Puberty Suppression for Pediatric Gender Dysphoria and the Child's Right to an Open Future

Arch Sex Behav. 2024 May;53(5):1941-1956. doi: 10.1007/s10508-024-02850-4. Epub 2024 Apr 2.


In this essay, we consider the clinical and ethical implications of puberty blockers for pediatric gender dysphoria through the lens of "the child's right to an open future," which refers to rights that children do not have the capacity to exercise as minors, but that must be protected, so they can exercise them in the future as autonomous adults. We contrast the open future principle with the beliefs underpinning the gender affirming care model and discuss implications for consent. We evaluate claims that puberty blockers are reversible, discuss the scientific uncertainty about long-term benefits and harms, summarize international developments, and examine how suicide has been used to frame puberty suppression as a medically necessary, lifesaving treatment. In discussing these issues, we include relevant empirical evidence and raise questions for clinicians and researchers. We conclude that treatment pathways that delay decisions about medical transition until the child has had the chance to grow and mature into an autonomous adulthood would be most consistent with the open future principle.

Keywords: Ethics; Gender dysphoria; Gender incongruence; Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogues; Pediatrics; Puberty blockers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gender Dysphoria* / psychology
  • Gender Dysphoria* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Puberty Suppression
  • Puberty* / psychology