A bunch (21) of doctors and Ph.D.s from nine countries (Finland, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, Switzerland, South Africa, and the U.S.) published the following op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. It might be paywalled, so I reproduced the entire short letter below.
First, be aware that this, as noted below, was in response to a letter from the President of the Endocrine Society published recently, a letter that staunchly defends the efficacy of “gender-affirming care.” That care involves a combination of therapy and, nearly always, medical intervention through hormones. That letter, from Dr. Stephen Hammes, said this:
Roy Eappen and Ian Kingsbury’s op-ed “The Endocrine Society’s Dangerous Transgender Politicization” (June 29) ignores scientific evidence and the conclusions reached by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other reputable medical organizations. More than 2,000 studies published since 1975 form a clear picture: Gender-affirming care improves the well-being of transgender and gender-diverse people and reduces the risk of suicide.
If you already know the evidence, you’ll know that this claim is wrong: there is not enough evidence to form a “clear picture” of either well-being or suicide. In response, the signers of the letter below (not shown) took issue with Hammes’s claims.
Click the headline to read, but here’s the whold thing. And I’ve put the important parts in bold:
As experienced professionals involved in direct care for the rapidly growing numbers of gender-diverse youth, the evaluation of medical evidence or both, we were surprised by the Endocrine Society’s claims about the state of evidence for gender-affirming care for youth (Letters, July 5). Stephen Hammes, president of the Endocrine Society, writes, “More than 2,000 studies published since 1975 form a clear picture: Gender-affirming care improves the well-being of transgender and gender-diverse people and reduces the risk of suicide.” This claim is not supported by the best available evidence.
Every systematic review of evidence to date, including one published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, has found the evidence for mental-health benefits of hormonal interventions for minors to be of low or very low certainty. By contrast, the risks are significant and include sterility, lifelong dependence on medication and the anguish of regret. For this reason, more and more European countries and international professional organizations now recommend psychotherapy rather than hormones and surgeries as the first line of treatment for gender-dysphoric youth.
Dr. Hammes’s claim that gender transition reduces suicides is contradicted by every systematic review, including the review published by the Endocrine Society, which states, “We could not draw any conclusions about death by suicide.” There is no reliable evidence to suggest that hormonal transition is an effective suicide-prevention measure.
The politicization of transgender healthcare in the U.S. is unfortunate. The way to combat it is for medical societies to align their recommendations with the best available evidence—rather than exaggerating the benefits and minimizing the risks.
This letter is signed by 21 clinicians and researchers from nine countries.
There’s also a coda to this letter, which appears to be a kind of addendum (like a Supreme Court Justice’s partial dissent) coming from someone who may have been asked to sign the op-ed:
Transgenderism has been highly politicized—on both sides. There are those who will justify any hormonal-replacement intervention for any young person who may have been identified as possibly having gender dysphoria. This is dangerous, as probably only a minority of those so identified truly qualify for this diagnosis. On the other hand, there are those who wouldn’t accept any hormonal intervention, regardless of the specifics of the individual patients.
Endocrinologists aren’t psychiatrists. We aren’t the ones who can identify gender-dysphoric individuals. The point isn’t to open the floodgates and offer an often-irreversible treatment to all people who may have issues with their sexuality, but to determine who would truly benefit from it.
Jesus L. Penabad, M.D.
Tarpon Springs, Fla.
I agree with that letter, too. I would never ban transsexual medical treatment for those people old enough to make an informed decision (I’m thinking about 18 years old), but young people need objective therapy, not “rah rah—>hormones” therapy. If a therapist prescribes puberty blockers for a young person on the very first visit (or worse, sends them to doctors prescribing gender-change hormones), that is not a good therapist.
Of course the solution to this dilemma is research, which is why several European countries have put puberty blockers into the class of “clinical experiments” and are starting to practice less “rah-rah: transition” therapy in favor of actually listening to children without instantly affirming their desire to transition. That’s especially important because the large majority of young people experiencing gender dysphoria (about 80%, I think), eventually grow out of it, often by simply becoming gay. And being gay doesn’t run the risks of medical complications, sterility, and the inability to have orgasms: some of the side effects of hormone treatment.
And it would help if extreme gender activists would stop politicizing this issue. In all my years of writing on this site, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such nasty and ignorant pushback as I have from gender activists who accuse me of transphobia simply because I think we need more research before we start injecting hormones into children and adolescents, lopping off bits of their bodies, and giving them objective rather than “affirmative” therapy. That view is not “fear of trans people”, for crying out loud. But the activists, who have ideology but not evidence on their side, resort to name-calling to intimidate their opponents. And it often works.
The pile-on also comes if one suggests, as did Abigail Shrier, that there can be social pressure that influences people to change their gender, a claim that by now I think is undeniable. (Adults, of course, are free to make their own decisions, but again, these should be informed decisions, and the long term effects, both medical and psychological, of transitioning are not often discussed. One reason is that gender activists rain down hatred on anyone who brings up these issues.)
In Friday’s Weekly Dish, Andrew Sullivan picked up on this letter and wrote about it, giving some statistics in response to the oft-heard claim made by some doctors and therapists advising parents of gender-dysphoric children, “Do you want a live boy or a dead girl?” That, of course, implies a very high risk of suicide by girls who aren’t allowed to transition to the male gender. Sullivan:
To give a sense of the bullshit, here’s Stephen Hammes, president of the Endocrine Society:
More than 2,000 studies published since 1975 form a clear picture: Gender-affirming care improves the well-being of transgender and gender-diverse people and reduces the risk of suicide.
Note the vagueness, and the absence of any mention of children — the only population we need to be concerned about. And here is the Endocrine Society’s own study on sex reassignments for kids:
We could not draw any conclusions about death by suicide.
Today, in the Wall Street Journal, 21 pediatric clinicians from nine countries call Hammes out. In those countries that have conducted systematic evidence-based reviews of all the studies involving children, all of them have concluded that “the evidence for mental-health benefits of hormonal interventions for minors [is] of low or very low certainty.” The risks — permanent sterility, inability to experience orgasm ever, irreversible changes to the body, voice and face — are very real. Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics refuses to conduct a similar systematic review, five years after its last guidance.
A survey of a decade of child transitions in the UK, from 2010 to 2020, found that the data “shed no light” on whether reassignment affects the suicide rate. But here’s the stunner: of the more than 15,000 children treated for gender dysphoria, the number of suicides was four. It is insane to believe that every child with dysphoria will kill themselves if not subjected to a sex change. If a doctor tells you this, find another doctor.
Why would they lie like this? I honestly don’t know. Here are some possibilities: misguided compassion for children in distress; believing you are part of a cultural revolution that starts with children; banking on the vast revenues of having patients for a lifetime of treatment; or just following ideological fiats, intimidated by woke peers, and fearing liability for past missteps.
I think that pretty much covers all the possibilities. I’m not sure why the U.S., compared to other countries, is particularly resistant to discussion of medical and psychological issues like this, especially given that this isn’t just an ideological discussion, but a discussion with medical consequences. As far as I can see, we should be doing what the Europeans are increasingly doing about this issue: collecting more data.