Author archives: Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

Protecting Children in a Post-Trans Ideological World

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

May 2, 2022

For the first time since Roe v. Wade was decided, there’s hope that the lives of the pre-born will once again be valued and protected in the United States of America. This optimism comes after nearly 50 years of praying, rallying, promoting legislative efforts, and organizing to ensure our elected officials voted for life.

In the years leading up to this moment, there’s been an awareness among the pro-life movement that we must offer solutions for some of the circumstances that could cause a person to believe that ending a baby’s life is a viable or even necessary option. In an effort to give answers to our society’s harms, some have opened adoption and fostering agencies, others pregnancy resource centers, while still others have offered counseling and shelter to pregnant women in situations of domestic violence.

As we reflect on the possibility that this historic wrong of legalized elective abortion might be righted, and as we build the foundations of a world in which the unborn are protected and their mothers supported, let’s extend this same hopeful expectation to our children who have been exposed to post-modern/transgender ideology.

The Bible talks about a day when justice would be lacking, and truth would “fall in the streets” (Isaiah 59:14). Clearly, we are living in just such a time. Post-modern or social constructivist thought tells us that there is no objective truth and what matters is “our truth.” But this kind of “truth” is subject to humanity’s desires and can be easily changed to fit the latest social trends. A standard this fickle can never serve as a rudder for an identity-starved generation. This type of fluid truth can never foster a sense of meaning and well-being that is able to withstand the changing tides of human existence.

How do we, who refuse to let truth fall in the streets, prepare for a post-post-modern/post-transgender world?

Think about what it will look like when a generation, perhaps Gen Z, becomes disillusioned by the ideology that says, “life is without boundaries” and “the only objective truth that exists is what each person identifies as true”? What happens when this conception of truth provides no grounding for emptiness, pain, or a mercurial sense of self? Or when the collective consciousness of a generation is akin to an emotional roaring sea that has no limits to the waves of confusion experienced from one moment to the next?

Right now, the medical and psychological professions do not have answers to the gender identity confusion. In many U.S. states, these professionals are not even allowed to talk about root causes of confusion over biological sex. These professionals (I’m affiliated, too) may only offer affirmation. But as some who have detransitioned have reported, a time can come when the novelty of the transgender procedures wears off and the tide of applause from trans-affirming activists rolls back. After a person’s foundation has been laid bare, what remains is pain, unresolved identity struggles, and the confusion that initiated the desire to be someone else. When this ideology and supposed treatment collapses, we must be prepared!

Because, ready or not, they are coming, and the need will be great. Many in the trans-identifying community will realize that they were sold a lie about their identity by some of their closest family members, friends, and authority and political figures. The sense of betrayal and grief, as we have already seen with the first fruits of those who have detransitioned, will be profound. This means the church and those who remain clear and fair-minded need to be ready to receive them with open arms.

First, we can’t lose hope! Just last week, one pro-transgender group noted that 200 bills had been introduced in 2021 to prevent access to gender-affirming “health care” and aimed at mitigating the problems that arise with social spaces and biological males competing in women’s sports. This all points to a willingness of parents and concerned citizens to lobby their politicians to stand for truth and protect children.

Second, we need to learn about the needs of this population and ways we can serve them. The trans ideology has been advertised as a pathway to becoming your “true self” and a grand solution for mental distress. The reality is that many of those who identify with trans-ideology have childhood traumas in their backgrounds. Some may have a diagnosis of autism or were deeply influenced by their peers and social media. This ideology is no substitute for some of these root issues. When they come for help, they don’t necessarily just need someone with a degree in psychology. They will need someone who can listen, empathize with their pain, and show mercy that is tethered to truth.

Third, don’t stop praying. The pathway to freedom has and will always be through knowing the Truth, Jesus Christ. The Truth is the only person who can truly set someone free. Let’s pray that mercy and truth will meet over those struggling with gender identity.

There are many resources that are available to begin learning more about this population. Here are a few:

Transgenderism Has a Science Problem

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

March 22, 2022

Laws protecting children from harmful gender transition procedures are supported by basic scientific facts. Yet such laws are routinely opposed by cultural, corporate, and political figures, who claim they are the ones in alignment with science. The White House recently called efforts in Texas to protect children from gender transition an “attack on loving parents who seek medical care” that is “dangerous to the health” of these children. Is this really true?

