Several days ago I had an article appear in my newsfeed via The Transgender Project. The article had been posted to gather opinions; mine was overwhelmingly negative. I took journalism in college and shoddy research irritates the crap out of me.
I was taught that you research an article then write your opinion based on your research; Barbara Kay does the exact opposite in this article. She came in with a strong opinion then squashed her research to suit it, ignoring everything that didn’t fit. One of her first opinions is this…
“The transgender movement is supported by mainstream feminists. But some more radical feminists argue that transgenderism is not always immutable. And they are correct, as many apparently transgender children accept their biological identity at puberty, and many adults express regret over their surgeries.”
Many? Many??? What exactly does many entail? One? Ten? One hundred? Five thousand? I don’t know and she doesn’t say. But I do know how to Google and what I found was this, via the website HowStuffWorks:
The International Journal of Transgenderism cites a 1992 study that found postoperative regret was less than one percent in female to male transitions and between 1 to 1.5 percent in male to female transitions.
Many is still too high but a lot less than I expected.
Then she goes on to quote an opinion piece by a Wall Street Journal writer named Paul McHugh who wrote, “when children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70% – 80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25% did have persisting feelings; what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned.”
My problem was that I could not find this study. Google coughed up several articles quoting the study (studies) along with those statistics but not the study itself. I did, however, find an article on the CBC website where they interviewed Dr. Norman Spack the director of the gender identity medical clinic at Children’s Hospital Boston, who published a report on his findings.
The report details 97 girls and boys treated between 1998 and 2010… Only 1 of the 97 opted out of permanent treatment.
Now I’m going to give some completely anecdotal information. I’ve read several stories where a children insisted they were one gender during childhood only to reverse in their teen years. All the stories have one common thread; the children, once fully grown, did not regret their parents listening to them. They did not regret being raised as the opposite gender during childhood. Instead, they grew up feeling supported and respected. They felt they had a voice. So whether the statistics for teens reverting back to their biological gender is close to 1% or as high as 80%, what difference does it make? No one is doing anything permanent to eight year olds. This isn’t as a problem.
Kay goes on to report via McHugh again:
According to a 30 – year old longitudinal study at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, cited by McHugh, mental problems increasingly began to emerge 10 years after sex-reassignment surgery. Of the 324 surgical patients studied, the suicide rate was 20 times the non-transgender population. McHugh hypothesizes the explanation may be the increasing sense of isolation felt by aging transgendered people.
McHugh worries that sex-ed courses contribute to the misleading notion that drastic physical change will bring happiness. He therefore comes down firmly against (potentially growth-stunting and sterilizing) hormones and firmly for family therapy. True sex change, he says, is simply not possible; you end up as a “feminized man” or a “masculinized woman.”
One huge issue is that Kay did not look up the study herself, instead she depended on McHugh’s research and his hypothesis. The study was dead easy to find too, it took me less than half a minute to call it up.
The researchers claim:
Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.
Inpatient care for psychiatric disorders was significantly more common among sex-reassigned persons than among matched controls, both before and after sex reassignment. It is generally accepted that transsexuals have more psychiatric ill-health than the general population prior to the sex reassignment.
I did not see anything in the report that said psychiatric issues began to emerge a decade after sex reassignment surgery. The authors were very clear that these were long standing issues (they mentioned depression specifically) that had been present before the study began and that therapy and other help should be continued after surgery.
They flatly state:
It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexuals persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment.
They also say multiple times that all of their research, from crime rates to mortality, improve after 1989, due to “altered societal attitudes towards persons with different gender expressions”. And they point out that increased mortality rates could be due to the possibility “that transsexual persons avoid the health care system due to a presumed risk of being discriminated.”
Pretty much the only parts McHugh got right were the number of people studied and the length of the study. Even the suicide risk was iffy considering he missed their caveat stating other studies had not shown the same risk.
I have no idea what he’s talking about when he claims sex-ed classes are teaching youths that drastic physical changes will bring happiness. And I’m not touching his last statement even with a 10 foot pole, mostly because I’d be likely to take the pole and smack him with it and I have a feeling that’s illegal.