The side effects of hormone blockers experienced by children with gender dysphoria include constant pain, suicidal tendencies, reduced bone density and a severely impaired mental state. The treatment had previously been seen as completely reversible, but that assessment has changed in recent years.
More than a dozen children have been injured and suffered serious side effects after what is labelled “trans care” at the Karolinska University Hospital, one of Sweden’s leading medical institutions, national broadcaster SVT reported.
SVT listed at least thirteen known cases of hormone treatment of children with gender dysphoria gone wrong. In one particular example, an 11-year-old girl who started gender correction to ‘become male’, suffered damage to her skeleton and stopped growing. The child was reported as being “in constant pain” and has tried to commit suicide.“He felt so bad that he tried to commit suicide on several occasions. We did not understand, we thought that our child would feel better from the treatment”, the mother told SVT.
Furthermore, the treatment continued for another three months.
“Of course you feel anger towards those you trusted. But also against myself, for I am the one who will protect my child but I have not done that in any way,” the mother said.
Several other children have experienced side effects that include liver damage, reduced bone density and a severely impaired mental state.
Ricard Nergårdh of Uppsala University, a specialist in treating children with gender dysphoria, described hormone blockers as a form of castration.
“It’s chemical castration. It can affect mental state in a way that you didn’t think of and did not want. It is very important that the patient and the patient’s family are well informed about it,” Nergårdh said.
According to Nergårdh, scientific support for the treatment is weak. This applies to both the effectiveness and the risks that the treatment entails.
Treatment with hormone blockers is associated with risk of injury, therefore it preferably shouldn’t last longer than two years. However, one in five children in trans care have received them for more than three years, SVT reported. All in all, over the past five years, hormone blockers have been administered to 440 children with gender dysphoria.
The known side effects include the risk of a bad mental state as well as low mineralisation of the skeleton, which hampers its growth and induces osteoporosis. There have also been concerns that hormone blockers affect cognitive development negatively and affect the liver and the kidneys as well.
The treatment has previously been seen as completely reversible, but that picture has changed in recent years.
Earlier this year, the Karolinska University Hospital decided to stop new hormone treatments for trans-children and young people, among other things with reference to the risk of “potential side effects”.
Meanwhile, Sweden is known for having some of the most liberal LGBT laws, which also include gender change. A recent bill about legal gender change, presented by the Swedish Ministry for Social Affairs, will allow children starting from the age of twelve to apply for a new legal gender in the national population register, without any examination or contact from healthcare authorities.
In a previous iteration of the bill, which was severely criticised by the Legal Council, the government sought to lower the age limit for having surgery to 15 years – without guardian or parental approval.