Sadly, when it comes to this issue, ideology is driving science more than science is driving itself. Statements like that of the White House avoid the facts about gender transition for children and instead employ a communications campaign fraught with hyperbole, misinformation, and inadequate research that is more emblematic of a bait-and-switch tactic rather than the gold standard of scientific inquiry. What are we to think of all this?

In the midst of the confusion, it’s appropriate to recall a few basic facts about the scientific method:

1. The scientific method is just one way of learning about the world around us. It is not an infallible approach to knowledge, and there are always errors associated with any study. The question, then, is not whether error is present, but how loosely do we hold the findings because of the amount of error in the study.

2. Confidence is gained in the study’s outcome when error has been reduced. One way error is easily identified is by looking at how the study was designed. This means assessing the methods (e.g., web-survey, experimental study), how the sample was gathered (do the people in the study have the same characteristics as those the researchers are trying to apply the findings to), the financial associations of the researchers, and any vested interests the researchers have in a certain outcome.

3. A particular finding is also strengthened when multiple studies draw the same conclusion. It is normal for a research agenda to start with a wide scope and ask a question such as, “What are the experiences of youth who identify as transgender?” As this information solidifies, the research questions narrow, and the methods typically become more rigorous and directive. For example, the methods and question might move to the commonly known clinical trial phase and ask, “What interventions reduce gender dysphoria?”

4. As a research agenda grows, knowledge on a subject matter strengthens. In this way, a fuller picture might emerge, giving insight into the conditions that create an outcome. In this case, it’s clear that the transgender-identifying population has higher rates of childhood trauma, mental health distress, and increased suicidality. When there is clear knowledge about the factors that create a ripe environment for an outcome, it would be remiss to leave those concepts out of research study without a very clear logic for doing so.

With these basic research concepts in mind, there’s no escaping a need to be critical of the transgender literature. Transgender studies have been used to make big claims about the effects of medicalized interventions, but these studies lack solid empirical evidence to back up the assertions that these practices are efficacious. It is critical to keep in mind that these procedures are some of the most intrusive physiological practices used to address any psychological condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5; and soon 5-TR) and should demand the most rigorous scientific backing rather than the least. Here are four key things we should be aware of regarding the current transgender literature:

1. First, transgender literature is in its infancy stage of a research agenda. The types of research methods and questions asked in the peer-review literature reveal that these studies are only at the exploratory phase. This means that the approaches used to investigate the experiences of the transgender population cannot establish a causal relationship between claims that are made, such as the claim that the use of cross-sex hormones will reduce suicidal thoughts. The research methods, alone, prohibit such a claim from being made.

2. Much of the research scaffolding the idea that “transgender procedures save lives” is based on web/survey data, which captures people’s opinions from one moment in time. These data points do not account for suicidal thoughts or mental distress over time or long-term. By design, these studies cannot establish that hormones/surgery are responsible for a reduction in negative mental health outcomes. The methods themselves give us this answer, regardless of how many advocacy, medical, academic, or professional groups say it’s true.

3. The transgender literature has recycled some of the same web survey data from participants who were enlisted from the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad method approach for an exploratory study, in the initial phase of a research agenda, it is unconscionable that this level of inquiry would be explicated to a recommendation for removing healthy organs, particularly for children.

4. This body of literature asserts a causal link between gender affirmative medical care and mental health outcomes. This conclusion is erroneous because the research methods don’t allow for it and the variables known to affect the transgender-identifying population and suicide rates in general have been omitted from the investigations. That is, no study to date can claim that gender affirmative medical care clearly reduces:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Gender dysphoria

Would you have any of your vital organs, such as a kidney, removed because a few studies by advocates for kidney removals launched web surveys and found that some people felt less mental distress at the idea of an organ removal or because some people accessed services to remove their healthy kidney?

At this point, we must ask: Where are the research methods to establish the conclusion that access to transgender medical interventions bolsters mental health? There are none. But we still hear from our highest political offices that these practices “save lives.” Such a claim is both dangerous and patently false, and it is based on a body of data that is immature, to say the least. 

