The aftermath of my wife’s 1983 car accident left her permanently scarred and maimed. More than eighty surgeries later, including amputating Gracie’s legs below the knee, we understand the long-term effect of extensive surgery and the permanency of amputation.
While our sons have little memory of their mother before she lost her legs, they never sought parental consent to amputate a leg to identify as an amputee like her. In the horrific event that we had even provided permission, any surgeon who performed such an operation would face revocation of a medical license and criminal charges – and authorities would report us to child protective services.
So, how is that different from what is happening to children – and families today with so-called gender affirmation?
Amputation, as my wife would attest, is irrevocable. Gender-affirming procedures on children carry the same ramifications. Chemical castration, breast removal, and hysterectomies do not affirm children; they maim them. If an adult wishes to pierce, change, or alter their body – that is between them and the service provider they choose. Children do not have the same agency for life-altering decisions and depend upon responsible adults to guide them. Furthermore, parental consent should protect children – not be a shield for practitioners.
Children struggle with all types of issues – including sexuality. Yet, surgical and chemical alterations are gruesome responses to the identity questions of children, questions that may resolve themselves. Even if the struggle persists, the individual can cope better with those issues as an adult.
People often joke about tattoos changing with age – and over time, that “eagle” would morph into an “elephant.” Imagine the horror when in their thirties and forties, today’s “gender-affirmed” youth look back on misguided, misinformed, and mistaken parents who failed to provide ample time to process the lifelong consequences or seek alternative steps.
This rush to mutilate seems to stem from several issues – all involving some manner of destructive enabling that burrows into the heart. Enabling can be blindness couched in compassion for some and lust for others. While lust comes in many forms, it always connects to the dark desire for power and gratification.
Unscrupulously enabling others to satisfy something inward remains universal – and affects every institution. Politicians stay way beyond their abilities due to the lust for power by those around them. Drug-fueled rock stars remain on stage while those backstage profit, and the mentally ill go untreated – or mistreated – for political purposes.
“Follow the money” remains a time-tested axiom and prompts the question, “Who benefits from this?”
A physician from Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center was recently shown at a conference discussing the financial benefits of “gender-affirming” medical care. Compensation for services is undoubtedly noble – but is this conversation necessary for something so new and controversial?
It would seem more appropriate to rigorously evaluate the need and long-term efficacy – before looking at this treatment as a cash crop. While prosthetic companies may lobby for better compensation and funding for research – they don’t advocate for more amputations. Children struggling with gender issues deserve caring help – not political ideology or financial opportunists.
Until recently, gender dysphoria remained a marginalized story – but now headlines as if an epidemic. Society does not yet know the long-term impact of medicating young children (particularly boys) to modify behavior – yet now rushes to change youths surgically. Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and Finland have scaled back these procedures. Sweden (a pioneer in gender surgeries) has pivoted to emphasize psychotherapy for minors struggling with gender dysphoria.
Our country’s history isn’t exactly blemish-free from actions taken by the U.S. government and health care providers who assured while simultaneously harming. Thalidomide, experimenting on African American men suffering from syphilis, Stateville Penitentiary malaria study, medically experimenting on mentally disabled children at Willowbrook, Navy-sponsored beef blood transfusions, measles in Los Angeles County, and the shocking lengthy list continues.
Ignoring history and affirming the U.S. government and participants from the medical community have put all that behind them seems ill-advised. Are Americans confident that medical partnerships with the government are now spot on with this greenlight to surgically or chemically alter children? President Ronald Reagan’s mantra of “trust but verify” always provides clarity – especially when considering experimental and hurried medical intervention.
An overview of gender dysphoria displayed on the Mayo Clinic’s site contains the following statement: “Gender dysphoria might start in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood. Or you might have periods in which you no longer experience gender dysphoria. You might also experience gender dysphoria around the time of puberty or much later in life.”
One can’t help but notice the frequency of the word “might” used by one of the nation’s premier health care organizations.
Might doesn’t make right – and amputation does not forgive.
• Peter Rosenberger hosts the nationally syndicated radio program Hope for the Caregiver. He’s served as Gracie’s caregiver for more than 35 years.