Every few months I find myself reading something written by a person with no actual psychological, psychiatric, or medical training expounding on why they believe transgender people aren’t real, shouldn’t be allowed to transition, or just need some old-school “reparative therapy” complete with screaming, pillow whacking and cuddling with a “therapist.”
Recently there has been a spate of blog posts raising the specter of transgender people regretting transitioning. They cite their two favorite studies, without actually looking at what the actual studies said, and drag out some old anecdotes. In short, they try to muddy the waters the way climate-change deniers or creationists do by throwing up a cloud of chaff and hoping no one will look any closer. And then there’s the fact that the authors of these blog posts also think that same-sex marriage will abolish all marriage.
Let’s deconstruct the arguments being trotted out one by one.
1. A Swedish study shows post-operative people are more much more likely to commit suicide.
This statement grossly misrepresents the findings of the study and suggests that the study argues against transition-related care. Quite the opposite. The study outright states that medical transition is supported by the other research, and the study is not intended as an argument against the availability of such treatment:
For the purpose of evaluating whether sex reassignment is an effective treatment for gender dysphoria, it is reasonable to compare reported gender dysphoria pre and post treatment. Such studies have been conducted either prospectively or retrospectively, and suggest that sex reassignment of transsexual persons improves quality of life and gender dysphoria.
Indeed, another Swedish study in 2009 found that 95 percent of individuals who transitioned report positive life outcomes as a result.
Additionally, the higher mortality rates are in comparison with the general populace (and not other transgender people who have not received treatment) and only apply to people who transitioned before 1989:
In accordance, the overall mortality rate was only significantly increased for the group operated on before 1989. However, the latter might also be explained by improved health care for transsexual persons during 1990s, along with altered societal attitudes towards persons with different gender expressions.
It should come as no shock that as society accepts transgender people, they suffer fewer side effects of minority stress. This conclusion is supported by other recent studies (Murad 2010 and Ainsworth 2011) that found that individuals who receive treatment not only are better-off than those who didn’t but are not significantly different in daily functioning than the general population:
Male-to-female and FM individuals had the same psychological functioning level as measured by the Symptom Checklist inventory (SCL-90), which was also similar to the psychological functioning level of the normal population and better than that of untreated individuals with GID….