In the first policy of its kind in Canada, Alberta will be limiting medical transitioning for minors.
Until now, there has been no legislation, regulation, or official policy about when minors can access puberty blockers, cross sex hormones, or transition-related surgery. Many countries around the world (such as Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and France) as well as 22 American states have already limited medical transitioning for minors. Canadian provinces held doggedly to the deeply flawed World Professional Association on Transgender Health (WPATH)’s standards of care, which list no age restriction for medical transitioning.
That changed when Alberta Premier Danielle Smith made a suite of announcements relating to transgender policy.
The most important policy change is that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones will be banned for those aged 15 and under. For youth aged 16 or 17, parental, physician, and psychologist approval will be required to begin a medical transition.
There is no comprehensive data available on the number of minors receiving puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones across Canada. But considering that most puberty blockers are prescribed near the onset of puberty, this policy will likely prevent many children from starting on the medical transition conveyor belt at an early age and going on to receive cross-sex hormones and surgery.
This is good for children. There is little evidence on the long-term safety of puberty blockers, and there are many documented risk factors associated with cross-sex hormones, including blood clots, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, brain tumors, and osteoporosis.
Top surgeries (mastectomies) and bottom surgeries (phalloplasties, vaginoplasties, and metoidioplasties) will be banned for minors aged 17 and under in Alberta. According to information released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), while there are very few bottom surgeries performed on minors in Canada, there are dozens of minors having mastectomies every year.
The message from the Alberta premier is clear: children do not have the capacity to make these profound decisions about their bodies.
Regardless of how many damaging prescriptions or procedures these new rules prevent, the message from the Alberta premier is clear: children do not have the capacity to make these profound decisions about their bodies. The Alberta health system will no longer be party to these procedures for minors aged 15 years and below.
Premier Smith applied the same logic to school settings. Following the lead of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Alberta will require parental notification and consent if a child aged 15 or under wishes to change their name or pronouns at school. For minors aged 16 or 17, parental notification for name or pronoun changes will still be required. Seventy-eight percent of Canadians and 88% of Albertans favour this policy change, as measured in an Angus Reid poll last July.
Alberta will also require teachers to notify parents before giving formal instruction on gender, sexual orientation or human sexuality in the classroom. Parents must actively opt into their children receiving such instruction. This is a significant change from the previous policy, where teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI 123) was adopted by school districts across the province and embedded throughout the curriculum.
Finally, the Alberta government committed to work with sporting organizations to ensure that biological women and girls have the choice to compete in athletic competitions in a women-only division without any trans-identifying males. This policy recognizes that men and women, boys and girls have fundamentally different bodies with different performance capabilities.
These developments – particularly the age restrictions for medical transitioning – are enormous.
These developments – particularly the age restrictions for medical transitioning – are enormous. Countries and states around the world that have taken time to review the evidence in favour of medical transitioning have found it lacking and, in the interest of protecting the health of children, have limited medical transitioning for minors. It is not only appropriate but morally responsible of Alberta to limit these procedures. We call on other Canadian provinces to follow Alberta’s lead and end medical transitioning for minors.
Childhood is a precious time that should be protected. We need to let kids be – let them grow and develop naturally. Children who suffer from gender dysphoria have an identity struggle. But there is nothing medically wrong with their bodies, and it is entirely inappropriate to medically or surgically alter children’s bodies to solve an identity crisis. In fact, over 80% of cases of pre-pubescent gender dysphoria go away after puberty. Medical transitioning not only is unnecessary, but harmful. Instead, we simply need to let kids be.