May 19

Boston’s Children’s Hospital bills itself as the hospital for children – and now it’s also the hospital for children who want a sex change, a procedure some critics are calling “barbaric.”

Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatric specialist at the hospital, has launched a clinic for transgendered kids – boys who feel like girls, girls who want to be boys – and he’s opening his doors to patients as young as 7.

Spack offers his younger patients counseling and drugs that delay the onset of puberty. The drugs stop the natural flood of hormones that would make it difficult to have a sex alteration later in life, allowing patients more time to decide whether they want to make the change.

Spack also offers some teenagers hormone therapy, a drastic step that changes the way they grow and develop. While the effects of drug treatments can be stopped, long-term hormone therapy can be irreversible, causing permanent infertility in both sexes.

For some, that trade-off is worth it. Transgendered children are deeply troubled and have a “high level of suicide attempts,” Spack told the Boston Globe. “I’ve never seen any patient make [a suicide attempt] after they’ve started hormonal treatment,” he said.

But not all doctors are convinced, and some say the treatments do much more harm than good.

“Treating these children with hormones does considerable harm and it compounds their confusion,” said Dr. Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins University. “Trying to delay puberty or change someone’s gender is a rejection of the lawfulness of nature.” Continue reading »

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