What follows is the introductory instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a four-part Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives.
Putting aside general concerns about gender ideology, there are medical worries that pertain specifically to males. In particular, there’s insufficient evidence to determine the efficacy or safety of hormonal treatments prescribed to many young men in the United States. A Swedish study has pointed out the alarmingly poor outcomes for many MtF post-operative transsexuals, suggesting that surgery is far from the mental-health panacea it is often portrayed to be. Another study shows that 19.9 percent of those taking MtF hormones stopped mid-course. Compare this to the equivalent figure for FtM (female to male) hormone treatments, which is 6.6 percent. In the same study, 23 of the 117 MtF transsexuals failed to participate in the one- to four-year follow-up, almost one-fifth of the cohort. This is a figure that might well raise eyebrows: Four years is not a long amount of time to stay in touch with a research team, particularly given the highly invasive nature of the associated surgical procedures.