**To read more about how the science around transgenderism and other issues is being politicized, see these publications:

Bringing Awareness to the Experiences of Detransitioners

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

March 10, 2022

As a trauma therapist, I’ve had the honor of working in a profession that aims to serve children and families during some of the most painful and vulnerable moments of their lives. I considered it a blessing to have a career focused on doing what the Bible directs every believer in Christ to do—that is, to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27). In our modern vernacular, we might summarize this biblical passage by saying it is our duty to look for ways to advocate and care for those who are without resources and have been ignored by society. This description certainly applies to those who once identified as transgender and have decided to detransition to their biological sex.

These individuals have been repeatedly silenced and ignored, particularly by the medical and psychological professions. Before altering their bodies, many who have struggled with gender dysphoria reported that their peers, as well as their transgender advocacy, medical, and psychological groups, rallied around them and encouraged them to hormonally and surgically change their bodies to appear more like the opposite sex. Over time, many have come to regret their physiological alterations.

Only a few studies have tackled the plight of detransitioners. But one such study found that nearly 40 percent of participants who detransitioned said they felt pressure from health and mental health care professionals to medically transition.

At best, it is bad practice for professionals to pressure patients to receive unscientifically validated practices that carry known risks and permanently change the body. But this social pressure isn’t present at the onboarding to medical procedures only. Many report that all the encouragement and affirmation they previously received fades into the background when they decide to detransition. In some cases, hostility emerges from those who once cheered them onward to a course that could permanently alter their lives.

The fact remains that those who have identified as transgender have higher rates of childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse than the general population. Sadly, the vast majority of professional groups have not advocated for treatment options that address the issues that are frequently found in tandem with gender dysphoria. For example, in the aforementioned study, 57 percent of detransitioners said their evaluation for gender dysphoria was inadequate. Another 65 percent said that possible contributing factors, such as trauma and other mental health issues, were not considered when assessing their gender distress.

This study’s findings also showed that roughly 45 percent of biological females said their mental health did not improve while transitioning, and 41 percent detransitioned because they realized their gender dysphoria was due to something else (i.e., trauma or another mental health diagnosis). It logically follows that 48 percent of these participants experienced a trauma less than a year before experiencing gender dysphoria. No wonder nearly 40 percent of these biological women said that transitioning made their mental health worse—the real issues were never addressed by the gender clinic or therapist.

On Saturday, March 12, advocacy groups and individuals who’ve suffered the pain of misdiagnosis and the harms of transgender physiological procedures will be gathering around the country to raise awareness about the pain and lack of appropriate treatment options for those who’ve struggled with their biological sex. We need mental health treatment that is responsible and accountable to the public. Please support those courageously taking a stand and join or host an event in your city.

If you are unable to participate in any events on March 12, encourage your elected representatives to hold these professional organizations and gender clinics accountable for their promotion of harmful practices. Let’s call mental health and health practitioners back to their roots of truly helping those without a voice.

**For further reading, please see the following links for more information on ethics and mental health issues related to transgender procedures.

The Public Is Being Primed To Feel Groovy About Psychedelic Drugs

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

December 9, 2021

Right now, there is a concerted effort to change the American public’s attitude towards psychedelic drugs. Turn on Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services, and you’re likely to find shows and documentaries on the usefulness of drugs like LSD (acid), DMT (spirit molecule), MDMA (ecstasy or mollies), and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). These shows are the first public signs that we are being primed to accept the recreational and “prescription” use of psychedelics to solve both our mental and spiritual ills.

Since the Nixon years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has marked psychedelics as schedule 1 substances because they lack clinical value, can be addictive, and hold the potential for long-term physiological and psychological damage, including schizophrenia-type symptoms.

Given this classification, how does one change public opinion about a class of drugs associated with images tucked firmly in the American consciousness of spun-out flower children whirling around the grass at Woodstock or loitering aimlessly on the streets of Haight-Ashbury?

According to Edward Bernays, the father of public relations and nephew to Sigmund Freud, in order to “manipulate the public to think a certain way, it needs to be taught how to ask for what it [the manipulator] wants.” Robert Worchester, a political analyst, described public opinion by making a distinction between attitudes, opinions, and values. He noted that a person’s values are the most impervious to change; however, through continued exposure, thought, and discussion, these too can be shaped.

