Politics & Policy

Don’t Let Transgender Activists Politicize Child Health Care

(Reuters/Anatoly Zhdanov)
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ new policy is based on misinformation and enabled by fear.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is a trusted medical authority made up of around 67,000 pediatricians. How many AAP members voiced their approval for the most recent policy statement, “Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents,” which asserts that transition-affirming therapy for “transgender youth” is the best medical practice?

National Review asked the AAP this question. The organization has not yet replied.

The committees listed at the end of the policy contain a total of 24 pediatricians. According to a current AAP member who prefers to remain anonymous, these contributors would have voted in addition to twelve members of the board of directors, meaning a maximum of 36 members directly approved the policy. This is around 0.05 percent of the AAP’s member population.

Of course, this is how elected representation works. However, such is the politicization of transgenderism that pediatricians who are uneasy with the AAP’s new policy are likely to keep a low profile.

For instance, one long-time AAP member tells National Review: “It’s hard not to think that we might be harming children. But if we say something publicly we could get in trouble.”

Meanwhile, Sasha Ayad, a licensed professional counselor who works with gender-confused teens in Texas, writes via email that

there are a growing number of clinicians who are bravely speaking out about something they’ve known to be potentially harmful in the way our field is approaching gender identity. However many more are afraid to speak out because of official policies at their organizations or places of employment. When a trained therapist is too afraid to speak out about their clinical impressions, especially for a presenting problem which is incredibly new (in these proportions), that indicates that something is very wrong and much more dialogue is necessary.

On the AAP’s transition-affirming policy statement specifically, Ayad adds:

The problem with this affirmation approach is that it doesn’t take into consideration HOW or why someone is stating they have a trans identity. This is different from sexual orientation because same-sex attraction doesn’t lead anyone on a path of medical intervention.

But some trans activists prefer simple and immediate answers. One such activist is Amanda Jette Knox, who lives in Canada, and yet wrote on Twitter that she had early access to the AAP’s policy statement — which she greeted with great enthusiasm:

It’s instructive to take a look at the AAP’s track record. Its previous guidelines, which were released in 2016 but were very similar to the 2018 policy statement in terms of content, had as their lead author a trans activist, Gabe Murchison. At the time, Murchison had a bachelor’s degree in “women’s, gender and sexuality studies” and a master’s in public health, “social and behavioral sciences” from Yale University.

Murchison’s lack of medical expertise may help explain why the 2016 AAP guidelines stated in bold, under “What we know for sure,” that “there is evidence that both reparative therapy and delayed transition can have serious negative consequences for children.” This claim has been denied by experts — including Susan Bradley, who is a child psychiatrist with 40 years of clinical experience and research with gender-dysphoric youth, and who founded the Toronto Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Likewise, licensed psychotherapist David Pickup says that the smearing of “reparative therapies” (and the conflation of reparative therapy with the equally dishonest label “conversion therapy”) is activist mischief. “In a sense, all therapy is ‘reparative’ since anyone undergoing any type of therapy for any issue wants a therapist to help them resolve issues that do not represent their most authentic selves,” Pickup says.

Pickup says that no therapist worthy of the name would ever force treatment on a client. However, those who wish to explore the root causes of their gender dysphoria or sexual orientation should be free to do so.

Moreover, the accusations of having a political agenda are often themselves blatantly political, and this is not the first time the AAP has proven vulnerable to left-wing activism. One member of the AAP told National Review:

I attended an [AAP] educational conference in 2008 where a speaker compared our organization’s lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to The Weatherman from the 1960s. She meant it as a compliment. I didn’t want to call any attention to myself, so I stayed in my seat until the session was over, but due to a sense of revulsion, I left the conference early.

In 2010, the group’s policy on “Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” — whose lead author was Dena S. Davis, now a professor of religion studies at Lehigh University, and like Murchison not a medical doctor — stated that “an educational program about [female genital cutting] requires, above all, sensitivity to the cultural background of the patient and her parents and appreciation of the significance of this custom in their tradition.”

After considerable backlash from human-rights groups and protest from victims of the procedure, the AAP rescinded the statement.

Nonetheless, the AAP has wide influence and is cited as an authority by educational and legislative authorities while other groups, such as the American College of Pediatricians, are smeared as politically motivated “hate groups.”

The result of a one-sided politicization narrative, however, is that crucial parties are being left by the wayside. As one parent told National Review: “No one really understands until they have a child going through this. The fact that we need anonymity, even with one another, should tell you the state of fear we battle. Most important, ours is a coalition of both religious and non-religious, left and right.”

What’s at stake here is child welfare and scientific integrity.

Editor’s note: National Review is especially interested in hearing from pediatricians, AAP members, and health-care workers who have been affected by these issues. Please contact Madeleine Kearns at mkearns@nationalreview.com.

Madeleine Kearns — Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and moonlights as a singer.

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