A calling card of our cultural moment is the presumption that science is wholly on the side of the progressive sexual agenda. To question so-called “transgender medicine,” for example, especially for minors, is to be called a “science-denier.” Advocates often point to a set of Dutch studies as the scientific ground on which to build their case for childhood transgender “medicine.”
However, a new review of those studies reveals this is a foundation of sand—hopelessly, obviously, and dangerously flawed. Rather than the “gold standard” of scientific proof for transgender activists’ claims, these studies are the new exhibit A for the dangers of researchers tweaking data to achieve ideological aims.
The review, published in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, reveals a profound lack of scientific rigor in the older research and signs that it was politically motivated from the beginning. Admittedly, I’m reading this critique as a non-scientist, but some of the problems with the pro-trans research are so obvious, it’s tough to believe they weren’t exposed before now.
The first and most significant problem with the studies is selection bias. This, by the way, was also a central failing of the research conducted by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and 50s about sexual behavior. As a summary by the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine explains, the Dutch studies
[r]eported only the best-case scenarios at each stage of treatment: puberty blockers, cross-sex-hormones, and surgery. Those [minor patients] who did not fare as well, or experienced problems, were not included in the research results.
This would be like testing a new drug, ignoring any patients killed or sickened, and then publishing a paper declaring the drug safe and effective. And that’s just one of the problems plaguing these Dutch studies.
Another is that researchers asked patients opposite sets of questions before and after their transitions which virtually guaranteed that the studies would show a reduction in gender dysphoria. In fact, given the way the surveys were worded, it’s likely they would have yielded the same results even if no treatments were given simply because of the leading questions.
Even more, it’s impossible to measure how much those questions influenced the results because the Dutch researchers did not bother to include control groups in their studies, nor did they control for the positive effects of psychotherapy and psychiatric drugs, nor did they monitor long-term negative effects on those who transitioned.
Surveying these and half a dozen other serious problems, the authors of this critique claim that far from being the “gold standard,” the Dutch studies do not even rise to the level of evidence-based medicine. In fact, they suggest that had these studies been published under today’s standards, the use of hormones and surgery to gender transition kids might never have entered mainstream medicine.
Tragically, these things have entered medicine. In fact, nearly 10% of high school students today in one major school district reported having a gender-diverse identity and are at risk for having their bodies hormonally and surgically altered based on this rotten research. As the authors of the critique conclude,
[t]he key problem in pediatric gender medicine is not the lack of research rigor in the past—it is the field’s present-day denial of the profound problems in the existing research, and an unwillingness to engage in high quality research requisite in evidence-based medicine.
In other words, the science for medical gender transitions for children and teenagers is far from settled, and we should have no patience for those who say otherwise. What we’re currently witnessing is an eclipse of evidence by an ideology that encourages real and bodily harm to patients who are too young to weigh the evidence for themselves and make an informed decision.
Lives, especially young lives, are literally at stake. Lawmakers, physicians, and the general public can no longer tolerate ideologues playing fast and loose with science, or with children’s bodies. This new review could bring much-needed clarity to a subject that has been shrouded in propaganda.
It can also serve as a reminder of the limits of science and scientists. Throughout the history of science, questioning what’s supposedly settled is what has advanced knowledge and has prevented or put a stop to terrible mistakes. As the authors of the new study warn, “the history of medicine is replete with examples of ‘cures’ which turned out to be far more harmful than the ‘diseases.’” Many of the so-called “cures” being administered right now in the name of transgender medicine are irreversible. If something doesn’t change soon, the damage to science’s reputation will be, too.
Today’s Breakpoint was co-authored by Shane Morris. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
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