Identity in Development: Dysphoria in Minors

by J2r0c on February 9, 2017 - 12:36pm

We live in a day and age where identity plays an incredibly vital role in our conception of the self. With the ever-rapid expansion of the digital world, we are pressed to consider the nature of our identities in a time where mediums like the Internet allow us to exist through identity alone. This evolution in our view of the self has led to dilemmas such as the ethical use of hormone blocking, in which prepubescent minors are given chemical treatment to prevent the onset of puberty, raising many questions about the moral implications of transgender treatment on children. Is it moral to allow a child to make a decision related to their mental and physical health before reaching full maturity? Is it wrong to keep the treatment that may drastically improve the life of a young transgender person out of reach based on the idea that they are too young to know what they really are? Should parents be granted the authority to make these decisions for their child? It is my opinion that hormone treatments are ethically irresponsible, and that they can result in a far greater moral conundrum if used improperly than the benefit they can have for non-binary and trans children.

If we consider our approach from an ethical perspective, we are faced with choosing which framework to operate under.  One of the most simultaneously irritating, yet liberating issues that arises when deciding on an ethical methodology to tackle this comes from the fact that there isn’t a single set-in-stone way to do so. If we approach the issue from the perspective of someone using virtue ethics, our analysis will be based on the integrity of the person in question’s character and the virtuous qualities of the course of action we choose. Unfortunately, knowing how virtuous your doctor is does little to help us reach a conclusion about how capably he practices medicine. From a utilitarian perspective, we can assert that the best course of action lies with whatever will provide the greatest happiness for the patient in question, which on the surface is all well and good, but ultimately leads us right back to where we started with even more questions than answers. How can we be certain what will make the patient happy? What if they regret their decision later in life, and are made unhappy and regretful? Due to this, utilitarianism has little insight to offer when extrapolating a conclusion to this dilemma. Finally, if we apply the ethical rationalist perspective, we may start getting somewhere.

Deontology asserts that the greatest way to keep everyone moral and good is the application of strict maxims, and looking at our maxims for society already, we may have a clear answer to this issue right under our noses. Typically, societies’ rules for minors are clear; You cannot drink, vote, drive, or make any other kind of life-changing or personal decision without your parent or guardian’s consent. So why should this be any different? If a child is incapable of thinking for themselves according to the maxims of society, then the simplest conclusion that can be made is that children are simply not capable of determining their best interests, whether or not their identity is at stake.


Love your analysis! I agree that children should not be allowed to make such drastic and important decisions at a young age. They are at such a critical growth stage in their lives that they can be so easily influenced by outside sources, and this can cause more harm than good.

One potential criticism I have of your analysis is that sometimes the child can be placed in situations where they are forced to make their own decisions based on what their parent or guardian believes. If you were to approach your analysis with the concept of masculinity as a factor, you would see that just because a child feels a certain way about themselves does not mean that the parents do. The concept of the “man-box” is that it is a series of characteristics and values that a boy needs to possess in order to be a “real man”. Almost all, if not every, boy will hear the expression “be a man” at some point in his life. Unfortunately, the man-box is generally enforced by method of bullying. The bullying can be present in many aspects of a boy’s life, including his home life.

A father who was raised to believe in the concept of the “man-box” will undoubtedly wish that his own son will follow the same set of beliefs. If a child were to inform his father that he felt more comfortable going against these “rules”, the father would most likely feel as though his son has simply made a mistake and he will try to bully him into confining to them.

If you’re interested in reading up on this subject more, I have attached a link to some information about the man-box that can get you started: