In recent current events, there have been several bills in the United States and in Canada that propose that the government should be able to remove children with gender dysphoria from households where the parents refuse to allow the child to have hormone therapy.

Several Questions:

Are there any philosophers who have written about how much autonomy should be given to children?

Is it ethical for a parent to allow a child to have this treatment before they are 18 given its irreversible nature?

Is it ethical for the government to disallow parents from choosing whether to proceed with this treatment?

  • This is way too technical for an ethical question, Law SE would be a more appropriate platform for it. Ethics determines specific age limits no more than semantics determines how many grains make a heap. This is subject to incidental pragmatic considerations that involve social customs, cultural tradition, deterrence, enforcement, etc. Alternatively, rephrase the boldface part to ask about ethical and pragmatic pro and contra of various approaches to handling gender dysphoria.
    – Conifold
    May 12, 2018 at 5:10
  • @Conifold I doubt that this could be answered on Law SE, or I can predict the answer. The question of legal precedent is contingent on how we define this situation ethically. May 12, 2018 at 6:08
  • At least the legal precedents would give specific options under which the case could be subsumed. If you described those options (or asked for them on Law SE) it would become a much more substantive question than the nebulous "Is it ethical?" (according to whom or what?), which has the same problems as "60°F, is it cold?"
    – Conifold
    May 12, 2018 at 6:41
  • 1
    I don't think I agree with that equation. There are many ways in which you could assess the ethics of this situation. I'm not really concerned with the legal semantics of it. May 12, 2018 at 6:44
  • Yes, there are, and you need to narrow them down by editing your question, there are already three votes to close it.
    – Conifold
    May 12, 2018 at 6:48

1 Answer 1


I do not perceive that the evidential, etiological, and theoretical bases for diagnoses of gender dysphoria have risen above adolescent insecurity and "growing pains" such that these treatments are reliably improvements over the alternative.

The ethical basis of "not doing harm" seems to me to lean away from treating minors in this way, either by government or by parents.

Here's a recent summary of the state of the theory:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/05/what-gender-anyway "There is no scientific consensus on what gender is."

  • Could you clarify your stance? I am having trouble understanding your point May 12, 2018 at 5:49
  • My strongest thought is this: "until science knows what gender is, science does not know how to fix gender." Thus the authority of the state, entrusted in "science", is certainly not available for these kinds of therapies against the parents' will. May 12, 2018 at 5:52
  • I am not personally convinced that the treatments are known to be improvements over the alternatives, and so I think parents who allow the treatment may be unwisely misunderstanding the scientific basis to be stronger than it truly is. May 12, 2018 at 5:56
  • What are the alternatives? May 12, 2018 at 5:57
  • 1
    What I see is a diagnosis without a strong scientific theoretical basis. In my thinking, a cure is hard to accomplish without a correct diagnosis. May 12, 2018 at 20:00

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