Update. Breaking Ranks: From The Right Therapy for LGBT Youth:
[Legislative] Bans could have the unintended consequence of deterring therapists from engaging with children who have questions or even of ensnaring good therapists when they do. … Psychotherapy is inherently private and complex, and for some individuals, sexual orientation and gender identity can and do evolve in the course of legitimate treatment.
That’s not the opinion of right-wing homophobes. It’s from a May 2, 2015 Washington Post op-ed by Stewart Adelson, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University medical school and principal author of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s practice guidelines on LGBT youth, and Kyle Knight, a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.
The White House, in response to an online petition that cites LGBTQ+ youth suicide in calling for a federal ban on all conversion therapy, responded with a statement saying, “While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support.”
Over at reason.com, Scott Shackford risks opprobrium, writing:
It’s absurd to say that the transgender experience is all in somebody’s head or that it’s not real, or cling to the idea that it’s a mental illness out of hand. I have known transgender people both before and after their transitions and have seen them leading much happier lives.
But it’s also equally absurd to never push or poke at any individual’s claim to a transgender identity. A gender transition is a huge, huge deal, and therapists need to be able to make sure their clients hammer out their concepts of who they are before they make some very major decisions. A small number of those who pursue surgery to change their sex regret it. …
We should be more concerned that therapists would become afraid to challenge how their patients see themselves out of fear of running afoul of a government regulation telling them how to go about treatment.
The position of LGBT youth is different from that of adults, and there is a necessary role for the state in protecting youth against abusive parents (although this role, too, is often handled badly by government). As regards protecting LGBorT youth, there are some issues to be addressed. The petition states, for instance, “Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child’s gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths.”
As Shakeford suggests, the matter isn’t always so simple, particularly concerning the need to be certain of a young person’s transgender identity before life-altering changes are made. There is some convincing evidence, for instance, of prepubescent males regarded as “effeminate,” and who then self-identify as transgender, being put on hormonal therapy to stifle male sexual development by obliging parents. There is also evidence that post puberty and into adulthood, many “effeminate”-regarded (and self-regarding) boys, including some of those who had identified as transgender, maturing into gay men who are not, it turns out, transgendered and are most happy to have their male sexuality intact.
From a conservative magazine (the Weekly Standard); and no, I don’t endorse everything here, but I do find this point worth considering:
Critics of puberty blockers, now administered in at least 37 locations in the United States according to Spack, point to the expense, the numerous side-effects associated with Lupron and its pharmaceutical relatives, and the possibility that parents and physicians might be pushing children who would otherwise grow out of their transgender identities into a lifetime of painful and costly surgery, dependence on daily doses of estrogen and other hormones, and the difficulty of finding a place for themselves in a world in which their femininity will always be questioned. On top of that, taking large doses of the hormones of the opposite biological sex almost invariably renders the taker sterile.
One of the leading critics has been Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and former colleague of Blanchard who heads the gender-identity clinic at Toronto’s Clarke Institute. “One controversy is, how low does one go in starting blockers?” Zucker told the Globe in 2011. “Should you start at 11? At 10? What if someone starts their period at 9?” Zucker prefers a therapy regimen of trying to ease transgender girls into accepting that they will be happier in the long run by accepting their genetic maleness, since most of them will grow up to be gay men anyway.
[Transgender activist] Andrea James, as might be expected, has repeatedly attacked Zucker on her website as promoting “reparative therapy for gender-variant youth”—likening him to the often religiously motivated advocates of “curing” a gay sexual orientation.
Should Zucker’s therapeutic approach be illegal?
Some forms of conversion or reparative therapy are indeed destructive when inflicted on minors. But if conversion therapy should be illegal, when does religious counseling become therapy, and at what point should the state and its social welfare network step in and override parents? Is there a risk that these practices where be driven “underground,” where they might be even more destructive?
These concerns don’t mean that states shouldn’t be scrupulous about how they license potentially harmful and abusive therapeutic practices, or that the federal government shouldn’t weigh in. Or that there are no transgendered youth. It just suggests the issues involved aren’t always so clear cut and that it will be useful to see how these state bans play out, and if they are demonstrated to be protective of at-risk youth.
More. From the comments, “Jesse” writes:
I think here, as elsewhere, the idea that T and L&G are the same issues leads to a number of problems. A very strong argument can be made that sexual orientation is inherent and thus therapeutic approaches are destructive, unscientific and should be banned. But to say that someone who hasn’t gone through puberty can be certain that they are transgender and thus should have their puberty blocked just is not the same thing. …
With so much hostility toward gay youth, I’m not surprised some find it easier to say, I’m transgendered; fix me so I fit in. And if the transgender activists say that counseling to see if maybe they are not transgendered, just gay, should be barred, that’s a problem. Fear of offending transgender activists could actually be putting gay youth at risk.