Is Conversion Therapy for Transgender kids wrong?

It’s seems easiest to set up this conversation by establishing what we know on the subject.

The first thing we know is that every serious study of “conversion therapy” targetted at gay kids and edults… shows it doesn’t work. No amount of therapy will convince men or women who are sexually and romantically attracted to the same gender to redirect their attraction. You can convince them to lie about it, and play pretend… but over the long term that just doesn’t work, and when it’s coupled with stigma, shame, and social pressure… the outcomes for the patient can be disastrous.

The second thing we know is that the medical science to facilitate changing your gender is quickly achieving sci-fi levels of capability. This is not Chevalier d’Eon, or Albert Cashier surface presentation stuff… this is chemical changes on a cellular level reshaping your body stuff. It’s wildly more than we knew was possible 100 years ago. The medicine and knowledge available to help Elliot Page self-actualize is lightyears ahead of what was available to help Christine Jorgensen self-actualize.

The third thing we know is that young people–people under 18, still not adults–are coming out of the woodwork in disproportionately high numbers self-identifying as trans… as in orders of magnitude more young people than adults are approaching the medical community and saying “Change my gender!”

In a conversation on our site yesterday, several posters were very sympathetic to an attitude that can be summarized as “These young people need patience, and love, and access to therapy… but they are too young to know what they want, and that means it should not be provided to them (including, specifically: access to hormone blockers to effectively delay puberty from creating secondary sexual characteristics, and any surgical alterations) until they are 18 and fully adults per the law.” There is a genuine desire… and I think it’s coming from a heartfelt place… to not watch these young people irreversibly alter themselves because of an idea they had as a teenager.


If a young person is suffering from gender dysmorphia (pause to observe that not all transgender people suffer from gender dysmorphia) then refusing to give them hormone blockers to stop the predictable onset of secondary sex characteristics in puberty is going to aggravate that condition. Hips will widen, breasts and nipples will get larger… or their Adam’s apple and body hair will set in. That makes what could be manageable much worse… We’d normally call refusal to provide medication to preventing aggravation of known mental illness hugely immoral. Imagine the scandal if a prison warden refused to provide such psychiatric medication to the prisoners under their care “for their own good.”

And… isn’t advising that a young person seek therapy, with the unstated goal of “to change how you feel about your own gender” setting up a coercive therapy situation, similar to conversion therapy? If it isn’t directly, is it not opening the door for families who don’t want their son or daughter to be transgender to seek out therapists who promise to cure them… with the exact same problems I described about conversion therapy in the first paragraph up above?

If it’s wrong to use therapy to try to convert young people from being gay… how is it right to use therapy to try to convert young people from being transgender? And if it’s wrong to use therapy to try to convert young people from being transgender, why are we preventing them from seeking such medical treatment?

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