By Paula Stone Williams
I know those of you who choose to read this blog because of my posts about the church are frustrated with the number of recent posts on transgender issues. I understand your frustration. However, right now there is a national attack on the transgender community, and it is critical for Christians to do their research before weighing in on the topic.
In March of this year Dr. Paul McHugh and the American College of Pediatricians published a position paper on transgender issues that has been widely quoted by pastors of Evangelical churches. There are a number of problems with that decision, all related to inadequate research.
1. The American College of Pediatricians, which published the position paper, isnot a highly respected medical society. It is a 200-member group of conservatives whose positions are often seen as radical by the mainstream medical community. In no way is it affiliated with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatricians, a venerable institution supportive of gender transition.
2. The paper indicates there are no biological origins of gender dysphoria. In reality there are over 150 professional peer reviewed resources showing the biological origins of gender dysphoria. For instance, as far back as 1973 it was widely known that mothers who took DES had sons with a much higher incidence of gender dysphoria. A recent Boston University meta-study of the plethora of peer reviewed resources concluded, “Current data suggests a biological origin of gender identity.”
3. The position paper indicates up to 98 percent of children who present with gender dysphoria will desist from expressing a desire for gender transition, a number quoted out of context and without documentation from the DSM-V. There are no known studies that support that figure or any similar figure. In fact, recent studies show a child solidly claiming at an early age to be transgender is highly likely to continue to identify as transgender into adulthood. In response to a study entitled, “Gender Cognition in Transgender Children,” by Olsun, Key, and Eaton, the New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch concluded, “Gender non-conforming children show clear implicit and explicit preferences for their expressed gender early in life…They do not appear to be confused, pretending, delayed, gender-atypical, or oppositional in these views.”
4. Dr. McHugh and the paper’s co-authors speak of grave medical consequences of cross-gender hormonal treatment, yet their information is based on a form of estrogen not widely used in over 15 years. In regard to today’s hormonal treatment, in July of 2014, Henk Asscheman, MD, PhD, the principal investigator in a study of 2,000 transgender individuals treated in 15 US and European centers concluded, “There are mostly minor side effects and no new adverse effects observed in this large population.”
5. Dr. McHugh continues to refer to a study headed by Celia Dhenje, MD that researched post-transition suicidal ideation. Dr. McHugh concludes suicidal ideation exists because gender transition does not resolve gender dysphoria. That is, in fact, the opposite of what the study concludes. Dr. Dhenje has publicly called Dr. McHugh’s misuse of the study unethical. The study concludes that the cause of higher than average suicidal ideation in transgender individuals is notrelated to their view of themselves in their preferred gender, but is related to external discrimination, rejection, and isolation. In other words, Dr. McHugh’s position paper is one of the causes of transgender adolescents having suicidal ideation.
I appeal now to my Evangelical friends who have quoted Dr. McHugh. Just because Bob Russell, Jim Burgen, or even the Wall Street Journal quote the positions of Paul McHugh, it does not give you license to repost that information without determining if it is factual. It is unethical to reprint (or preach) what you refuse to thoroughly research.
This is not an esoteric conversation; lives are at stake. For a people who claim to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” there is a lot of loose talk going on. For God’s sake, if you want to preach about a social issue, choose racial injustice, spousal abuse, misogyny and poverty. Those are real issues very present in the American church. Give the transgender rhetoric a rest. It is based on nothing but uninformed prejudice.
And so it goes.
For 35 years I worked with the Orchard Group, a church planting ministry in New York. For most of that time I was Chairman and CEO. For 12 years I served as a weekly columnist and Editor-At-Large for Christian Standard, a leadership magazine. I was also a teaching pastor for two megachurches. Those responsibilities ended when I transitioned to live as Paula.
I currently serve as a pastoral counselor, church and non-profit consultant, writer and speaker.
I am a runner, hiker, and avid mountain biker. The first two are relatively safe. The third, not so much. Still, I pedal. Cathy and I have been together for 42 years. She is a retired public school teacher and a practicing psychotherapist. We have three children and five grandchildren.
You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.