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RFK Jr. pivots on gender-affirming care for minors, says treatment should be 'deferred till adulthood'

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears more amenable to restricting access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, writing in a social media post that treatments including puberty blockers and hormone therapy should be reserved for individuals over 18.

“The more I learn, the more troubled I have become about giving puberty blockers to youth. Minors cannot drive, vote, join the army, get a tattoo, smoke, or drink, because we know that children do not fully understand the consequences of decisions with life-long ramifications,” Kennedy wrote late Monday in a post on X.

The prefrontal cortex — part of the brain responsible for executive functions like decision-making — is not fully formed until an individual reaches their early to mid-20s, the independent presidential candidate added in a reference to the idea that changes in that part of the brain typically plateau around age 25. Some studies suggest the prefrontal cortex continues to mature through age 30, depending on the person.

“I don’t think children can genuinely consent to repurposed castration drugs (puberty blockers) and surgical mutilation, which have permanent, irreversible effects,” Kennedy wrote Monday. “People with gender dysphoria or who want to change their gender deserve compassion and respect, but these terribly consequential procedures should be deferred till adulthood. We must protect our children.”

Gender-affirming health care for transgender adults and minors is considered safe and medically necessary by every major medical organization, though not every trans person chooses to medically transition or has access to care.

Surgery for minors is rare and is generally not recommended under standards of care set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a nonprofit professional organization. In the rare cases minors do receive gender-affirming surgery, it is typically a double mastectomy, also known as top surgery. Genital surgery is never recommended to minors.

A long-time vaccine skeptic, Kennedy has frequently used his long-shot presidential bid to spread medical misinformation, including the conspiracy theory that certain chemicals in drinking water are causing children to identify as gay and transgender. He has also suggested that drugs known as poppers contributed to the AIDS epidemic.

Kennedy in December told the conservative political commentator Patrick Bet-David on his podcast that minors should not be able to access gender-affirming care “without permission,” presumably from their parents.

“I don’t know enough about it to say that it should be completely illegal,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know enough. I need to look at data before I make a decision.”

“My inclination is that it’s not good for anybody,” he said, though he added that “there may be some rare cases where it saves somebody’s life.”

Kennedy in media interviews has also said he believes parents should “have the final say” in whether their children can learn about gender identity in school. He has remained consistent in advocating against allowing transgender women and girls to compete on competitive sports teams.

A spokesperson for Kennedy’s campaign did not immediately respond to questions asking which new information may have influenced Kennedy to change his position on youth access to gender-affirming care or whether he now supports federal restrictions on care for minors.

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