When it comes to influencing our view about psychedelics, what could possibly compete with the images of dancing hippies? What about a growing body of scientific literature that claims the use of these drugs can help resistant anxiety, posttraumatic stress, depression, alcohol, and tobacco abuse?

For the past 30 years, research studies involving psychedelics were not backed by public funds—until recently. Studies have been popping up in clinicaltrials.gov. There have even been several reports, with small sample sizes, touted as “success stories” for reducing mental health symptoms by microdosing these drugs.

Mental health is certainly a concern for Americans. This week, a Gallup poll found that Americans rated their mental health at an all-time low, with only 34 percent giving themselves an excellent score. Aside from this poll, we know that our society is facing significant mental health challenges, with nearly 20 percent of the population suffering from anxiety disorders and suicide ranked as one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

The media is not the only group riding high on our mental health problems. Groups like Mind-Medicine, a pharmaceutical start-up, are seeking FDA (national) approval for psychedelics, under the expectation that the drugs will provide an alternative treatment to the aforementioned mental health conditions. Veterans and first responders have already been enlisted in these studies.

The co-founder of Mind Medicine stated their goal is to “get the average person to realize that these are not evil drugs—they can be used as medicines and be successful at treating unmet medical needs.”

Aside from the attempt to lend credibility to these drugs through science, there has already been a push to legalize psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Some states and cities have already moved to legalize these substances for recreational use. These places include Denver, Colorado; Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, Michigan; Somerville, Cambridge, and Northampton, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; and Oregon. Seattle is the largest city to decriminalize all psychedelic plants and fungi for religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices.

California is currently proposing its own measures to legalize psilocybin mushrooms, truffles, sclerotia, and mycelium. Iowa is following suit, but with an additional bill that would reclassify psilocybin, ibogaine, and MDMA for medicinal purposes.

The real goal here is to nationalize the use of these drugs, which have the potential to significantly alter our society and offer bad treatment for those suffering from trauma, anxiety, and depression. The strategy we are seeing to promote psychedelics has been taken right out of the playbook of Big Marijuana. Rather than fight the arduous battle of changing the schedule 1 designation at the federal level, there’s a major push to make these drugs respectable. Research studies and popular media will continue to promote medical benefits associated with these drugs, but the endgame is for psychedelics to be legalized at every local and state level for recreational use.

Fighting major pharmaceutical and research industries may seem like an uphill battle. However, there are important steps that we can take to slow this fast-moving train:

  • First, it is critical that the research community engages in truthful scientific research and is aware of the increasing push to medicalize these drugs.

  • Second, there needs to be greater accountability regarding the influence and financial benefits enjoyed by the Big Pharma industry in pushing these drugs. Organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana have been pushing back on the financial and political influence of Big Marijuana. We need more groups to give oversight to the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Finally, the church has an important role to play in offering true healing and answers to people who might otherwise try to find comfort in marijuana or psychedelic drugs.

The Trend Toward Normalizing Pedophilia Must Be Halted

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

December 8, 2021

Americans are awakening to the call to protect children from being sexualized. Following the national news coverage of local school board meetings in Virginia, many U.S. citizens are shocked to learn that today’s elementary school lessons include material that would make most adults blush. Whether or not you are a parent, it is stomach-turning to learn that our taxpayer dollars have been used to make sexually explicit materials available in school libraries and attendance to pornographic sex-ed lessons mandatory.

The alarm rang even louder when we found out that government officials were willing to assign weighty terms like “terrorist” to parents wanting to protect their children from being sexualized. When a government is willing to use labels that pack the capacity to bypass our liberties while giving tremendous latitude to authorities to investigate a supposed threat to the homeland, it begs the question: Why is propagating sexual material to children so valuable to the government? Why do these officials remain recalcitrant to the rebukes from their historically favored voting block? Most importantly, where does this slippery slope end?

