(Daily Caller News Foundation) — Puberty blockers are widely touted by doctors and transgender activists as a safe and fully reversible way to pause puberty for children with gender identity issues, but a growing body of evidence is challenging those claims, according to The New York Times.
The drug prevents the surge in bone density that would normally occur during puberty, and patients can see lifelong bone issues that are never resolved, according to the Monday NYT article. Medical professionals are also challenging claims that the drug is reversible, arguing instead that blocking puberty permanently cements a child’s transgender identity and puts them on a path to lifelong biomedical intervention.
“There’s going to be a price,” said Dr. Sundeep Khosla, who leads a bone research lab at the Mayo Clinic. “And the price is probably going to be some deficit in skeletal mass.”
Some doctors argue that patients catch up on bone density after going off puberty blockers, but studies have shown that this isn’t true for all patients, even those who go on cross-sex hormones, according to the NYT; this can lead to an increased risk of fractures as patients age.
Puberty blockers suppress estrogen and testosterone, and they have been used with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat prostate cancer and endometriosis and to delay very early puberty, according to the NYT. Suppressing healthy puberty in children with gender identity issues is an off-label use of the drug that hasn’t been approved by the FDA.
“The most difficult question is whether puberty blockers do indeed provide valuable time for children and young people to consider their options, or whether they effectively ‘lock in’ children and young people to a treatment pathway,” wrote Dr. Hilary Cass, the doctor leading an independent review of gender-related medical treatments through England’s National Health Service.
Some patients who use puberty blockers go on to accept their biological sex and regret medically transitioning; Jacy Chavira, who transitioned in adolescence, stopped treatment at 18 and feels she was pushed onto the medicalization path by doctors, according to the NYT.
“I wish there had been more questions asked by the doctors,” she told the outlet. “I wish I hadn’t been steered into transitioning the way I was, and that I had been told there were other ways to cope with the discomfort of puberty.”
For patients who begin medically transitioning in adolescence, the path will likely include puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones, which can cause permanent infertility and are linked to high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, cancer, liver damage, weight gain and diabetes, according to Kaiser Permanente. It can also include double mastectomies for females, chest reconstruction surgeries for males and genital surgeries.
Without transitioning, about 80% of children with gender identity issues will outgrow them by the time they reach adulthood.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.