A recent New York Times column argued that barring children from undergoing gender transitions is misguided because it blocks children from embracing their freedom to take risks in life. 

The column, authored by Times opinion columnist Lydia Polgreen on Friday, also dismissed the concern that children may forever regret their decision to endure these procedures. She insisted that all people risk making decisions that they’ll regret in life.

The author likened a kid's decision to take puberty blockers or undergo a full sex change operation to the decision she made to quit the middle school swim team, pointing out that each of these are similarly big decisions that change the course of one’s life. 


A photo of NYT HQ next to photo of child at a protest

A recent New York Times column argued that barring kids from undergoing gender-altering medical care bars their "freedom." (UCG / Contributor, Marcos del Mazo / Contributor)

Additionally, Polgreen asserted that medical operations to alter gender are no different from other forms of plastic surgery that make one feel more comfortable with themselves.

The framing of the column – titled "There Is No Way to Live a Life Without Regret" – was laid out in a subheader, which stated, "The panic over transgender children is driven by the fear that they’ll regret transitioning. But freedom to make mistakes is core to being human."

Polgreen began the piece by talking about the decision to quit swimming. "Had I stuck with it, my life might have turned out pretty different. I might have been a popular jock rather than a lonely weirdo. I might have become a varsity athlete who won admission to a top college rather than a barely graduated teenager who had to take remedial math at a community college to scrape my way into a not-very-competitive school."

She continued, "We allow children to make irreversible decisions about their lives all the time, ideally with the guidance and support of the communities that care for them. Sometimes they regret those decisions. The stakes vary, but they are real. So what are we saying, really, when we worry that a child will regret this particular decision, the decision to transition?"

Driving the comparison home, Polgreen asked, "And how is it different, really, from the decision I made to quit competitive swimming?" 

However, she conceded, "To many people — I am guessing most — this question is absurd. How could you possibly compare something as fundamental and consequential to one’s life as gender to something that seems comparatively trivial, competitive sport?"

Polgreen’s next line of defense for child sex changes was the point that things society thinks are fixed, like "race, gender and ethnicity," are actually "malleable and mutable," suggesting there’s no reason to hold to the binary gender view. 

"For a binary identity that is supposedly so fixed and powerful, gender eludes and confounds us constantly," the columnist added.


Trans Day of Visibility march

Demonstrators display a "Protect Trans Rights" flag during a protest. (Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Later, the columnist insisted that society has imposed gender ideology on everyone else, oppressing kids who want choice in the matter. "We are already living under a gender ideology: It is called the gender binary, and transgender people are hardly the only ones suffering from its crushing weight," Polgreen said. 

Describing plastic surgeries, the author continued, "Indeed, many if not most of these often irreversible interventions on children’s bodies are designed, in one way or another, to help children feel better about their appearances in a way that is inescapably bound up with gender." Polgreen's point was that these sex change operations are not so different from these other surgeries, of which 230,000 "were performed on teenagers in 2020."

She concluded the piece by returning to the swimming comparison: "There are times in my life when I’ve wished I hadn’t given up competitive swimming. You can’t step into the same river twice, as the ancient fragment from Heraclitus tells us. Neither you nor the river is the same. I guess that’s how I feel about the champion swimmer I could have been." 

Multiple people who came across the column on social media ripped Polgreen's arguments. 

Wall Street Journal film critic Kyle Smith summed up what he thought the logic of the piece was pushing for, writing, "‘Here kid, try this cocaine, get a face tattoo and take the keys to my car. You have the freedom to make mistakes.’"

And Human Events columnist Adam Coleman mocked the piece, writing, "Being cautious is bigotry."