Until this past month, most of the public could only speculate where the institutionalized sexualization of our children would lead. In case you missed it, in November, we got a peek into some of the current academic discourse when a professor from Old Dominion University in Virginia, Allyn Walker, suggested that having sexual desire for children isn’t wrong. Rather, Walker suggested we should use a less stigmatizing term such as “Minor-Attracted People” (MAPS) instead of the word “pedophile.”

As someone who worked in a clinical setting with people who were sexually abused and some who went on to act out that same abuse, I know the importance of providing a place to talk without affirming thoughts that could prove detrimental to a child. This is a boundary that should not be moved, not even in theory. It is troubling that any serious academic institution would be willing to diminish, even in terminology, the horror that should be associated with any expression of violation against a child.

Public outrage over the comments resulted in Walker’s resignation. Pressure needs to remain high on any institution willing to relax the stigma of pedophilia and lead us down the slope to its acceptance.

Although Walker’s story might be new to the public at large, it’s important to keep in mind that the road to normalizing pedophilia is, unfortunately, not a new discourse in the institutions of higher education. For years, many have turned a blind eye to the pedophilia of scholars like Michael Foucault, who had exploits with minors in Northern Africa and was also a proponent of lowering the age of consent.

And then there was Dr. John Money, the academic psychiatrist whose work added to the current conceptualization of gender roles and transgender theory, which influenced diagnostic terms in the manual for mental disorders (DSM). Let’s not forget his therapeutic methods, which are best known in the case of David Reimer and his brother. Money’s supposed clinical acumen involved simulating and photographing sex acts with the brothers. At Money’s recommendation, David’s family was counseled to raise him as a girl and “reassign” his sex, but David never felt like a girl and later chose to live with his biological sex. In the end, he committed suicide. By all accounts, this decision was influenced by the early therapeutic endeavors of Money. 

If no other moral standard exists within the research community, at minimum, one would hope that academics could hold fast to the edicts contained in the Nuremberg Code or the Research Act of 1974, which outline the conduct for a humane class of researchers engaged in the scientific method for the betterment of society. Both include special protections for children. Instead, what we’ve learned is that unbridled curiosity has mostly remained unchecked in the ivory tower, and some scientists are exploring lines of inquiry about children that should remain unthinkable.

By the way, this is not a uniquely North American trend down the slope to pedophilia. More recently, it was revealed that the German government had doled out funding to the Kentler Project. This study began in the 1970s with a 30-year agenda that placed homeless children with known pedophiles. Helmut Kentler, the chief scientific investigator of the project, held that sexual interactions between children and adults were benign and perhaps even beneficial to the homeless youth.

Thankfully, in this recent debacle with the defamed professor, we have one instance where the slide down the slope was quickly stopped. Let this case serve as a wake-up call and an alarm that keeps us awake. This kind of discourse must not germinate in the darkness of academic silos. It must be called out into the light.

Australian Psychiatric Group Takes Important Step Towards Keeping Children Safe

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

November 10, 2021

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) recently issued a new position statement on the treatment of gender dysphoria (GD). This announcement follows recent moves by several European countries to amend their offerings of physiologically damaging procedures on minors who experience distress over embracing their biological sex.

Although the RANZCP doesn’t go as far as to ban transgender procedures on minors, their statement does echo a few noteworthy points raised by proponents of policies aimed at protecting children from these physiologically damaging practices. The RANZCP position paper:

  1. Acknowledged there is a lack of quality empirical evidence in the scientific literature on interventions for GD. In particular, there is a dearth of long-term research that shows a positive effect of these procedures on mental health outcomes. (Click here for more information on the scientific method.)
  2. Referenced studies showing an elevated risk for poor mental health outcomes among trans-identifying youth, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm. Considering this, the RANZCP recommend multiple treatment options and a comprehensive assessment of the patient.
  3. Stated that the comprehensive assessment should evaluate other mental health concerns and not GD alone. The evaluation should also include an exploration into the circumstances that gave rise to GD and an examination into the personal and familial background of the patient.
  4. Admonished psychiatrists to give evidence of a minors’ ability to give informed consent. Additionally, an assessment of the risks and benefits of various treatments for GD was emphasized. (Click here for more information on ethics.)

