Some physicians in the United States are performing double mastectomies on healthy 13-year-old girls. The justification is gender dysphoria (“transgenderism”)—the girls now identify as boys and therefore want to look like boys.
Sometimes this dysphoria doesn’t appear until adolescence, and often little or no psychological evaluation is done to determine the underlying cause of the teenager’s desire to mutilate her body. But these doctors are willing to give her what she thinks she wants. And your federal tax money is paying for research to validate this gruesome treatment (see here and here).
Reasonable people would be mystified, if not repelled, by the statements and actions of a leading researcher into transgender treatment. In a study funded by a $5.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers including Dr. Johanna Olson of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are supposedly evaluating use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on dysphoric children.
As I’ve written with a coauthor, however, the study is fundamentally skewed toward the conclusions transgender activists desire: it contains no control group of subjects who will be spared these drugs, and will expire after five years, long before many negative effects may surface.
These design flaws aren’t surprising. Olson dismisses the possibility that gender dysphoria could be caused by psychological disturbance, claiming the only “mental health issue” related to gender dysphoria “comes from the way that the outside world responds” to the confused youth. She states, as though from a medical basis, that gender-dysphoric youth will go through the “wrong puberty” unless she and her cohorts can medicate them early enough in their lives to “put them through the right puberty.”
What are the odds that someone with this mindset will find any serious downside to administering puberty blockers and potentially dangerous hormones? She minimizes if not ignores the physical and psychological risks.
Same Approach, New Government-Funded Study
Olson brings her characteristic objectivity to a related study to determine the efficacy of performing the aforementioned double mastectomies. The endnotes to the study state she used the NIH taxpayer money to explore this topic as well, although the grant’s governing protocol appears to cover only hormone treatments rather than surgery. So her adherence to the terms of the grant isn’t clear.
For whatever reason, Olson decided to see how dysphoric girls felt about mastectomies. Referring to “chest dysphoria” and “chest reconstruction,” apparently avoiding the word “breast” because it connotes the stubborn biological reality of being female, she concocted a “chest dysphoria scale” to apply to various gender-confused girls.
Olson had 68 surgically diminished girls fill out her “novel” scale (which she acknowledged could be bogus) between one and five years after their surgery. Thirty-three of these girls were under 18 at the time of surgery. Two were only 13 years old, and five were only 14. Assuming these mastectomies weren’t all performed by the same very busy surgeon, that means there are multiple doctors out there willing to mutilate underage girls.
From the survey results Olson concludes that gender-dysphoric girls who have their healthy breasts surgically removed are happier than those who don’t. She also concludes they almost never regret the decision.
At least, they don’t acknowledge regret for a few years. Since the mean age for postsurgical participants was 19, with none older than 25, a cautious researcher would hesitate to draw any long-term conclusions about satisfaction. But the data limitations don’t deter Olson from trumpeting the “positive outcome of chest surgery.”
Ignore All the Billowing Red Flags
As Olson and colleagues urge extreme medical treatments for confused children, they stubbornly ignore billowing red flags about the psychological problems that prompt demand for such treatments. One such flag is the increasing occurrence of “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” ROGD means the sudden occurrence of gender dysphoria during or after puberty, in the patient who demonstrated no previous signs of dysphoria. Frantic parents have been reporting in recent years that their teenagers, usually girls, have announced out of the blue that they are “trans” and demanded accommodations and transitioning treatment.
When a previously normal child suddenly flips to the opposite but in-vogue sexual identity, any objective observer would ask what might have triggered this upheaval. One such objective observer is Dr. Lisa Littman of Brown University, who just published a study of ROGD. Littman analyzed 256 survey responses submitted by parents of newly dysphoric adolescents and uncovered troubling information about the environment that influences these teenagers.
These parents described “clusters of gender dysphoria outbreaks occurring in pre-existing friend groups with multiple or even all members of a friend group becoming gender dysphoric and transgender-identified in a pattern that seems statistically unlikely . . . .” Parents report such outbreaks usually followed “binge-watching” of YouTube transition videos and excessive use of other social media that affirm and advocate transgenderism.
