Nov 4, 2018
In advance of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a poorly organized group of “parent activists” repeatedly spammed more than 45 journalists to spread misinformation about the AAP’s policy on caring for children and adolescents who do not necessarily feel comfortable identifying as the male or female gender they were assigned at birth.
These children might identify as transgender, might identify as a gender that is non-binary (that is, neither completely “male” or “female”) or might simply need time to figure out how they feel about who they are. The AAP released a policy statement last month with guidance for pediatricians on caring for these children. It’s that policy statement and the planned discussions about transgender youth care at the AAP meeting that these activists address.
Their primary concern is the incorrect belief that the AAP is forcing “powerful puberty blockers and hormones and bodily surgeries” onto their transgender and gender-diverse children. But that’s a far cry from what their policy statement, which promotes “gender affirmation care,” actually says. In fact, across its 10 pages, only a third of one page discusses pubertal suppression medication at all.
“The gender affirmation model is not necessarily based on treatment,” explained Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH, EdM, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist at the gender and sexuality clinic and at the adolescent health center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, and the lead author of the AAP statement. “The core is about creating a safe, nonjudgmental space to really receive these sorts of concerns and questions that kids and families may have so that you can begin to mobilize appropriate supports, whether it be behavioral health or family support or an alliance with your pediatrician to help explore some of these concerns.”
Sounds pretty radical, right? Giving children nonjudgmental support to ask questions without feeling frightened or shamed? That the statement the people spamming journalists have a problem with.
Why Write About This?
Typically, I avoid drawing attention to this kind of behavior because it’s not generally helpful to give oxygen to people sharing inaccurate statements and criticizing evidence-based policies. But I’m making exception for a few reasons:
1) The misinformation they share includes commonly held misconceptions by the public in general, so this is a good opportunity to educate others on what the AAP’s policy actually is and why the evidence-based policy is important for the physical, mental and emotional health of children and teens—including literally saving their lives.
2) Anyone who sends me more than a dozen identical copy-and-pasted messages from random email addresses that contain more than 1,400 words and an 8-page single-spaced letter attachment deserves to be called out not only for their false information but also their sheer stupidity in thinking this is an effective way to get me to take them seriously.
3) The lengthy statement says “it has been difficult to get much attention on the truth of gender identity due to the political nature of this topic” and includes this plea: “Do not let politics and fear keep you from the truth.” And so I won’t.