Surprise: Fake medical group provides fake science

From just a glimpse at their name, one would have no reason to doubt the authenticity of an organization calling itself The American College of Pediatricians. Sounds legit, right?

But in your mind, what you are most likely confusing this organization with is the medical organization The American Academy of Pediatrics.

How does Wikipedia describe The American College of Pediatricians?

The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a small, socially conservative advocacy group of pediatricians and other healthcare professionals in the United States.

The group was founded in 2002 by a group of pediatricians, including Joseph Zanga, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as a protest against the AAP's support for adoption by gay couples.

Zanga has described it as a group "with Judeo-Christian, traditional values that is open to pediatric medical professionals of all religions" provided that they "hold true to the group's core beliefs: that life begins at conception; and that the traditional family unit, headed by an opposite-sex couple, poses far fewer risk factors in the adoption and raising of children."

Most recently ACPeds has issued a manifesto rejecting the existence of transgender children.

Here are some of their claims:

1. Gender is not biological

Gender is a psychological concept and sociological term, not a biological one.

The problem is that this claim ignores a substantial amount of research that found that there are very much biological components to transgender identities. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine reviewed this research last year and concluded unequivocally that “there is a biological basis for transgender identity.”

--Zack Ford, Think Progress

2. Medical decisions for children should be rooted in ethical discussions.

The debate over how to treat children with GD [gender dysphoria] is primarily an ethical dispute, one that concerns physician worldview as much as science.

It goes on to warn — somehow as proof that there’s an political agenda — that there have been “severe consequences” for those who oppose affirming transgender kids, like the firing of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, who practiced and promoted “reparative therapies” that tried to force kids to act like the sex they were assigned at birth. ACP is explicitly trying to protect these individuals, who it considers victims in this debate.

In other words, ACP has an “ethical” point of view that is anti-trans, and it is more interested in defending adults who agree with that position than it is helping children who are hurt by it. It doesn’t take a study to point out that decisions about how to treat children should be based on what’s actually best for their well-being, not some teleological perspective about the “purposeful design to human nature.”

--Ford

3. Delaying puberty harms children.

That's a statement the organization adopts as foundational, with no scientific evidence.

Scientific research, on the other hand, has concluded that delaying puberty is a "fully reversible medical intervention." Those who underwent such treatment experienced no negative consequences.

4. There is a growing community of physicians worried about harming children by affirming their gender identities.

ACP claims that there is this large cadre of professions online who are gay-affirming but concerned about affirmatively supporting trans youth. They cite, as evidence of such Youth Trans Critical Professionals, which is a blog with two authors who only identify themselves as a social worker and a professor. Most of the sites links go to Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist (TERF) propaganda.

5. Sex change is objectively impossible.

ACPeds of course, is the final arbiter on defining "sex" "sex change" and "objective."

The organization supports the view that sex is only defined though genetics.

This is a rhetorical flourish that actually does little to inform the argument the group is trying to make. Nobody’s trying to claim that any treatment changes a person’s genetic makeup. But hormones and surgery have been found to relieve gender dysphoria, the minute-by-minute stress trans people can experience when their body does not align with their gender identity. As trans scholar Julia Serano describes it, “it is very real, intensely felt, and can become all-consuming and even debilitating over time.

--Ford

6. Twin studies prove disprove a biological basis for transgender.

Trans people agree that there is no single defining cause for transgender that explains our existence.

Because a trans person’s identical twin is only trans 20 percent of the time, as one study found, ACP believes this is proof that “at least 80 percent” of what contributes to being transgender comes from environmental influences after the children are born. But this doesn’t accurately explain the research about transgender twin studies.

--Ford

The very study cited by ACPeds concluded "the results showed that for transgender participants, their identity was much more influenced by their genetics than their rearing."

7. We blame the parents.

Examples include claims that mothers who are upset they didn’t have daughters might try to cross-dress their sons and that fathers of feminine boys might spend less time with them. If a mother is depressed and withdraws or a father overworks and isn’t around, “the boy’s anxiety and insecurity intensify, as does his anger, which may all result in his inability to identify with his biological sex.” The citation for all of these claims? Articles by the aforementioned Zucker, who encouraged parents to try to force their kids to engage in gendered behaviors.

ACP also blames the internet for providing knowledge about the transgender condition.

"Social contagion may be at play."

But no research has ever found that gender dysphoria can be caused or influenced by anything external. It is gender dysphoria itself that causes anxiety and distress. More importantly, research has found that trans kids experience improved mental health when their parents’ affirm their identity. ACP is actually encouraging parents to do the very opposite of what will help their kids thrive.

