There is no pause button

Lucy Bannerman at the Times:

Jacob has just turned 16 and for the past four years the teenager’s body has been put on pause. He has been on hormone blockers to stop puberty while he decides how far he is willing to go to become a transgender man.

He claims that taking blockers was “the worst decision I’ve ever made”.

Jacob was born a girl but felt unhappy with his gender. “I always felt so weak and pathetic and inferior to the men.” He started using the male pronoun and imagined himself growing up and “dating a woman”.

It’s not as if that feeling is entirely unknown to girls in general. There are different degrees of it, but few girls get to escape it entirely. Girls learn early that boys hit harder.

So Jacob went to the Tavistock clinic and was referred for blockers.

“It was sold to me as a miracle cure for being trans,” he claimed. He told another trans school friend about them, who started requesting blockers too.

Hormone blockers are only licensed in Britain to delay the onset of puberty for children suffering “precocious puberty” — that is, those who start developing abnormally early before the age of eight or nine.

However, their use is promoted by the transgender campaign group Mermaids as a way of giving young people “a pause button” while deciding whether to graduate to the irreversible, cross-sex hormones that will trigger the life-changing, fertility-reducing jump from one gender to another, once they reach 16.

But there is no “pause button” in life.

“They promise you that your breasts will disappear, that your voice will be deeper, that I would look and sound more like a boy. For me, that was the best thing that could have happened,” he said.

Only, Jacob found that wasn’t what happened at all. Far from becoming one of the lads, as he’d hoped, he felt even more alienated from them as their physiques changed and Jacob’s remained the same.

“At school, other people were maturing into adults. The guys I grew up with were growing hair and growing up. For someone who’s trying to fit in as a boy, that’s not what you want.”

That’s the missing pause button, see. You can’t make everyone else “pause” along with you, and the result is they leave you behind. He had been a tall kid but he became a very short teenager. His younger brother passed him and Jacob could no longer stand to be in the same room with him.

“My little brother is 18 months younger and now he has completely outgrown me. I go to school and I feel like other people are developing and I still feel like a child,” he said.

Jacob also claims he was not warned about the side-effects of the drugs.

These have included insomnia, exhaustion, fatigue, low moods, rapid weight gain which caused his skin to become covered with angry, itchy stretch marks, and a reduction in bone density. “I’d never broken a bone before [taking puberty blockers],” he says. “I’ve since broken four bones.

“I stubbed my toe, it broke. I fell over, my wrist broke. Same with my elbow.”

As he took the blockers, Jacob’s mother watched her child become even more introverted and body-conscious. “The blockers contributed more to the self-image problems that were already there,” she said.

Jacob is now staggered by the lack of discussion before he was merrily given blockers.

Mermaids, the transgender lobby group, claims that puberty blockers are safe and “completely reversible” and that not giving them to youngsters who request the can be more damaging than prescribing them.

Gendered Intelligence, another trans campaign group, claims on its website that hormone blockers give children “breathing space to ensure that they are sure about the permanent effects of cross-sex hormones, without the adverse effects of an incorrect puberty.”

Jacob is scathing about such claims. “Breathing space! It really isn’t. I’ve not had any space to breathe the last four years.

“They sell it to you as a break from feeling like a girl, and that’s fine for the first few months but as soon as everyone else around you starts developing it becomes ‘spot the transgender kid’, which is so easy because you’re stuck as a child.”

Aging out of childhood is hard. There are at least parts of it that everyone misses. It doesn’t follow that the solution is to get stuck in it by taking insufficiently tested drugs.

A spokesman for Tavistock said: “All young people considering the puberty blocker or cross-sex hormones are repeatedly made aware of the known potential impacts of these medical interventions. . .as well as the areas of impact that remain to some extent unknown.

“The information that we give patients about the blockers makes it clear that they may get tired and experience low mood.

We explain to young people that hormones give us energy and drive, not just our sex drive but our overall ‘get up and go’.

“We also emphasised to them routinely that while on the blocker they would stay early puberty whilst their peers developed. This is a routine part of the discussion.

“In the end the decision to go on blockers is a balancing act weighing up these factors against the perceived distress of undergoing puberty in the ‘wrong’ gender and developing unwanted and potential hard to change secondary sexual characteristics.”

But what if there is no such thing as “the ‘wrong’ gender”? What if that is a social fad invented by “activists” and promoted by more and more and more activists? What if there is only the body, and whichever sex that body is, and how that body decides to live in the world? What if the Tavistock is promoting and amplifying that “perceived distress of undergoing puberty in the ‘wrong’ gender” and doing massive harm in the process?

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