The RANZCP’s statement is one more small step towards recognizing the problematic state of mental health care for minors suffering from GD. By including an assessment of the family and ruling out the existence of mental health issues among caregivers, their position appropriately affirms previously held approaches to mental health care with minors. Additionally, the RANZCP endorses the profession’s commitment to providing evidence-based practices, exploring multiple treatment options and contributing factors to psychological distress, and ascertaining whether the minor can truly give consent to care.

As we continue our battle to keep America’s children safe, it is heartening to see other countries and professional groups recognizing the flagrant gaps in the scientific literature and reaffirming that treatment should be informed by evidence and not uniformly given to popular treatment protocols. A decade ago, this statement would’ve seemed irrelevant to most mental health professionals, but today, we see that we cannot take for granted good practice standards. For now, we are grateful for one more stride toward keeping our kids safe.

A full review of the RANZCP can be found here.

Remembering 9/11: One New Yorker’s Testimony About the Power of Prayer

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

September 10, 2021

For many of us who were alive at the time of September 11, 2001, our memories of that day, and the days that followed, are marked by stories of heroism and patriotism but also terrible loss and grief. But there is another theme that has been less publicized, and that is the effect prayer had on 9/11.

It’s hard to estimate the number of people that prayed that day or were moved to pray in the days leading up to the attack. One thing we know, as tragic as 9/11 was, it could’ve been far worse. While no harm or loss of life is acceptable, this attack could’ve resulted in even more widespread devastation. This is because the average number of people working at the World Trade Center in 2001 was roughly 50,000 people. Additionally, the number of daily visitors and tourists were around 140,000. The loss of life that day in New York was significant, at 2,823 people, but still much lower than what was intended by the attacks. 

Through years of living in New York and researching about the psychological impact of 9/11, I’ve had the privilege to hear stories from people who should’ve been at the World Trade Center that day, but “something” happened that caused their plans or routines to change. I’ve heard countless stories, like my friend Tiffany, who invited another friend to breakfast. As a result, her friend wasn’t at the WTC that day.  

One of the clearest stories I’ve heard about the power of prayer started with a dream that one of my friends had in 1998. In the dream, my friend, Julianna, was walking around downtown Manhattan near Trinity Church. As she walked along Trinity Place (street), she entered a 12-story gray building that had two revolving doors at the entrance. She walked into the building and began to shout, with great assurance, “It’s safe!” She then saw a lot of people running and scrambling inside the building and out on the streets. Then a great wave came which looked like a tsunami cascading down the street, but the wave didn’t enter the building. That was the end of the dream.

Later that week, Julianna went to her weekly prayer meeting where she shared the dream. Ada, who attended the prayer group, was also a high school principal. When she heard the dream, she recognized the description and location as characteristic of her school. Both ladies had a sense that God was leading them to pray for the safety of this high school, which was located near the World Trade Center.

For the next three years, Julianna and Ada walked around the school building and prayed for safety. Ada also enlisted some of her students and faculty to pray for safety. Although they never fully understood what they were praying about, they continued to pray.

On the day of September 11, 2001, Julianna was in her home in Brooklyn when she saw the news break about the Twin Towers. She saw the footage of people running and the cloud of smoke behind them. She knew that it was the tsunami wave that she saw in her dream, and she fell to her knees and began to pray for safety.

At the same time, Ada was with other faculty members assisting the students out of the school building. Before completely evacuating the area, one of the teachers went back into the building to make sure no one was left inside. While this teacher was in the building, he noticed that the smoke never entered the lobby. Not only was there no smoke, but Ada’s school did not suffer any damage and there were no broken windows from the attacks. However, the buildings to the right and left of the High School suffered structural damage.

Most importantly, Ada and the faculty were able to bring every student to safety, and no one was harmed. In the end, the dream was completely fulfilled. It truly was “safe” for every person in the school and for the building itself.

As we remember 9/11 and honor our first responders and service members, those who lost their lives and were wounded, and the families who lost loved ones, let’s also not forget that prayer changes things.