8. Gender dysphoria should be classified as a mental disorder, not unlike anorexia.

Gender dysphoria, of course, was fairly recently declassified.

The argument goes that if anorexia shouldn’t be treated with liposuction and Body Integrity Identity Disorder shouldn’t be treated with amputation, then gender dysphoria shouldn’t be treated with transition.

ACPeds: Whatever you do, do not try to cure the distress felt by transgender people.

9. Most trans kids grow up to be gay.

The desistance myth. We have to go into the history of a bad study. By whom? Oh, yeah. Dr. Zucker. Zucker studied a group of children who exhibited gender nonconforming behaviors. Those included gay kids together with some kids, the actual transgender children who were "insistent, persistent, and consistent" about their gender identities. All kids who left the study were counted as desisters. The gay kids grew up to be gay, not trans, and were counted as desisters. The minority of study participants, the trans kids, grew up to be trans.

80 percent to 95 percent of gender-dysphoric youth emerge physically and psychologically intact after passing through puberty without social affirmation.

Authors often raise fears that some children (i.e., ones who are “really cisgender” in their minds) may be pushed into the “wrong” puberty, and thus may have to undergo expensive medical procedures to correct those bodily changes. But this precisely describes what a trans child would face if they were not allowed to transition until adulthood. If the former example concerns you, but the latter one doesn’t, then that’s a clear sign that you value cis bodies and lives over trans ones.

--Julia Serrano

10. There is no big study that confirms that transitioning is helpful.

The argument for this concern is borrowed directly from opponents of same-sex parenting — that there’s insufficient research because the studies we have are small or were poorly designed.

Problem: The population is just too small.

Conservatives insist that only giant national samples are valid, and they’ve concocted several to try to demonstrate negative outcomes for same-sex parenting. Among their many other flaws, these studies still actually found only very tiny populations of same-sex families — numbers they often inflated (and distorted) by counting kids whose parents divorced in comparisons against intact different-sex families. This year, when a study of that scope actually found positive results for same-sex families, conservatives still rejected the results.

11. There is scientific doubt about the benefits of ransitioning.

To reinforce the claim that the available research is fleeting and insufficient, ACP relies on a pair of reports issued by the medical technology consulting firm Hayes, Inc. ACP quotes the report as saying that “serious limitations [inherent to the research] permit only weak conclusions” about the positive benefits of gender confirmation surgeries. Likewise, findings about the positive effects of cross-sex hormones were reportedly “sparse,” “conflicting,” and “weak.”

The Hayes research is primarily used by insurance companies which offer policies covering transgender procedures...so the insurance companies draw an opposing conclusion about what the research reveals.

12. Trans kids are too young to consent.

There is a serious ethical problem with allowing irreversible, life-changing procedures to be performed on minors who are too young to give valid consent themselves.

Social transition doesn’t have any impact on trans kids’ bodies, and delaying puberty is completely reversible. The standards of care for transgender procedures specifically require that individuals be of the age of consent before undergoing other procedures.

--Ford

13. Transitioning will make trans kids sterile.

The treatment of GD in childhood with hormones effectively amounts to mass experimentation on, and sterilization of, youth who are cognitively incapable of providing informed consent.

What ACP neglects to mention is that the only way trans kids could develop fertility is to go through the puberty that they’re specifically trying to avoid because of the undesired permanent changes it will make to their bodies.

ACP wants to force trans kids to go through the wrong puberty, which would guarantee changes that could intensify their gender dysphoria, to avoid the risk of one possible side effect if they don’t. It’s actually proof of the double standard that Serano outlined — that it’s okay for a transgender kid to go through the wrong puberty, but not a cisgender kid.

14. There is a high suicide rate among trans people who have undergone gender affirmation surgeries.

This always comes up. It's a misrepresentation of a Swedish study which included the statement "the rate of suicide among post-operative transgender adults was nearly twenty times greater than that of the general population."

The Swedish study does not inform any conclusions about the effectiveness of surgery. In fact, the author of that study, Cecilia Dhejne, has explicitly rebuked attempts to draw such conclusions.

People who misuse the study always omit the fact that the study clearly states that it is not an evaluation of gender dysphoria treatment.

--Dhejne

The struggle many transgender people have is with discrimination and stigma, primarily fueled by rejections of the legitimacy of their identities, regardless of how they have transitioned. By distorting research to discourage affirming care for transgender kids and adults, ACP is exacerbating that very rejection and giving license for others to do the same.

--Ford

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