Debunking hypothetical arguments about youth transition (Gender Analysis)

Previously: Transgender youth fact check

There’s a particular genre of opinion piece that erroneously portrays the early treatment of children and adolescents with gender dysphoria as being subject to overdiagnosis, as forcing potentially-cisgender children to “become” inevitably transgender, or as serving as some kind of “reparative therapy” targeting gender-nonconforming gays and lesbians. These articles have been penned by feminist commentators like Julie Bindel and Sarah Ditum, and even other popular figures like actor Rupert Everett. A column by Bindel in the Daily Mail earlier this year is a representative example:

When I was growing up as a girl in the Seventies, I wanted to be a boy. It wasn’t simply that I knew I was sexually attracted to women – much more importantly, I looked around and saw boys had more power, more freedom, more fun. Of course I wanted to be a boy.

If I were a teenager today, well-meaning liberal teachers and social workers would probably tell me that I was trapped in the wrong body. They might refer me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe fistfuls of hormones and other drugs. And terrifyingly, I might easily be recommended for gender re-assignment surgery… just because I didn’t like the pink straitjacket imposed on girls.

… What is on offer is not support for a young lesbian, but the promise of a medical conversion. Any idea this is liberal, progressive behaviour is completely wrong. It pushes us back to the dark ages, to a time when lesbianism wasn’t even recognised.

And in the New Statesman, Sarah Ditum argued:

There’s a risk that increased medicalisation could be imposing permanent physical changes on children who, left to their own devices, would discover they are quite happy living with their natal sex – about 80 per cent of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria desist before adulthood, but the normalisation of medical transition could commit many to irrevocable treatments they would otherwise avoid.

Rupert Everett further hypothesized:

Everett, currently starring in the BBC1 show The Musketeers, told the Sunday Times magazine: “I really wanted to be a girl. Thank God the world of now wasn’t then, because I’d be on hormones and I’d be a woman. After I was 15 I never wanted to be a woman again.”

He believes parents who “get medical” are scary, saying: “It’s nice to be allowed to express yourself, but the hormone thing, very young, is a big step. I think a lot of children have an ambivalence when they’re very young to what sex they are or what they feel about everyone. And there should be a way of embracing it.”

These claims are sensationalized misrepresentations with no basis in fact. The current protocols for the use of puberty blockers in gender-questioning youth recognize all of these potential concerns and account for them effectively, exercising an abundance of caution in order to rule out the possibility of misdiagnosis. Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Health care, Outcomes of transition, Psychology and psychiatry, Regret and detransition, Trans youth, Transgender medicine | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feminist analysis: Nothing is ugly, nothing is pretty

Like many of you, I’m very disappointed to be spending the next four years living under our new misogynist-in-chief. This is a national travesty – a living, breathing YouTube comment of a man, occupying the White House. Donald Trump is a disgrace and his election indicts our whole society. The man is a frat boy of the worst kind, a juvenile bully who treats women like objects. Can you imagine Barack Obama conducting himself in this way – constantly, brazenly disrespecting the women around him, rating women’s looks from 1 to 10 like it’s the most natural thing in the world to him, bragging to Howard Stern about walking in on beauty contestants in dressing rooms?

This is possibly the last thing I wanted to spend my time dealing with – it feels like a bad joke. But given the unfortunate fact that we’re going to be living under this nightmare man and his schoolyard nonsense for several years, I think we could all benefit from an understanding of one of the primary ways in which Donald Trump is completely full of shit. Continue reading

Posted in Feminism, Personal, Politics and law, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Paul McHugh and the Johns Hopkins gender clinic: The perils of cherry-picking (More Trans, module 2-1)

More Trans is an ongoing Gender Analysis project to apply the philosophical insights of Less Wrong to transgender topics.

Previously: Paul McHugh is wrong: transitioning is effective

How many times have you heard some variation of this statement?

‘Sex reassignment doesn’t improve the lives of transgender people. At Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1970s, chief psychiatrist Paul McHugh studied the outcomes of trans people after they transitioned. McHugh, a leader in the field of psychiatry, decided to close the gender clinic after studies found that transitioning didn’t help their patients become any healthier or more functional.’

moretrans-logoAs a trans person, I’ve heard this thousands of times. It’s a remarkably enduring claim that’s very frequently repeated by transphobes, who appear to believe that this conclusively refutes any justification for medical transition. The story has a number of features that have helped it persist for decades: perceived authority of recognizable institutions, specific details such as names and years, an assertion that this is based on scientific evidence, and some actual connection to the truth no matter how thin or tenuous. All of these aspects combine to make this claim appear to be legitimate, and many people find it very persuasive. Continue reading

Posted in History, Hoaxes, Media, More Trans, Outcomes of transition, Philosophy and language, Transgender medicine, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transgender youth fact check: Blaire White is wrong – Part 2: Outcomes

(Explaining why something is wrong can take a very long time! Please be sure to read Part 1 before continuing.)

So, someone by the name of Blaire White made a video about gender transition treatment for transgender children and adolescents. And I’m going to fact check it!


Examining the evidence on transition “regret”

“Which brings me to my next point, which is that there are health risks attached with going off of hormones once you’re already on them. Going on hormones is supposed to set you on a one-track trajectory, and you can’t really trust a child to make a decision now that they know they’re going to be happy with for the rest of their lives.”

Blaire White doesn’t explain what any of these supposed health risks are, so I can’t really address whatever they are. But a trans woman who doesn’t begin medically transitioning until adulthood will also be going off of hormones that she’s already on: she’ll take antiandrogens, and will go off the testosterone that her own body has been producing. Why is going off of those hormones an acceptable health risk, but going on HRT and then off of it an unacceptable risk? It’s almost as if Blaire White is asking, “What if they have to transition in adulthood, which is exactly what Blaire White wants?” Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Outcomes of transition, Regret and detransition, Replies, Trans youth, Transgender medicine, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transgender youth fact check: Blaire White is wrong – Part 1: Fundamentals

So, someone by the name of Blaire White made a video about gender transition treatment for transgender children and adolescents. And I’m going to fact check it!


How puberty blockers work

“And of course, it begs the question of transgender children in real life. And I’m sure I chose a title for this video that lets you guys know up-front my feelings about children transitioning, but let me just say, I am against it, I am against it, I am against it. I have dealt with so many people trying to convince me that it’s a good decision to allow children to go on hormones or puberty blockers, and, you know, start their transition really, really early, and I’ve never been convinced.”

It’s important to be clear on the respective roles of puberty-blocking drugs and hormone therapy in the treatment of trans youth. Many of these kids have already been consistently presenting and living socially as their identified gender for years. When this treatment is indicated by thorough evaluation and proper diagnosis, puberty-blocking drugs – not sex hormones – are given to trans children near the onset of their initial puberty, usually starting around ages 10 to 12. These drugs reduce their testosterone or estrogen to very low levels, temporarily halting the physical changes of puberty due to hormones. Continue reading

Posted in Biology of transition, Ethics, Health care, Outcomes of transition, Replies, Trans youth, Transgender medicine | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments