While we’ve had a fair amount of expansion in the civil rights of people who fall outside “traditional” gender and sexuality, recent years have brought a reactionary backlash by people to narrow-minded and bigoted to accept that these changes have only made the world better. As ever, this hate campaign is founded is misinformation, and so it’s also necessary to debunk that propaganda, and help people understand the facts. Minority groups have always made particularly good targets for this particular tactic, because it’s far more likely that the general public won’t know enough to spot lies when they’re told. The best way to guard against that is to use at least some of our free time on educating ourselves and others.
One of the current targets of the political campaign against trans rights is the collection of medications known as “puberty blockers”. These are medications that have been in use for a pretty long time, to help cis children deal with things like early onset of puberty. For trans kids, they buy time to consider their options, and figure out who they are. Because a small minority of the population has a personal reason to know about this stuff, it makes it easier for bigots to spread lies, or half-truths, in order to support legislation that causes needless harm. As usual, I think Rebecca Watson has done a good job in discussing this issue:
As always, Watson has a full transcript available on Skepchick, for those who don’t want to watch the video. In particular, I like her breakdown of the claims about puberty blockers that were used by Texas Republicans to justify targeting parents who support their trans kids:
So why do people like Abbott consider puberty blockers “child abuse” if a teen can go off them at any time and experience puberty like normal? Well, this was kind of tough to nail down, for the main reason that puberty blockers are overwhelmingly safe with little to no known negative side effects.
But opponents claim a few things about puberty blockers: one, that they’re irreversible (they are, as mentioned, easily reversible). And two, that they may cause loss of bone density and sterility later in life. I’ve even seen those things mentioned in places like the Mayo Clinic’s site, but they say blockers MAY cause these things. That’s not good enough for me so after reading far more research on this than I’d honestly like, it appears to me that the medical consensus is that none of that is true: puberty blockers do NOT cause loss of bone density or sterility. A systematic review of the literature by “authors designated by multiple pediatric endocrinology societies from around the globe” found “Adverse effects of GnRHa therapy are rare, and the associations of most reported adverse events with the GnRHa molecule itself are unclear. Decades of experience have shown that GnRHa treatment is both safe and efficacious.”
Further, “There is no substantiated evidence that GnRHa treatment impairs reproductive function or reduces fertility,” and in regards to bone density, while “GnRHa treatment slows mineral accrual, after discontinuation BMD appears not to be significantly different from that of their peers by late adolescence. Reports of BMD among children and adolescents verified a decrement in BMD at the achievement of near AH, while accrual resumed after therapy, regardless of whether or not calcium supplementation was given. By late adolescence, all subjects had BMD within the normal range.”
Note that these were kids who experienced early puberty and they had heavier bone density prior to taking blockers, but even if trans kids did experience a loss of density that’s something they and their doctor could watch for and control either by switching to a different puberty blocker or by taking medications to increase bone growth. In other words, even if it does happen in rare cases it’s simply not a big deal.
We know all this because we have DECADES of research on puberty blockers used not just in trans teens but in countless kids with “precocious puberty” (the medical term, which makes it sound cuter than it is). Puberty blockers are safe, easily accessible, and easily stopped and the body naturally “reverses” them.