Much of what is reported about sexual orientation and gender identity is suspect according to a new report published today by The New Atlantis. The report’s authors are Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D., a scholar in residence in the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University, and Paul R. McHugh, M.D. is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for twenty-five years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Here are some of their key findings.
- The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings — the idea that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence.
- While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation. While minor differences in the brain structures and brain activity between homosexual and heterosexual individuals have been identified by researchers, such neurobiological findings do not demonstrate whether these differences are innate or are the result of environmental and psychological factors.
- Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults (although the extent to which this figure reflects actual changes in same-sex attractions and not just artifacts of the survey process has been contested by some researchers).
- Compared to heterosexuals, non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.
- The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.
- Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.
- Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.
- Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.
- There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents, although some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification. There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.
One of the consistent themes of the report is that science does not support the claim that “gender identity” is a fixed property independent of biological sex, but rather that a combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely shape how individuals experience and express themselves when it comes to sex and gender.
The report also discusses the reality of neuroplasticity: that all of our brains can and do change throughout our lives (especially, but not only, in childhood) in response to our behavior and experiences. These changes in the brain can, in turn, influence future behavior.
This provides more reason for concern over the Obama administration’s recent transgender school policies. Beyond the privacy and safety concerns, there is thus also the potential that such policies will result in prolonged identification as transgender for students who otherwise would have naturally grown out of it.
The report reviews rigorous research showing that “only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”
Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, believes this report should be required reading for members of the media.
“The New Atlantis report casts serious doubt on the scientific accuracy of the ‘gender identity’ narrative being promoted by many in the mainstream media. The science is anything but settled.The recent effort by the Obama Administration to force a scientifically suspect gender ideology on our children is irresponsible, and, frankly, abusive. More studies are needed before we begin conducting social experiments on our children that demonstrably lead to debilitating mental health issues or even suicide,” Schilling said in released statement.
“The most striking and little reported truth exposed in this report is the ‘Science Gap’ between what we pretend to know and what we are willing to do to kids – the psychological benefits of hormone treatments or surgery are not well documented and, astonishingly, the physical health risks have seldom even been studied. We don’t know the benefits. We don’t know the risks,” Maggie Gallagher, a senior fellow with American Principles Project, wrote in released statement.
“Every parent should be concerned, especially when we learn that public schools in Charlotte, North Carolina and elsewhere are advising teachers to help hide gender changes of their students from parents, and as President Obama has lawlessly – according to a federal judge – decided to threaten schools with a loss of federal funding for failing to open every public girls locker room to biological males,” she added.