A small group of doctors around the world have introduced a controversial approach to the treatment of preteens and teenagers who believe they are the opposite sex. Right before puberty begins, they prescribe children hormone-blocking medication. This allows the child to continue growing without developing physical characteristics such as breasts, facial hair or Adam’s apples. Later, the child can elect to resume their natural puberty development or can begin a gender transition by taking the sex hormones of the opposite sex.
Researchers in the Netherlands pioneered this treatment. Its prevalence in the United States is unclear, because most physicians using this approach keep it secretive. NPR talked with two doctors about the treatment’s benefits and risks: one who practices it in the United States and another from the United Kingdom, where the treatment is not practiced by the National Health Service.
According to a study quoted in the article, 80% of the children who did not take part in the puberty-delaying program did not pursue sexual reassignment surgery as adults.