With increasing demand for safeguards surrounding gender-dysphoric youth, the United States federal government has launched a new study through the National Institute of Health (NIH). While one would hope that a government-funded study aimed at assessing a potential risk to children’s health would be free from the influence of ideologies, those hopes are not borne out in this particular study.
According to the Witherspoon Institute, this study will not be a fair one. It will be subject to some fatal flaws in terms of evidence gathering, including:
- Unbalanced panel of researchers;
- Lack of a control group; and
- Short timeframe in which to observe and report on the effects of hormone treatment.
The government will instead try to pass this study off as legitimate evidence, using a three-step process:
1. Issue requests for research proposals slanted in favour of a particular outcome.
The selection of researchers to carry out the NIH study is the first signal that this might not be a truly objective undertaking. All of the four doctors and their clinics selected to conduct the research are strong advocates of affirming transgender feelings and using medical treatment to help kids transition to a more realistic impersonation of the opposite sex (since sex is determined by the chromosomes in each cell of the body, there is no such thing as an actual sex change).
All four of these researchers, then, are deeply invested in affirmation therapy. The chances their study will find serious harm from these interventions are pretty slim.
2. Fund studies that reach the expected conclusions.
As described by UCSF, the study will include 280 youth from two age groups: younger children in early puberty, who will be administered puberty-blockers, and older adolescents, who will be given cross-sex hormones. Then the researchers will see how these protocols work out.
Notice any group missing from this lineup? A control group. Except in certain very limited circumstances, medical research studies are usually “randomized controlled studies,” which include a control group of study participants who don’t receive the therapies being evaluated. Comparing outcomes between a group that receives the therapies and one that doesn’t is the “gold standard” of research, in accordance with the Good Clinical Practices and Human Subject Protections required by the Food and Drug Administration for pharmacological studies.
True, not every medical research study involves a control group. For example, it would be considered unethical to deny potentially life-saving treatment to otherwise terminal patients. But absent such considerations, it’s common and recommended for researchers to employ randomized controlled studies.
For whatever reason, NIH decided not to go this route. Thus, if dysphoric children would have better outcomes from not receiving transgender affirmation treatment, we won’t know it from this study.
Another troubling design feature of the study is the time frame. The children will be studied for only five years. Presumably, if eleven-year-olds receive puberty blockers, are still generally satisfied with the treatment at age sixteen, and at that point show no adverse medical effects, the researchers will declare the therapy a success and recommend this treatment for transgender children.
Pediatric endocrinologist Van Meter considers this one of the worst features of the study. He maintains that children’s satisfaction with their “new sex” a few years after the therapy begins is essentially meaningless, especially when the study is designed to place the children and their families in a safe bubble in which their transgender identity is affirmed. The rubber will hit the road, Van Meter predicts, ten, twenty, or thirty years later, when the children become adults and realize they must live the rest of their lives struggling to fit into a society that will not reshape itself to accommodate their situation. And they must do this with infertility and potentially even life-threatening medical conditions resulting from the hormone treatments and, if they go on to have sex-reassignment surgery, with mutilated bodies.
3. Cite that research in subsequent studies to claim that a “growing body of evidence” favours that preferred policy.
By stopping the study of dysphoric youth at five years, when many of the participants will still be in their teens and the rest in the earliest stages of adulthood, the NIH researchers can mask these tragic consequences that may appear later. The study will thus be able to trumpet the success of affirmation therapies and reassure doctors that they should adopt these practices. Subsequent research will cite these conclusions to build a body of “evidence” that will shape federal and state policies regarding treatment of individuals with gender dysphoria.
In an attempt to validate the transgender movement, the government is using taxpayer funds to create research that will “prove” an ideological, rather than a scientific, point. Although common sense dictates that inserting chemical substances into young children will have regressive effects on their development, the government is more invested in catering to gender politics to gain votes from the LGBT community.
And in the end, their research will not only hurt taxpayers and the medical community, but it will harm the very group they claim to be helping: gender dysphoric children.