsewhere.

      Reply

Leave a Comment