Suicide Risk and Gender Transition: The Facts

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

July 23, 2021

As a graduate student in my early twenties, I volunteered on a suicide hotline. The calls I received while working on the hotline certainly included the suicidal person, but they also came from concerned family members, friends, and coworkers.  When advising people who wanted to keep someone safe, it was essential to give them tools not only to speak with the person of concern, but to also underscore that the person they seek to help has a choice in the matter.  Of course, the goal was to save lives, but we wanted to communicate to the helping party that, ultimately, they are not responsible for another person’s decision should their loved one choose to follow through with their threat of suicide.

While suicide is a very serious issue, it doesn’t mean that the helper should be controlled by the threat.  For example, after years of counseling with domestic violence survivors, I can recall countless stories of women who were told by an abusive spouse or partner, “if you leave me, I’ll commit suicide.”  Again, suicidal thoughts and gestures should be assessed and evaluated, and underlying causes need to be properly addressed. However, tying such requests to expressions of suicide can prove to be, in some cases, controlling. That’s what I communicated to domestic violence survivors who felt demands placed on them to sacrifice their safety, and in some instances, their lives, because of the threats expressed by the person abusing them.      

Unfortunately, the “threat” of suicide is what is being used against responsible leaders trying to protect children from harmful and often unknown risks associated with gender transition procedures. In the wake of the news that a federal judge in Arkansas blocked that state’s Save Children from Experimentation Act (which would protect children from receiving unnecessary and invasive medical interventions aimed at treating a psychological condition characterized by confusion over one’s biological sex) from going into effect, we’ve seen a resurgence in claims of the risk of suicide, without reference or examination to a range of likely underlying and co-occurring conditions.

When appealing to the judge several days ago to temporarily enjoin Arkansas’ law, Chase Strangio of the ACLU claimed: “These families, like hundreds of others across the state, are terrified … There has already been a spike in suicide attempts since this legislation was passed.” Court filings read: “For some transgender youth, the prospect of losing this critical medical care, even before the legislation is in effect, is unbearable … In the weeks after the bill passed, at least six transgender adolescents in Arkansas attempted suicide.” 

Within the ACLU’s claims, there is no reference to the other factors that might affect these adolescents’ decisions to attempt suicide. We are simply led to believe that legislative decisions alone are prompting suicidal thoughts in these teenagers.

Similar assertions implying that this legislation will only increase the risk of suicide were sprinkled throughout other’s reports on the issue.  Some involved in the case went on to argue that these medical practices “save lives” and are necessary for the transgender population that tends to be vulnerable to depression and suicide.

The high suicide rate in the transgender identifying population, in fact, has been repeatedly given as the reason to support treatments that stop puberty in developing children, to start kids on a lifetime supply of the opposite-sex’s hormones, and to allow surgeries that remove healthy sexual organs. These claims are misplaced, and frankly, dangerous.

That said, suicide is a real threat, and it should be addressed. The underlying causes that are leading to this threat should also be investigated so that this population can be properly treated. But, at this time, there is no evidence that suicidality abates after transgender medical procedures are performed. To the contrary, the available evidence shows a rise in completed suicides following medical interventions. Why? Clearly, the real psychological pain behind the suicidality is not being addressed by medical interventions.

The problem here is that suicide should never be used as a tool, by any group, to strong-arm policymakers and the psychological and medical communities into both allowing and providing questionable practices that have somehow gained a monopoly on “standards of care” for gender dysphoria.  Especially when those practices involve onboarding children, who have not fully developed physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically, to potentially irreversible and sterilizing treatments. 

In response, public policy makers should focus on protecting citizens, particularly vulnerable children. Further, policies that inform public health and safety should be firmly grounded in solid empirical research, such as:

  • There is no evidence that transgender medical treatments reduce the psychological distress and mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.
  • There is no long-term investigation into the psychological and physiological consequences of transgender medicine performed on children.

The credible and available evidence indicates:

  • There are significant health risks to transgender medicine. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, & blood clots.
  • In a 30-year longitudinal study, gender reassignment surgery patients had a 19 times higher rate of completed suicide than the general population.

A few known underlying conditions that are not addressed by transgender medicine:

  • A recent study showed 45 percent of transgender identifying persons experienced childhood sexual abuse.
  • Higher rates of substance abuse have been found in this population by comparison to the general population.

For more information on this topic, see FRC’s issue analysis.

Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council.

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