The American College of Pediatricians (ACP), which utilizes the totally convincing slogan “Best for Children,” has issued a new position statement claiming that respecting transgender children’s identities causes them harm and conservative groups are already latching onto it.
If the claim sounds peculiar, it’s because it’s a claim completely refuted by all available scientific evidence. It’s also because the ACP is not a legitimate medical organization; its name is designed to be mistaken for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a national organization with some 60,000 members. The ACP, by contrast, is estimated to have no more than 200 members, and it has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBT positions.
“The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex,” the statement reads. “Facts — not ideology — determine reality.” The “facts” that follow actually reflect a social conservative ideology that rejects the very reality of what transgender children experience.
For example, the statement not-so-subtly concludes that all transgender people must be mentally ill. “A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking,” the statement reads. “When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.”
The 36,000-member American Psychiatric Association, which defines mental illnesses through its Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), says the exact opposite, explaining, “It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder.” It is only distress associated with such an identity that should be treated — and treated with affirmation.
The statement also relies on several myths about transgender people that have been debunked. For example, it reiterates the desistance myth, the claim that most “gender confused” children “eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.” This is a claim based on research that conflated children with some gender-variant behavior with children who actually asserted a different gender. The children in those studies who “desisted” in their identities were the kids who weren’t actually transgender to begin with. A recent study found that trans kids whose parents embrace their identities are as happy and healthy as their peers.
ACP also claims, “Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT — affirming countries.” The Swedish study so often cited to reinforce this myth didn’t actually find evidence that undergoing surgery contributed to higher suicide rates. Indeed, the lead researcher of that study has specifically spoken out that anybody using it to draw such conclusions is misrepresenting it. A much more compelling connection has been found between suicidal ideation and experiences of discrimination.
As trans activist Brynn Tannehill pointed out in her own debunk of ACP’s statement, it appears to have been spearheaded by Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University. He is one of the only prominent doctors in the country that rejects transgender equality, distorting and rejecting research as is necessary to do so. Conservatives regularly rely on him to prop up their anti-trans talking points and he in turn contributes columns to their publications.
The ACP statement may already be propagating harm. Plenty of conservative publications have already promoted it, taking it at face value to claim that the “transgender agenda” constitutes “child abuse.” Tannehill notes, “I’m also already hearing from parents of transgender children that relatives and people hostile to them in the community are using this position statement to threaten to report them to child protective services and take their children away.”
Conservative advocacy groups are also quickly embracing the statement. For example, the group Stop Common Core in Michigan sent out an alert on Monday using the ACP’s position to rally opposition to guidelines drafted by the Michigan Department of Education that would protect transgender students. The Illinois Family Institute and Wisconsin Family Action (WFA) have also promoted the policy statement. WFA president Julaine Appling praised the statement as coming from a “medical group.”
That happens to be a “medical group” that requires its members to abide by a mission, vision, and values that assert an anti-LGBT, anti-choice, anti-sex agenda in spite of any scientific evidence that might contradict it.