Britain's National Health Service (NHS) has agreed to fund hormone injections for six gender-confused, pre-adolescent children. The purpose of the hormone injections is to postpone puberty, giving the children, 11 and 12 years old, time to decide if they want to undergo a sex operation.
Gender dysphoria is a rare condition that affects 1 in 4,000 Britons, according to the NHS website. It occurs when an individual is born of one sex but is convinced they are of the other sex, the organization explains. Symptoms usually occur early on in childhood, when the individual will play with toys and wear clothes traditionally used by the opposite sex.
Critics of sex change operations argue that gender dysphoria is a psychiatric problem, possibly brought on by environmental factors, and is only worsened by physical interference.
Supporters of sex change operations argue that gender confusion is a physical problem, known as "gender identity disorder." According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the cause of "gender identity disorder" is unknown. The orgnaization claims, however, that "hormones in the womb, genes, and environmental factors (such as parenting) may be involved."
The NHS-funded hormonal shots will contain hypothalamic blockers, which temporarily block the individual's sex hormones. Once the shots are stopped, puberty will begin. The injections will be administered monthly at a North London clinic as a trial run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.
According to British publication the Daily Mail, these hormonal shots will allow the children to cope with their gender confusion without the physical challenges that accompany adolescence, and make future sex change operations easier, should they choose to pursue the operation.
Critics of sex change operations argue that physical discourse is not the solution for anyone feeling confused about their gender identity. Rather, the issue, being a psychiatric one, must be addressed through therapy.
Charles Kane, who spent 100,000 British pounds ($158,000) on sex change operations to look like a woman then switched back to his male gender, told The Christian Institute that what he needed was counseling, not an operation.
"People who think they are a woman trapped in a male body are, in my opinion, completely deluded. I certainly was," Kane said, adding that he thinks the NHS should stop funding the hormone injections.
Great Britain has long debated over the appropriate age to administer hormonal injections for those with gender dysphoria. Although Great Britain has previously administered the shots to individuals as young as 16, this is the first time that pre-pubescent children will be given the shots.
Dr. Polly Carmichael, director of government-funded Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service, which prescribes the puberty blockers in Britain, told BBC News in 2009 that early intervention does pose questions about altering the course of nature, and that early intervention may result in infertility.
"There is also an issue around the impact of sex hormones on brain development," Carmichael told BBC. "If one stops pubertal hormones very early on in puberty, is one in some way altering the course of nature?"
The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, United States, Canada and Australia all offer hypothalamic injections at early stages of puberty.