“U.S. parents accept children’s transgender identity by age three.” That’s the title of a glowing article from Reuters News Agency about the growing number of parents who have “embraced the reality” of a child’s gender confusion. But the real story is the mental health professionals and medical doctors who have shifted their approach to treating gender dysphoria – and the harmful effects this has on more and more children.

Rather than helping children embrace their bodily sex – male or female, many hospitals, doctors and therapists have shifted toward helping children “transition” to living as the opposite sex. In the process, they’re placing these children on a fast-moving conveyor belt toward dangerous and life-altering drugs, hormones and surgeries. Of course in some cities and states, it is illegal for medical and mental health professionals to take a more common sense approach and help confused children accept and embrace their biological reality.

The Reuters article quoted Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, Medical Director of The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA), one of the oldest and largest transgender youth clinics in the United States. Olson-Kennedy is also an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California (USC).

Reuters doesn’t mention this, but Olson-Kennedy has a personal interest in the issue. Gay Weddings and Marriage Magazine featured her marriage to a woman who, “physically transitioned to his authentic male self.” Her spouse, Aydin Olson-Kennedy, is a “transsexual man who dedicates his life to advocating for and supporting the transgender community as a counselor, trainer and educator.” The magazine reported that Dr. Olson-Kennedy is something of an activist, “advocating and educating society on the needs of transgender youth.”

Watchful Waiting vs. “Gender Affirming”

Reuters points out that medical professionals used to follow a cautious approach to gender dysphoria in children, called “watchful waiting.” Also known as “The Dutch Model,” it was developed and practiced by the Amsterdam Gender Identity Clinic (AGIC) in the Netherlands. This approach discourages parents from a social transition of their young children to living as the opposite sex – with clothes, hairstyles and name changes as part of the change.

While Focus on the Family doesn’t agree with everything about this model, it does protect many children from moving toward life-altering drugs and surgery. With this approach, most children “desist” from pursuing an opposite sex identity and accept their birth sex.  

Another approach, more for adolescents and adults, is labelled by opponents as “the gatekeeper model,” because it relies on medical and mental health professionals to assess individuals before they move toward opposite sex hormones and surgery. In what used to be standard practice, most medical professionals would deal slowly and cautiously with patients, requiring sometimes months or years of counseling to make sure that clients who want to live as the opposite sex aren’t driven by other mental health issues. Trauma and “co-morbidities” – other psychological problems – are common in the transgender community, and those issues may be driving the pursuit of an opposite sex identity. Treatment may lead these individuals to resolve their gender dysphoria and align with their physical sex.  

Some transgender activists and their allies call these approaches “anti-transgender” and claim that helping children resolve gender confusion amounts to “trans genocide.”

CHLA and Olson-Kennedy reject the gatekeeper model and the watchful waiting approach – even with young children. They take an aggressive “gender affirming” or “informed consent” approach, agreeing with children’s gender confusion and helping them socially transition – even as young as age two or three. After social transitioning, the hospital’s treatment for these gender confused children is to prescribe puberty blockers to stop biological adolescent development. As they get older, they are then given opposite-sex hormones. Some have surgeries so that their bodies look more like the opposite sex.

It’s unclear how much “informed consent” children, adolescents and young adults, with their still developing brains, can give to a process that permanently alters their bodies. 

Persistence vs. Desistence of Gender Confusion

In stark contrast to the watchful waiting approach, where most children come to accept their biology, CHLA’s approach has vastly different results. Olson-Kennedy told Reuters that of some 1,000 patients she’s dealt with, “only one switched back to the natal gender, and without any harm.”

Dr. Michelle Cretella is the Executive Director of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), a group whose mission “is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and well-being.” She says that “wittingly or unwittingly,” Olson-Kennedy’s statement is false: Children are harmed by this treatment.

She says, “At least 11 studies demonstrate that prior to the widespread use of transition-affirming interventions, watchful waiting and/or psychologically supporting gender incongruent youth through natural puberty resulted in the vast majority accepting their sex.”

Cretella said that in the one study where children were first socially transitioned and then placed on puberty blockers – as is CHLA’s general practice – “100% went on to request cross-sex hormones.” Social transitioning at an early age seems to propel these children toward embracing their gender confusion, rather than achieving a healthy resolution.

She explained that when gender dysphoric children are allowed to go through normal puberty, they often desist from believing they are the opposite sex. She said, “Puberty appears to be the critical developmental period from which most gender incongruent children will emerge to psychologically embrace their bodies. Every time transition affirming professionals, like Olson-Kennedy, rob gender incongruent youth of their natural puberty, they transform the kids into lifelong patients forever dependent upon toxic medications that lead to permanent changes including sterility and a host of other serious health risks.”

