Texas gender clinic that prescribed puberty blockers to kids closes down amid protests

Demonstrators protest for transgender rights with a rally, march through the Loop and a candlelight vigil to remember transgender friends lost to murder and suicide on March 3, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. | Getty Images/Scott Olson

A Dallas clinic that garnered controversy for providing puberty blockers to children with gender dysphoria has closed down after protests.

Jointly administered by the Children’s Medical Center Dallas and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the GENder Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support program (GENECIS) was formally dissolved earlier this month, The Texas Tribune reported. 

Clinic officials didn’t specify a reason for the dissolution but explained in a statement that other entities will serve their current patients moving forward. 

“Pediatric endocrinology, psychiatry and adolescent and young adult care coordinated through this program are now managed and coordinated through each specialty department,” stated clinic officials, as quoted by The Texas Tribune.

“We do not anticipate any interruption of care or services for our existing patients who already receive care with these specialty teams.”

Hospital officials further stated that while the institution will “accept new patients for diagnosis, including evaluation of gender dysphoria,” they “will not initiate patients on hormone or puberty suppression therapy for only this diagnosis.”

Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, welcomed news of the program’s closure. 

“First, puberty is not some random event that happens in normal human development in young children that can be blocked without consequence,” stated Lahl.

“Second, there is plenty that the medical profession can offer children with gender dysphoria, or Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria that deals with the heart of the problem without permanently damaging their bodies. Let’s hope many more clinics in the U.S. are shuttered.”

The GENECIS program was launched in May 2015 and claimed to be the only clinic of its kind in the southwest United States.

The program’s medical director, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Ximena Lopez, told The Dallas Morning News in a 2015 interview that she believed the clinic would give trans-identified children “an opportunity to have a normal life.”

“The new generation of transgender people we’ll see are completely different,” said Lopez at the time. “They’ll look normal, like you and me, and they’ll be happy.”

The clinic faced criticism for its use of puberty-blockers, controversial experimental drugs critics believe could have an irreversible impact on adolescent bodies if used for a long enough time. 

Supporters of such treatments have contended that the effects of the drugs are reversible. However, health regulators have said that little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of puberty-blocking medicines for gender dysphoria “might” include reducing depression and anxiety among youths and preventing the need for a future gender-reassignment surgery.

While the clinic notes that puberty blockers are technically not permanent in their effect on the body, taking them is still a “big step” that can have a long-term impact on bodily growth, bone density and fertility.

“In addition, delaying puberty beyond one’s peers can be stressful,” added the clinic. “Your child might experience lower self-esteem.”

Protests against the GENECIS have been organized by Save Texas Kids. In various demonstrations over the past several weeks, activists criticized the Dallas Children’s board members for allowing the GENECIS to prescribe puberty blockers. Save Texas Kids argues that prescribing puberty blockers for children suffering from gender dysphoria is "medical child abuse."

Puberty blockers have been approved to treat children who begin puberty at an abnormally young age but have not been expressly approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat gender dysphoria. 

Supporters of prescribing puberty blockers to children with gender dysphoria say they are necessary to delay puberty so that children can have more time before they have to make decisions about whether begin cross-sex hormones. 

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