In one case a girl who had been teased about her breast size declared that she hated her body and suddenly began identifying as a boy. In another, four girls who were taking instruction from a popular coach “came out” as transgender after the coach did.
Doctors Did Not Explore the Kids’ Psychological Health
Although well over 60 percent of these adolescents had previously been diagnosed with a mental-health disorder or neurodevelopment problem, many parents reported that “the [gender specialist] clinician did not explore issues of mental health, previous trauma, or any alternative causes of gender dysphoria before proceeding [with medical transition].” These clinicians seemed to rely primarily on self-reports of the patients who wanted the treatment — patients who came prepared with talking points they had received from their online sources (for example, advice to threaten suicide if treatment demands aren’t met).
Littman drew two takeaways from her research. The first is that “social contagion is a key determinant of [ROGD].” In other words, the influence of peers and social media may implant then magnify certain beliefs that lead teenagers down the wrong path (in transgenderism as in other adolescent social pathologies). As Littman says, “‘gender dysphoria’ may be used as a catch-all explanation for any kind of distress, psychological pain, and discomfort that an [adolescent] is feeling while transition is being promoted as a cure-all solution.”
The second takeaway is that “ROGD is a maladaptive coping mechanism” for these adolescents. This means the patient may turn to gender dysphoria as “a response to a stressor that might relieve the symptoms temporarily but does not address the cause of the problem and may cause additional negative outcomes.” A similar maladaptive coping mechanism, Littman says, is anorexia—the patient deals with underlying emotional issues by extreme weight control. The parallels between anorexia and gender dysphoria, especially ROGD, are striking.
Cue the Research Suppression
Littman’s study prompted immediate outrage from LGBT activists, whose default position is that any research they find problematic should be suppressed. Brown displayed its profile in courage by removing the study from its website and begging forgiveness for transgressing against the new sexual-political orthodoxy. To Brown, apparently, truth simply isn’t a value. Joy Pullmann has detailed this sordid turn of events.
Count Olson firmly in the camp of true science deniers. To them, rejecting the biological reality of every cell in the body is a perfectly rational decision. The possibility of underlying psychological influences—a possibility glaringly obvious to any objective observer—doesn’t enter the picture.
Olson’s study doesn’t address other data about the numerous previously dysphoric women who have either stopped their transition or taken steps to reverse it. For example, a short two-week survey from 2016 found 203 such women just by posting on sites such as Tumblr and Facebook. Take a look at other stories from this site.
From her own limited “research,” Olson thus concludes that children should be allowed to access body- and life-altering mutilation. She doesn’t mention parental consent, though standard medical guidelines require consent for treatment of minors. Rejecting the guidelines of the (highly politicized) World Professional Association for Transgender Health, which recommends that minors not be considered for surgery until completing at least one year of hormone therapy, Olson advocates for surgery based on “individual need” rather than age or time spent on hormone therapy. She doesn’t mention the need to address warning signs for ROGD.
Teens Totally Know If They Should Mutilate Themselves
ROGD or not, Olson simply denies that young teenagers have any less capacity for decision-making than do adults. Listen to her statements at a conference in California: “So what we do know is that adolescents have the capacity to make a reasoned, logical decision.”
Here’s another eye-popping claim from her: “Actually, people get married when they’re under 20. Actually, people choose colleges to go to. Actually, people make life-altering decisions in adolescence. All the time. All the time. And honestly, most of them are good.”
In a breathtaking dismissal of possible regret, Olson also said, “And here’s the other thing about chest surgery: If you want breasts at a later point in your life, you can go and get them.” Well, then. One wonders if Olson takes the same attitude toward regret over the permanent sterilization effected by cross-sex hormones and a gonadectomy. After all, if one later comes to desire children, one can “go and get them” from other sources.
That such reckless researchers are allowed access to vulnerable children is shocking. That there are so many of them is tragic. That their activities are financed with tax dollars is scandalous. But welcome to the new world of agenda-driven research. How many lives will be destroyed before sanity revives?