All the ignorance, fibbing, and emoting doesn’t change the facts that make Republican state Rep. Gabe Firment’s HB 463 worth enacting, if not vitally so, into law.
The bill would prohibit any procedure that physically or hormonally changes the sexual physiology of a minor, except in the very rare instances of disorder of sex development or dealing with the consequences of previous attempts to change sex. Science unimpeachably supports the proposition behind the bill that these permanent alterations to children almost always cause more harm than good, and out of an abundance of caution under the watchful waiting protocol typically practiced in Europe that plays out to allow for developing physical, mental, and maturity until adulthood for those who at some point believe they want to try to change their sex, this protects children from rash decision-making by them and others affecting their adolescent lives.
Unfortunately, this area of investigation suffers from a plague of poor research quality. Common problems of these studies feature unrepresentative samples, lack of adequate controls, and unjustified inferential leaps. The efforts that do the best in avoiding these pitfalls shatter common myths circulated by advocates of making permanent physical changes to children who at some point identify as transgender.
One myth concerning about these children is they have an elevated desire for suicide and related indicators of harm solely because they feel their identity mismatched with their sex. In fact, that risk is comparable to that of other psychological conditions such as depression, anorexia, and autism that predisposes them to suicide, and in some cases differ little significantly from the population without these conditions.
Where elevated levels are observed in large part occur because of the high degree of association of transgender identification with these and other psychological disorders. (Also associated: natal sex, where girls are significantly more likely to report a desire to change sex.) As for a counter hypothesis that societal attitudes create a stigma driving confused children to self-harm, quality research simply doesn’t support that and this notion runs counter to experiences in previous historical periods where even greater societal pressures operated on children to conform to certain sex roles yet the child suicide rate was much lower.
The best, most recent research reveals that transgendered-identified youth respond well to traditional psychotherapy in alleviating psychological distress, whereas long-run studies of those who underwent medical transition show this doesn’t reduce and perhaps even exacerbates distress. Other research indicates that social contagion or psychological difficulties with parents encourages adopting identification differing from sex as a response to these stimuli.
Another myth is that the rate of suicide and other contemplated harmful behavior decreases with physical alterations. Collectively, quality research suggests a “honeymoon” period in the short run, but the sparse long-term research available paints a disturbing picture where harmful thinking returns, with those who underwent surgery or medication having a significantly higher rate of suicide attempts, pointing to the underlying mental health causes associated with a desire to change sex.
Finally, there is the myth that those who do undergo physical transition overwhelmingly are satisfied. Again, when reviewing the best research, there is no evidence of this, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence demonstrating a significant number of those altered surgically or medicinally having regrets. Further, any observed childhood dysphoria if left untreated physically typically turns into desisting from a desire to change sex and by adulthood those who had it most likely will adopt homosexuality.
In other words, given the state of quality research, claims that preference must be given to the wishes of children at a given moment that they should undergo physical and endocrinological mutilation are reckless and irresponsible, built upon myth and ideological opportunism, and that medical professionals complicit in this shamefully either are ignorant about the area in which they assert to have expertise or they are driven by motives unrecognizable from those associated with the Hippocratic Oath. Regrettably, several such individuals appeared to testify against the bill.
(Also deserving of opprobrium is a study, requested by a resolution Firment had pass last year, by the Department of Health utilizing Medicaid data which it largely contracted out that did provide some useful data but completely botched an assessment of outcomes, due to search criteria that ignored research quality and limited substantially the number evaluated while including studies with the problems listed above. This stood in stark contrast to a much more comprehensive and careful study compiled for the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration last year that didn’t largely waste taxpayer dollars.)
The emoting part was left to a parade of allegedly potentially aggrieved adults over these restrictions. They represent the children of intellectual trends that have invaded the academy and public square that place primacy on people’s feelings and perceptions rather than evidence-based data and critical thinking in the making of policy, a mindset that increasingly marks the thinking of the political left.
Even so, some leftist allies didn’t buy it. This week, the House Health and Welfare Committee passed the bill by substitute with only a couple of Democrats, state Reps. Jason Hughes and Larry Selders, and the most roguish Republican in the chamber, state Rep. Joe Stagni, opposing the other 14 members (including recent new Democrat Roy Daryl Adams). This poses a big political problem for Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, who two years ago said he would veto that kind of bill and others restricting a transgender agenda.
That’s because last year with Democrats aiding Republicans, he capitulated on a bill he vetoed the year before that prevented biological males from competing in athletic events restricted to biological females and also had a veto overturned, demonstrating if the numbers are enough he can’t stop bills from becoming law. The committee vote’s overwhelming nature compels the bill’s moving forward until it becomes law, and rightly so. Children’s welfare and lives depend upon it.