Trans youth and informed consent

By , January 31, 2012 3:32 pm

This past week I was at Butler University in Indianapolis, performing Uncovering the Mirrors and leading a workshop around trans issues. Everything went really well, and I met some great people. All in all a very good trip.

During the workshop, however, something came up that I had not previously considered. Specifically, someone asked about how trans youth are (medically) treated. I said that it varies, but that there’s an increasing use of hormone blockers to delay puberty. This allows a twelve or thirteen year old to age a few years and – hopefully – be able to make a more informed decision about transitioning. In my I-am-not-a-doctor opinion, it’s a good compromise: simply doing nothing can result in spending thousands of dollars to undo puberty, but launching fully into hormone replacement therapy opens the door to a twelve year old realizing they weren’t really trans at thirteen or fourteen.

Ultimately, I said to the questioner, there isn’t a perfect solution. Once a child realizes they’re trans, it’s a matter of picking the best choice from some bad options. Which, to be very clear, doesn’t mean that being trans condemns an individual to a life of misery. But it does, as far as I can see,┬ánecessitate┬ásome tough decisions and a difficult journey.

The questioner then posed something that has been bouncing around my brain this past week: Could allowing fifteen and sixteen year olds to be making informed consent decisions about their healthcare lead to the criminal justice system saying they were able to make informed decisions about crimes, and should thus be tried as adults?

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