Lies the Medical Establishment Tells About Trans Kids

I just got done reading a jaw-dropping, rage-inducing article on the lies some people in medicine tell about trans kids. This is one to keep around in case you run in to some jackass claiming that the majority of trans kids change their minds. Newsflash: they don’t.

The studies that say overwhelming numbers of trans kids change their minds about being trans? Horribly flawed. I mean, super mega flawed. Such as:

For starters, the most cited study (Steensma) which alleges a 84 percent desistance rate, did not actually differentiate between children with consistent, persistent and insistent gender dysphoria, kids who socially transitioned, and kids who just acted more masculine or feminine than their birth sex and culture allowed for. In other words, it treated gender non-conformance the same as gender dysphoria. Worse, the study could not locate 45.3 percent of the children for follow up, and made the assumption that all of them were desisters.

The incompetence takes my breath away. Of course, some assholes will still try to use those numbers to argue we shouldn’t provide transition-related services for trans kids. Well, sorry-not-sorry, but here’s the truth:

When Dr. Steensma went back in 2013 and looked at the intensity of dysphoria these children felt as a factor in persistence, it turned out that it was actually a very good predictor of which children would transition.

In other words, the children who actually met the clinical guidelines for gender dysphoria as children generally ended up as transgender adults. Further research has shown that children who meet the clinical guidelines for gender dysphoria are as consistent in their gender identity as the general population.

So yeah, trying to deny kids care based on that original, terrible study is blatantly ignoring reality.

And that’s not even the worst of it:

But, the most outrageous piece of information coming out of CAMH [Center for Addiction and Mental Health] was Dr. Zucker’s claims that gender dysphoria desisted in 80 percent of cases. However, when investigators reviewed the files of children admitted to CAHM, 72 percent of them never met the clinical criteria for juvenile gender dysphoria in the first place.

In short, 90 percent of the kids Dr. Zucker claimed to “cure” were never transgender in the first place. He built his reputation convincing homophobic and transphobic parents that he could fix their kids. When someone actually got around to listening to the transgender community and pulled back the curtain, they found that the 80 percent desistance narrative was a fabrication of an attention seeking, creepy, reparative therapy promoting, snake-oil salesman.

Trans kids need support, understanding, and appropriate transition-related medical care. Their outcomes are excellent when we take them seriously and treat them appropriately:

Gender variant youth know who they are just as much as the general population. Transgender youth who are receive affirming care have better health outcomes. Transgender youth on puberty delaying medication showed no health effects, and mental health outcomes as good as their cisgender peers.

Read the whole article. And support the kids in your life who are trans or genderqueer. By all means, keep them the hell away from people who claim they can turn them into perfect little cis hetero machines.

Image is a graphic of the trans flag, which has sky blue bars at the top and bottom, pink bars next, and a white bar in the middle. Caption across the middle says Support Trans Kids.

Lies the Medical Establishment Tells About Trans Kids

9 thoughts on “Lies the Medical Establishment Tells About Trans Kids

  1. 1

    Dana, it isn’t the entirety of the medical establishment. All doctors take care of trans people. We see many people who aren’t neatly binary cis hetero. When I was in training almost 20 years ago, my preceptors treated trans individuals with dignity and respect. I and the other young doctors were expected to treat ALL our patients in a similar fashion. I feel very fortunate to have been trained by such doctors. We were explicitly told to use the personal pronoun that the person chose to be identified by. I’m sure my experience wasn’t universal, but a respect for the individual’s autonomy is part of modern medicine teaching and practice.

  2. 2

    While it’s very good that some folks in the medical field treat trans folks with dignity and respect, there are two things about this comment that are highly unhelpful.

    1. I didn’t say all, now, did I? Let’s re-read the first sentence together: “I just got done reading a jaw-dropping, rage-inducing article on the lies some people in medicine tell about trans kids.” Note the word “some.”

    2. “Not all” arguments don’t really help the people being hurt by the assholes. Not all men treat women like shit – but that doesn’t mean all men deserve a pass. Not all cops beat and kill unarmed people of color – but that doesn’t mean there’s not a huge problem that needs to be addressed. So it comes across as horribly dismissive when you tell me, “But some of us are good!” We already know that. We weren’t taking about you. Don’t make it about you.

    Your comment glosses over the fact that huge numbers of trans people have trouble getting proper medical care because of bigotry and piss-poor science in the medical community. And that is something you shouldn’t be doing. Okay?

  3. AMM

    In particular, Johns Hopkins Hospital, which is the top hospital in Baltimore, is a place you do not want to go if you’re trans. The hospital is not just trans-insensitive, it is trans-hostile. The doctor who runs the psychiatry department, Dr. Paul McHugh, is famous for his belief that LGBT people are a danger to society. (It’s probably just a coincidence that he’s also an outspoken conservative Catholic who consults for the American Conference of Catholic Bishops.) A friend of mine had to go there for an evaluation (with the emphasis on had to go), and described the people who talked to her as condescending, disapproving, and determined to intimidate her into not transitioning. Personally, I would not go to any doctor who trained there. I would also recommend avoiding Catholic-run hospitals if you’re on the LGBT spectrum.

    Go to any trans group and ask about their experiences with the medical profession, and you’ll get a story after story about being misgendered, invalidated, humiliated, harrassed, and, in many cases, denied health care (even for conditions unrelated to being trans.) It’s only been in the past few years that some medical schools have started including any information about trans people in their training.

    This is without even talking about how few medical providers have any knowledge of medical care and medical issues relating to trans people. In most cases, trans patients have to educate their doctors from the ground up (assuming the doctors are even willing to be educated — most aren’t), unless they find someone who specializes in caring for the LGBT community.

  4. 4

    Not all doctors are terrible and tell or believe lies about trans people. My sister, for example, is a doctor who doesn’t do that.

    However, enough doctors are that way that nearly all of the trans people I know are actively frightened of going to the doctor.

    And really, just one doctor or other type of medical professional is one too many. It only takes one to mess up someone’s health care and alienate them from the medical system.

  5. 5

    I agree there are wonderful doctors that treat trans people with respect and give us the care we need but on the flipside I don’t think I’ve ever met a trans person who hasn’t had at least one negative experience with a medical professional that centred around our trans status, myself included.

  6. 6

    #NotAllDoctors is a thing now?

    I’m almost laughing. Almost.

    With the exception of my endocrinologist and gender psychiatrist, pretty much every health professional I meet trips up over the trans thing. And where I live, I don’t get the choice to disclose it, because healthcare patient files are on a central database, meaning every doctor I meet can see I’m trans, and react (in)appropriately.

    But #NotAllDoctors. Cool story bro. Go chop some lumber.

  7. 7

    Not a doctor, but had the same worries when a coworker went for surgery. Fortunately, I’m not a bigoted asshole and supported her decision (quietly; I’m aware it’s none of my business). She went from this troubled, introverted young man to one of the most amazing and amazingly beautiful women I’ve been priveledged to know. Concerns answered.

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