by Kiley Crossland, World
Researchers claim to have completed the first study to prove that efforts to help people overcome gender dysphoria cause psychological harm. But critics argue the data is fundamentally flawed and the study doesn’t back its claims.
The study, published last month in JAMA Psychiatry by researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, asked transgender survey participants if a professional psychologist, counselor, or religious adviser had ever tried to “make you identify only with your sex assigned at birth,” or tried to “stop you being trans.” Researchers lumped anyone who answered yes into a single category: “recalled exposure to gender identity conversion efforts.” The study found those people had ongoing severe psychological distress and more than double the odds of attempting suicide than transgender people who answered no.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia ban any therapy for LGBT minors that could result in them embracing heterosexuality or their biological sex. That number likely will grow by the end of the year. In a rebuttal published by Public Discourse, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus pointed out major methodological problems with the study, which used data from the 2015 United States Transgender Survey of more than 27,000 transgender adults.
Regnerus noted the study lumped together any treatment or therapy that did not involve unqualified affirmation of gender dysphoria into “one imprecise, binary measure.” Patients could interpret simple attempts to obtain ethical informed consent — such as counseling them about the medical, social, and psychological risks of gender-affirming treatment — as trying to discourage their transgender identity, he said.
Regnerus also said the study’s authors did not acknowledge the potential for bias in their data. Their sample came from a nonrandom, opt-in survey of self-identified transgender adults recruited by LGBT organizations, but the researchers presented their conclusions as if the survey was a random sample reflective of the general population.
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