She also notes that even if a child began puberty blockers and then stopped, “they can never get back the time of normal biological, psychological and social development that was stolen from them.”

Courts and Parental Rights

CHLA is not the only hospital following this protocol. Boston Children’s Hospital was the first U.S. treatment center for gender confused youth, opening in 2007. By 2015, there were 40 such clinics across the country. A recent study found a four-fold increase in transgender surgery in the U.S. from 2000 to 2014.

Sometimes courts are stepping in to continue children on this road to drugs, hormones and surgery, at the cost of parental rights. One Minnesota mom filed suit after her son, who believes he’s a girl, was helped by the local government, medical providers and school district to medically transition – without her consent.

In Ohio, Christian parents opposed their daughter’s medical transition to male. Juvenile Court Judge Sylvia Hendon took the teen out of her parents’ custody and awarded custody to her grandparents. Even as she did so, Hendon cited concerns about the Transgender Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She noted that every child who was presented for care to the clinic was found to be a good candidate for “continued gender treatment.” That’s right, 100% of the children seen by the clinic were eligible for social transitioning, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries.

As in the Ohio case, Olson-Kennedy is open to using judges to rule against parents’ rights and push a child toward transgender-affirming treatment. The U.S. Professional Association for Transgender Health (USPATH) is a recently formed transgender activist group that held its first conference in 2017. At that event, Olson-Kennedy said, “I can say that the stickiest situations I’ve had is where one parent is supportive and one isn’t and they share medical custody. And so we work really hard to bring both parents in and bring them both on board. Because even if you get a court order, the most protective factor for a good outcome is parental support. So it’s not my first line to go to court to get somebody what they need. But it is my second line and I will do it. We’ve been pretty successful in 5 or 6 situations where…we really had a recalcitrant parent that we just could not bring along.”

Cretella responded to this statement by warning, “Parents need to know that their parental rights are indeed under assault by this dangerous transgender movement.” 

Hormones and Surgery

The Reuters article doesn’t even discuss the steps after social transitioning: giving children and adolescents puberty blockers, opposite sex hormones and body-altering surgeries.

There is no objective, scientific test for “gender identity.” Still, CHLA and Olson-Kennedy are giving cross-sex hormones to children at younger and younger ages. They are heading up a multimillion dollar longitudinal study, along with children’s transgender clinics from Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. It’s titled: “Impact of Early Medical Treatment for Transgender Youth: Protocol for the Longitudinal, Observational Trans Youth Care Study.”

During the course of research, Olson-Kennedy notified the National Institutes of Health that the study was changing to allow children as young as eight to receive opposite-sex hormones. The researchers euphemistically label these “gender-affirming hormones,” and they admit they are working with guidelines based on “very limited data.” The study says, “There is minimal available data examining the long-term physiologic and metabolic consequences of gender-affirming hormone treatment in youth.” Regarding puberty blockers, it states that the effect “on the bone health of transgender children, specifically in those younger than 12 years, remains unknown.”

Despite this lack of medical evidence about long term consequences, the experimentation continues. Participating children receive gift cards for joining in the study.

Olson-Kennedy and CHLA also produced a study of young girls about what they call “Chest Reconstruction and Chest Dysphoria in Transmasculine Minors and Young Adults.” The research examined a group of 68 gender confused teens and young women who had their breasts removed within the past five years. The young ladies were between the ages of 13 and 24 when they had this double mastectomy. They were given a 10-minute survey about “chest dysphoria,” and the results compared with a non-surgical, gender-dysphoric group. The study found that all but one girl “reported an absence of regret.”

An online video shows Olson-Kennedy teaching that adolescents make big decisions all the time, so breast removal is no big deal. “And here’s the other thing about chest surgery,” she says, “If you want breasts at a later point in your life, you can go and get them.”

But as Cretella points out, dealing with the consequences of hormones and surgery is not quite that simple, “Increasing numbers of young women who ‘transitioned to male’ as teens and desisted in their late twenties are starting to speak out. They are angry … they have a permanent five-o-clock shadow, a permanent ‘broken voice’, and a scarred chest from their double mastectomy, and many are infertile.”

Cretella believes transition-affirming pediatricians are “cooperating with mental illness.” She explained that some people are afflicted with “body integrity identity disorder,” where they are distressed by their normal limbs. Just as we don’t encourage the mutilation of healthy limbs to relieve this distress, “neither should we promote the mutilation of healthy breasts, reproductive organs or genitals” in those struggling with transgenderism.

Various reports show more children and adolescents struggling with transgender issues. When asked her thoughts, as a pediatrician, about pushing children along this trajectory, Cretella said, “I am confident that there will come a day in which what these doctors are doing to children will be deemed criminal.”

Note: CHLA did not respond to a request for comments from The Daily Citizen.

More resources:

American College of Pediatricians


Focus on the Family