Many people have already reported on the story about the 14 year old transgender girl, Kim, who began hormone treatment at 12. I have pretty much stayed out of the fray until today. Today, I saw this story on ABC News (note how they say "he" when referring to Kim). It quoted Dr. Neera Ghaziuddin, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. Excuse me? Why? What possible relevance is her opinion? She herself admits that she is not familiar with the case. Perhaps ABC was just looking for someone with some sort of credentials to take the opposite side (of course they can always find the religious fundamentalists and fear-mongers to take that side). The good doctor says
"Frankly, I find this troubling news," says Dr. Neera Ghaziuddin, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. Ghaziuddin works with preteens and teens with psychological problems, and she says that although she is not intimately familiar with all the details of Kim's case, the fact that the treatment has started causes her concern.
"Most 12-year-olds are still struggling with many aspects of their identity, so a permanent or a semi-permanent procedure to change gender would be undesirable, in my opinion," Ghaziuddin says.
How do you decide when young is "too young"? I enjoyed reading Heart's post Convergences: the Rights of Children, Disabled People, and the "Other Than Normal" where she said (talking primarily about the story of Ashley's treatment, but also discussing immunizations and other medical interventions, including well baby care):
I don’t think it’s ever right, not ever, to perform these surgeries or to use these “treatments” on babies, children or teenagers. Not ever, not for any reason at all.
And, later, she says:
Sensitive, caring parents know when their kids need help. They know this by the way their child behaves — significantly differently than the way she usually behaves — or by fevers, crying, sadness, depression, dramatic changes in behavior or sleep patterns.
So, I'm not sure how she would come out in this case. The evidence -- at least as it's reported in the newspapers -- seems to suggest that this child herself made the "diagnosis" (why do we have to use such a word that connotes we are somehow sick?) and stuck with it for over 12 years. When a child consistently reports that she's a girl and threatens to take a pair of scissors and "cut off [her] thing" isn't that something that sensitive, caring parents would pay attention to? Of course, it is.
No one is advocating surgery here -- not the young girl, not her parents, not her "care-givers". But what is wrong with stopping her male puberty before it permanently alters her body in a way that would be profoundly disturbing to her? It seems to me that, in her case, this would be forcing a "sex change" upon her.
I'm really interested in other people's thoughts on this. Is she too young?