Response to PBS News Hour piece: "Claiming abuse, Texas tries to prevent gender-affirming care for trans children"
The PBS News Hour did a public relations piece for the gender clinics on February 24, 2022 titled, Claiming abuse, Texas tries to prevent gender-affirming care for trans children.
The below response has been emailed to PBS.
PITT readers: Please consider sending emails like this to the PBS News Hour at firstname.lastname@example.org — the more people they hear from, the better.
Dear New Hour Editors:
As the parent of a trans-identified child, I am begging you to take a closer look at the safety and efficacy of transgender medical care.
In her February 24, 2022 story, Reporter Amna Nawaz and her guest, Dr. Stephen Rosenthal, told us that medical experts, including every reputable medical and mental health organization in this country, have endorsed an interdisciplinary model of care for gender dysphoric minors that includes puberty blockers, cross sex hormones and surgery. While it is true that many American medical and mental health organizations endorse this model, a number of European countries are pivoting away from this type of care.
I would like to share with you what European experts are saying about using puberty blockers and cross sex hormones to treat minors.
A few days ago, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare released Updated recommendations for hormone therapy for gender dysphoria in young people. After a review of the literature on the safety and effectiveness of hormone treatments, the Board concluded “…that the risks of anti-puberty and sex-confirming hormone treatment for those under 18 currently outweigh the benefits for the group as a whole.” Sweden is ranked as the most LGBTQ friendly country in the world by the LGBTQ+ Danger Index, so this updated recommendation was not likely the work of right-wing political forces.
In 2020, the Finnish Health Authority issued new guidelines stating that “…psychotherapy, rather than puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, should be the first-line treatment for gender-dysphoric youth. This change occurred following a systematic evidence review, which found the body of evidence for pediatric transition inconclusive.” I was not the least bit surprised that Dr. Rosenthal’s description of his interdisciplinary approach to treating minors did not include psychotherapy. He mentioned assessment but no therapy.
In 2019, Britain’s Royal College of General Practitioners issued a position statement saying, “There is a significant lack of robust, comprehensive evidence around the outcomes, side effects and unintended consequences of such treatment [i.e. puberty blockers and cross sex hormones] for people with gender dysphoria, particularly children and young people, which prevents GPs from helping patients and their families in making an informed decision.”
“In 2021, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a systematic review of evidence of using puberty blockers (GnRH analogues) to treat gender dysphoria. The review failed to find convincing evidence that puberty blockers are helpful (it reached a similar conclusion for cross-sex hormones for youth).”
The BBC recently asked Professor Carl Heneghan, Editor in Chief of the British Medical Journal and director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford and Professor Tom Jefferson, a clinical epidemiologist, to conduct an independent analysis of the most recent research on transgender medical interventions. Heneghan says, “The quality of evidence in this area is terrible.” Regarding the evidence available on the safety of puberty blockers, he says, “You can tell very little apart from they give you the intended effects of suppressing and blocking puberty.”
When you report on this issue, you need to talk to other experts and stakeholders in addition to gender clinicians who make their living off of treating children with puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. I don’t know why Dr. Rosenthal is so sure about the safety and efficacy of these drugs when there is so much doubt among experts in other countries. Perhaps as Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.” The opioid epidemic surely demonstrated that the medical profession is as vulnerable to institutional capture as any other.
I belong to five organizations for parents concerned about the safety of gender medicine and facilitate a parent support group in my local area. The parents come from across the political spectrum. I, for one, am a lifelong Democrat. We are concerned because we see our children’s mental and/or physical health deteriorating as they pursue gender-affirming medical treatments. Our children have not received the holistic, effective and safe care that gender clinicians talk about to the press. Although we have been shouting as loudly as we can, we cannot get most media outlets to investigate what is happening to our kids. They are too afraid of appearing anti-LGBTQ. We believe it is anti-LGBTQ to provide dangerous care to LGBTQ minors.
The only people who will listen to us, are conservative media outlets and Republican law makers. As a result, our story is being lost amid the culture wars, and reporters such as Ms. Nawaz describe all bills aimed at regulating gender-related medical care for minors as “anti-transgender.” The fact that a Republican introduces or supports something should not absolve News Hour reporters from talking to the citizens and/or groups requesting the legislation. Please note, I am suggesting reporters talk to the citizens and groups requesting the legislation not to the lawmakers themselves, since lawmakers often lack depth of understanding on individual issues and are immersed in partisan politics. Also, the fact that a doctor is a specialist in a field of medicine, does not absolve a reporter from checking on the accuracy of his statements or seeking other viewpoints.
Another group most media will not talk to are detransitioners; i.e. people who medically transitioned and later take steps to revert to presenting as their original sex. Conventional wisdom says that all trans-identified youth instinctively know they are trans from a young age, so detransition is rare. Most gender clinics do no follow-up on clients who stop coming in for treatments, so there are no reliable statistics on the number of detransitioners. For a group that is supposedly rare, their presence on social media is vast. For example, the detrans Subreddit is a rapidly growing community of detransitioners. There were about 9,000 members in December of 2020. There are now over 26,000 members. In an attachment to this e-mail, I compiled a list of 27 quotes from young detransitioned and desisted women talking about the inadequate assessment they received from gender clinicians, how transition harmed them, or how they transitioned inappropriately, so you can see the damage described in their own words. Parents like me simply want to help our children avoid this fate.
Detransitioners deserve to have their stories heard, and minors need to be protected from careless providers. Your program needs to stop acting like a public relations firm for gender clinics. The clinics can afford their own public relations consultants. I hope you will return to your mission of providing balanced and in-depth coverage. Until you do so, my annual contribution to Public Television will go instead to the Society for Evidenced Based Gender Medicine.
I believe a journalist who chose to independently investigate the safety, efficacy and appropriateness of transgender medical treatments rather than to blindly promote affirmative care might break a story on a major medical scandal. If you wish, I can introduce you to parents whose children have suffered because of the current practice of transgender medicine and clinicians who question the way gender clinics are currently operating. Below, I list resources reporters can use to provide more balanced reporting on the topic of transgender medicine.
The organizations below support a more nuanced approach to gender medicine:
4. The Gender: A Wider Lens podcast
You can find teens and young adults who have been harmed by transition-related treatments at:
1. The Detrans Subreddit
2. You can also talk to Dr. Lisa Littman one of the few researchers investigating detransition, and desistance
You can find parents whose children have been harmed by transition-related treatments through the following organizations:
1. Genspect -A voice for parents with gender-questioning kids