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Transgender Interventions Pose Serious Medical Consequences for Minors, Says Surgeon

A person holds a “Trans” banner in this illustration photo. Deacon Patrick Lappert of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., a former Navy surgeon with experience in reconstructive surgeries, shared with OSV News his insights on transgender interventions for children. (OSV News photo)

By Gina Christian

(OSV News) — A former U.S. Navy surgeon with experience in reconstructive surgeries for combat-wounded troops, Deacon Patrick Lappert of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, recently shared with OSV News his insights on transgender interventions for children. Deacon Lappert, who speaks nationally on this topic, warns that gender reassignment poses grave risks to both body and soul.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

OSV News: What is the sequence of events for children who are permitted to undertake gender reassignment?

Deacon Lappert: Generally, what’s called the “affirmation treatment model” begins with social affirmation and continues on through medical and surgical affirmation.

There’s some variability as to when the young person will first enter into what’s called the “affirmation treatment model.” If you begin the process at age 5, then it will be social affirmation until the early signs of puberty, what we call Tanner Stage 2 (a method used by medical professionals to evaluate physical sexual development), at which point the child will be started on puberty blockade (drugs that inhibit the onset of puberty).

They will continue on that for about a year or two, and then start on cross-sex or opposite-sex hormones, which they’ll be on for the rest of their lives. As early as age 13, females might get surgery for removal of their breasts. A male might be age 16 before he gets breast implants. At age 16 and beyond, they might have genital surgery.

OSV News: What are the consequences of attempting to stop puberty?

Deacon Lappert: No one can actually claim to know, because what we’re doing now is a public experiment on children. The long-term effects of puberty blockade on healthy children are unknown.

There’s a whole lot of evidence from the use of those medications in children who have precocious puberty (early onset puberty, a recognized medical condition that can have significant physical and psychological effects), and the usage of those (hormone) medications in adults who are managing cancer. For precocious puberty, blockade normalizes the sex hormone levels in, for example, a 6-year-old girl who’s starting to menstruate, which is a bad thing for growth and development.

But in the gender-affirming model, you’re using puberty blockade essentially to shut down normal development, which is very pathological.

The idea of blocking puberty in self-identified transgender children was proposed as a way of getting better outcomes long term. Plastic surgeons were telling the world it was easier to feminize the face of a boy who hadn’t gotten too masculine, and it was easier to masculinize the body of a girl who hadn’t gotten too feminine. So they decided that puberty blockade would produce a better cosmetic outcome and a better result in life, because they looked the part.

They proposed all this without a shred of medical evidence that it’s even safe. The FDA has now realized that there is a significant risk of the child developing elevated intracranial pressure — pseudotumor cerebri — with associated loss of vision. There’s a new warning in the package insert for these puberty blockade drugs about the risk of pseudotumor cerebri and blindness.

OSV News: Is the medical community generally aware of these risks?

Deacon Lappert: No, because it doesn’t talk openly about these things. You have a small cadre of people who work in the transgender treatment industry and drive the political life of academia. Anyone speaking up against this model risks losing employment. They talk amongst themselves in a highly politicized language, not the language of medicine.

They speak about this treatment model as being evidence-based. But if you ask them to produce the evidence, it’s of the lowest quality.

The transgender treatment industry does not speak of alternative treatment models, even though one — the “watchful waiting model” — has been there for many, many years. That model is basically individualized cognitive behavioral therapy, where you seek to keep the child in contact with the biological realities that make them boys or girls, and (help kids see) those realities have to be respected, and that there’s something going on in their lives that’s causing them to manage their anxieties through cross-sex self-identification. And that’s the treatment model that gives us around 90% success.

The medical community has been very much rehearsed in this way of thinking, with medical students steeped in this for about the last eight to 10 years. And so the conversation has become decidedly one-sided and unscientific.

OSV News: Are these issues debated by medical professionals at the global level?

Lappert: Not in the American medical literature, but in the European literature, because in places like Great Britain, Sweden and Norway, they have centralized databases that follow patients lifelong. In 2011, a 30-year study (1973-2003) came out in Sweden, evaluating fully transitioned patients comparing them to a non-treated cohort. It showed that in the long term, fully transitioned persons are 19.1% times more likely to kill themselves than an age and sex- matched control group.

Sweden and Norway have stopped doing this to children. Great Britain has stopped doing this to children, because they have that longitudinal level three data now and they can look at that and have them say emphatically, no, this is wrong.

OSV News: What are the outcomes for those who want to reverse surgical transgender procedures?

Deacon Lappert: Genital surgery is irreversible. You can restore adult levels of hormones that the body was supposed to have, but beyond that, it’s irreversible. So in the case of a girl, you cannot reverse a mastectomy. All you can do is a reconstructive operation that produces breast mounds, but she’ll never be able to breastfeed or have erotic sensibility, because those nerves were cut. You can manage the hair with laser. You could do a tracheal shave to get rid of the Adam’s apple, but she’ll always have the deep voice.

OSV News: Why has there been such a surge in cases of gender confusion?

Deacon Lappert: We’re into the second generation now of young people who are growing up in a very anxious, very disconnected world, where they spend a lot of time on social media and they’re constantly being presented these images.

At the heart of this is the sexualization of children, beginning now at the preschool level. We’re causing children to think that their happiness lies in their sexed self, in what they call their gender identity. And to do that as a nation, to do that as a culture, is an absolute disaster.

Children from about the age of 3 until the onset of puberty are made for chastity, to learn chaste love and profound non-sexual friendship, one of the most essential goals in human development. And if you don’t learn it when you’re really young, you have to overcome (many obstacles) as an adult to learn those things.

OSV News: As a permanent deacon, how do you contextualize the transgender phenomenon?

Deacon Lappert: Transgenderism and the whole gender ideology business are inhuman, because they separate our souls from our bodies. They propose the essence of who we are has nothing to do with our body, contrary to revealed truth and to the revelation of Jesus Christ in his Incarnation. So this is not a small theological question. This is at the heart of our path to salvation. We have to protect our children from this great evil that’s been unleashed into their lives.

This attack on the Incarnation and on innocent children has now taken on biomedical technological dimensions, but it’s the same war, the same enemy. And it has the same remedy: Jesus Christ.