The Rise in Young People Identifying as L.G.B.T.Q.

To the Editor:

Re “How to Make Sense of the New L.G.B.T.Q. Culture War,” by Ross Douthat (column, Sunday Review, April 17):

I’m sure there are instances of kids for whom their trans status may be a phase or motivated by external forces. But there are many well-documented instances where from an early age the kid knows they’ve been misgendered. I am awed by the bravery of their parents, especially those from very conservative backgrounds, who have sacrificed so much out of the love only parents can have to help save their kids, as, notably, the conservative governor of Utah eloquently recognized in denouncing an anti-transgender bill.

We must not allow these most vulnerable among us to become collateral damage to anyone’s “culture wars” — from the left or the right. Accepting being trans for these kids and their families is never a default, go-to position. It is traumatic and really hard and they wish it on no one.

These kids and their fiercely protective parents want no part of these culture wars. They only want to survive and to hope for a future. Helping ensure this is about limiting government interference and respecting the family.

Michael Klein
Darien, Conn.

To the Editor:

I do not usually agree with Ross Douthat, but I applaud his recent measured article on the L.G.B.T.Q. culture war. As a feminist, a progressive and a longtime Democrat, I despair about the recent trends in the transgender rights movement, primarily for two reasons.

First, young children should not be encouraged by “gender affirming” medical professionals to make decisions that will affect their whole lives, sometimes involving medical treatments like puberty blockers that may cause irreversible physical damage. These children can make a decision to change their gender and engage in medical treatments to do so when they are adults.

Second, the progressive transgender rights movement, by insisting on “gender affirming” care for children, is handing the right-wing G.O.P. a new culture war megaphone on a silver platter. Authoritarians have often come to power by accusing more liberal citizens of harming children. Look at the made-up stuff in the 2016 election accusing Democrats of sexual abuse of children at a pizza parlor in D.C.

There was no truth to that but, in this case, there may be truth to the harm caused by giving children hormones and puberty blockers before they are old enough to properly make those lifelong decisions.

Joanne Parrent
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

I am a doctor and a transgender woman, so I have both lived experience as well as lived expertise in the area that Ross Douthat writes about. I’d like to counter some of the arguments he used to bolster his case.

First, the use of puberty blockers is about suspending the further development of sexual characteristics. The use of puberty blockers is completely reversible. Puberty blockers have been used for decades for children with precocious puberty, and to my knowledge they have no effect on gender identification.

Data coming out from well-run gender clinics show that early support for gender identification and early treatment can ameliorate and largely normalize the mental health of adolescents with gender dysphoria.

You imply in your article that kids could end up having surgery without their parents’ knowledge and consent. This is fear-mongering. An article that starts by trying to be reasonable ends up peddling hysteria.

Clara Tuck Meng Soo
Ainslie, Australia

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat predicts that “we have been running an experiment on trans-identifying youth” that will be regarded in the future “as a grave medical-political scandal.” Here’s my prediction: Trans-identifying youth who are listened to and supported now will be much more likely to be healthy, happy adults, and the opportunities they had to transition in young adulthood will be viewed as a medical-political success.

The people most likely to regret their silence will be those parents whose trans-identifying children died by suicide because no one advocated for them.

Sally K. Chrisman
Princeton, N.J.

To the Editor:

As a gay man in my late 30s who is actively involved in the San Francisco L.G.B.T.Q. community, I consider myself solidly in the second camp from Ross Douthat’s list (it’s just kids experimenting so don’t freak out) and even sympathize with the third (“this trend is bad news”).

However, a more effective and far more humane solution than attempting to sweep the issue under the rug is simply to provide age-appropriate education on both what being L.G.B.T.Q. is and — more important — what it is not.

Adolescents and young adults should understand that the identities of L.G.B.T.Q. individuals are formed not from fleeting fantasies or occasional doubts but rather from a deep-seated knowledge, often dating back to early childhood, that they’ve always been “this way.”

Clearing up young people’s misconceptions about the L.G.B.T.Q. community is the way to bring down the shockingly high statistic of 21 percent of those in Generation Z identifying as L.G.B.T.Q. that Mr. Douthat cites to a figure more in line with reality.

Josh Glatt
Berkeley, Calif.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat purports to highlight a range of personal and political perspectives on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, particularly with regard to health care for people who identify as transgender. What Mr. Douthat fails to focus on, however, are the perspectives of transgender people themselves and the medical professionals who support their well-being.

We take issue with Mr. Douthat’s characterization of transgender medicine as “running an experiment on trans-identifying youth without good or certain evidence, inspired by ideological motives rather than scientific rigor.” What inspires us is not ideology, but strong data that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of trans-affirmative health care.

For instance, a recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (“Mental Health Outcomes in Transgender and Nonbinary Youths Receiving Gender-Affirming Care”) found that “receipt of gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones, was associated with 60% lower odds of moderate or severe depression and 73% lower odds of suicidality over a 12-month follow-up.” The effects of these treatments are largely reversible; suicide is not.

Further, as noted in a statement by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Many reputable professional organizations … recognize natural variations in gender identity and expression and have published clinical guidance that promotes nondiscriminatory, supportive interventions for gender diverse youth based on the current evidence base.”

Shervin Shadianloo
Leonid Poretsky
New York
Dr. Shadianloo is a psychiatrist at the Gerald J. Friedman Transgender Health & Wellness Program at Lenox Hill Hospital, which Dr. Poretsky founded. Dr. Poretsky is chief of endocrinology at Lenox Hill.

To the Editor:

In an otherwise informative and thought-provoking column, I question how Ross Douthat uses statistics on the different rates in which members of certain generations (boomers, Gen X, Gen Z) self-identify as L.G.B.T.Q.

There’s no reason to believe that such self-reporting of gender identification is reliable. In particular, while there is wider acceptance of the L.G.B.T.Q. community today, individuals from the boomer generation, for example, might have found it difficult to admit to such self-identification given the prevailing cultural values that were part of that generation’s upbringing and experience.

It is not at all unlikely that actual self-identity may not have changed that much over the years, but only the comfort in reporting such to a pollster.

Ronald Boggio
Reston, Va.
The writer is a retired clinical psychologist.

To the Editor:

It’s really quite simple. The conservatives, as Ross Douthat defines them, are now and seem always to have been absolutely obsessed with what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. First it was the 19th-century assault on contraception, even for married couples. Then it was all about abortion. And now they are going after homosexual practices.

Before worrying too much about adolescent self-identification, we should worry about this truly creepy preoccupation with other people’s sex lives.

Barbara Robey
New York

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