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Let them grow up

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WORLD Radio - Let them grow up

A pediatric endocrinologist says natural puberty is known to resolve most gender dysphoria


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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: gender and medical practice.

Quick word to parents: this story deals with subject matter best suited for families with older children. You can fast forward about 7 minutes and come back later.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Last week, Canadian journalist Mia Hughes published a 241-page report called “The WPATH Files.” A whistleblower gave Hughes transcripts from conversations between doctors associated with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Here’s Hughes in an interview with the organization Genspect.

MIA HUGHES: This was them on the inside talking about specific cases, dealing with the cognitive dissonance of detransitioners. And there was an awful lot of information in there.

REICHARD: And then on Tuesday, the National Health Service in England said it would stop prescribing puberty suppressing hormones to children with gender dysphoria.

What does this mean for families with children who question their gender?

Joining us now to talk about it is Dr. Quentin Van Meter. He’s a pediatric endocrinologist and past president of the American College of Pediatricians.

DR. QUENTIN VAN METER: Glad to be here. Thank you.

BROWN: Well, let’s start with the basics. What does a pediatric endocrinologist do? A pediatrician works with kids, but what about endocrinology?

VAN METER: Well, endocrinology is the medical subject matter that deals with the actions of hormones on tissue systems, and what we call the physiology of their reaction at the cellular level, and how hormones which are in the bloodstream cause organ systems in the body to respond that grow or change.

BROWN: As we mentioned, you previously served as president for the American College of Pediatrics. That’s different from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the larger, mainstream pediatric association. What makes the organizations different when it comes to sex and gender?

VAN METER: Well, the American College of Pediatricians, which is the organization that I’m in at present, is very focused on what is scientifically proven to be best for children, and basically excluding ideology and politics, if you will, in making choices for therapeutic interventions for these children with gender dysphoria.

BROWN: Turning now to the WPATH Files, what stood out to you from the report?

VAN METER: Well, the first of all was the candid nature of the conversations. It is something that has been hidden behind a veil for several decades. There is no science to what they’re doing. There is definitely proven harm. The people within WPATH who discussed in these interviews with the whistleblower, you know, “We don’t know what we’re doing,” we surely see their problems. Kids can’t possibly make a decision when they’re a teenager about becoming sterilized and asexual as an adult. They have no way to wrap their head around it. And guess what, the parents didn’t didn’t really understand as well. Guess what happened here in the United States in response to this? “Oh, that’s misinformation, none of that’s true." And “Oh, no, Europe isn’t shutting down.” Well, guess what? The National Health Service issued a statement very recently that says, “No longer will we use puberty blockers.” Period, end of sentence. You can’t get more concrete than that.

BROWN: I was going to ask you about that. So the UK says it will no longer allow doctors to prescribe puberty blockers for children with gender dysphoria. Is there ever an appropriate use for these drugs?

VAN METER: So puberty blockers were developed—it’s a, it’s a very beautiful piece of science that it’s marvelous to see that—back in the, in the early 1980s they discovered the signaling hormone from the base of the brain called the hypothalamus, to the pituitary gland to tell puberty to start. They use this to shut down the signaling to the testicle and ovary in adult patients who had hormone dependent tumors. The males had prostate cancer, the women had ovarian cancer or uterine cancer. Well, kids with precocious puberty, that is girls who start into true puberty before their eighth birthday, or boys that start into true puberty before their 9th birthday, those kids will end up running through puberty way early, end up losing height potential. It’s a very difficult thing for those kids. So we selectively use puberty blockers in those kids just to shut things down during the early part of childhood, not during adolescence. Puberty is not a disease, it is a very important part of life that changes you from an infertile child into a reproductive adult. And puberty blockers should not be used during puberty. Interestingly, the cure for gender dysphoria, the sense that you’re born in the wrong body, which is entirely in your head, has no biologic basis. Okay, that improves and resolves in upwards of 90 to 95% of the children who grow up and who are allowed to go through their natural puberty. So why on God’s green earth would you block that cure of 95% and create a whole new disease child who lives half the half life of a standard adult in this country, and who is chronically dependent on medication, and who still has the mental health problems, because they were there at the beginning and they haven’t been addressed?

BROWN: Just a travesty, just let them grow up. Wrapping up here. I’d like for you to talk right now to parents who are told by friends and family that opposition to transgender medicine is unscientific and hateful.

VAN METER: Well, I get called anti-trans over and over again. It happened very recently in the state of Georgia where I reside, and when I was testifying in front of the committee hearing in the state legislative efforts to ban puberty blockers, I was called a hater and a bigot by one of the senators who was on that committee. And I just looked at her and said, “With all due respect, now, I hate no one.” These kids are suffering, there’s no question. We’re not asking you to throw them on the curb and let them just have to deal. We’re helping them with the mental health issues. And that’s where, that’s where all of the state’s resources need to be put in place for these kids, because they are going to get better that way. They’re not going to get better by basically blocking their puberty and adding hormones. So you know, the parents say, you know, what do I want for my—every parent wants the right thing for their child? Well, most parents want the right thing for their child. Some have agendas that they place on their child, and it’s an awful thing to see this happen to the poor child who was getting manipulated by their parent. It’s “them before us” is what it should be, the children before us as parents, as Katie Faust wrote in her beautiful book. It’s so important that we look after the children. “Do no harm,” is what we’re supposed to do in medicine. The American College of Pediatricians stands behind that firmly.

BROWN: It is them before us indeed. Dr. Quentin Van Meter is a practicing pediatric endocrinologist in Atlanta, Georgia. Doctor, thank you for your time.

VAN METER: Glad to be of help.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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