(LifeSiteNews) — The New York Times appears to be making a long, slow U-turn on the transgender industry’s medicalization of children with gender dysphoria. In 2022, the NYT published a lengthy report titled “They Paused Puberty, But is There A Cost?”, and LGBT activists responded with outrage – these were questions that we have been told we are not allowed to ask.
Despite the backlash, that piece was followed up by a story on January 22, 2023, titled “When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know,” featuring interviews with 50 people, “including parents and their children, public school officials, medical professionals and lawyers for both L.G.B.T.Q. and conservative advocacy groups.” The reaction, once again, was fury.
Why does this matter? Plenty of publications, most of them conservative, libertarian, or feminist, had been reporting on these issues for several years already. Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Children, put it well: “The primary function of The New York Times isn’t to inform the public. It is to inform liberals when they have the green-light to discuss an issue. If liberals jump the gun and talk about it before the NYT gives its approval, they are bigots.” Thus, critical coverage of transgender premises means a lot more when it comes from the NYT because it indicates a cultural shift. We were told that transgender activist claims were “not up for debate.” Now, it turns out they are.
That is what makes a 4,000-word piece published by the NYT titled “As Kids, They Thought They Were Trans. They No Longer Do.” on February 2 so significant. For years, the testimonies of detransitioners have been ignored, dismissed, or questioned. Now, the NYT is signalling that it may be time to have that discussion – or more accurately, they are joining a discussion that many of us have been having on other platforms for years. Authored by Pamela Paul – and labelled, likely for tactical reasons, as “opinion” – the piece debunks many key transgender talking points right from the outset. The essay begins thusly:
Grace Powell was 12 or 13 when she discovered she could be a boy.
Growing up in a relatively conservative community in Grand Rapids, Mich., Powell, like many teenagers, didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. She was unpopular and frequently bullied. Puberty made everything worse. She suffered from depression and was in and out of therapy.
‘I felt so detached from my body, and the way it was developing felt hostile to me,’ Powell told me. It was classic gender dysphoria, a feeling of discomfort with your sex.
Reading about transgender people online, Powell believed that the reason she didn’t feel comfortable in her body was that she was in the wrong body. Transitioning seemed like the obvious solution. The narrative she had heard and absorbed was that if you don’t transition, you’ll kill yourself.
At 17, desperate to begin hormone therapy, Powell broke the news to her parents. They sent her to a gender specialist to make sure she was serious. In the fall of her senior year of high school, she started cross-sex hormones. She had a double mastectomy the summer before college, then went off as a transgender man named Grayson to Sarah Lawrence College, where she was paired with a male roommate on a men’s floor. At 5-foot-3, she felt she came across as a very effeminate gay man.
At no point during her medical or surgical transition, Powell says, did anyone ask her about the reasons behind her gender dysphoria or her depression. At no point was she asked about her sexual orientation. And at no point was she asked about any previous trauma, and so neither the therapists nor the doctors ever learned that she’d been sexually abused as a child.
In just those first few paragraphs, Paul highlights the fact that a) Grace was introduced to the idea that she could “become a boy”; b) that she was exposed to gender ideology online; c) that she had “absorbed” the “narrative” that she would become suicidal if she didn’t “transition”; and d) that nobody asked her about the underlying issues fueling her gender dysphoria. She even says she was told “there is one cure and one thing to do if this is your problem, and this will help you.” These are the stories that other outlets have been covering for years and are now clearly impossible to ignore. Grace has since detransitioned.
While making the requisite points about “right-wing” fearmongering, Donald Trump, and adults allegedly happy with their “transitions,” Paul notes that:
Transgender activists have pushed their own ideological extremism, especially by pressing for a treatment orthodoxy that has faced increased scrutiny in recent years. Under that model of care, clinicians are expected to affirm a young person’s assertion of gender identity and even provide medical treatment before, or even without, exploring other possible sources of distress. Many who think there needs to be a more cautious approach – including well-meaning liberal parents, doctors and people who have undergone gender transition and subsequently regretted their procedures – have been attacked as anti-trans and intimidated into silencing their concerns.
Indeed, this has been done from the pages of the New York Times – but this latest essay may be a harbinger of change. Paul interviews therapists – including Laura Edwards-Leeper, the founding psychologist of the first pediatric gender clinic in the U.S. – about their growing concerns about the “transitioning” of gender dysphoric children and the lack of regulation. Paul notes that while activists dismiss the idea of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD), gender therapists are witnessing it first-hand. Edwards-Leeper says that many providers are rushing young people onto the medicalization path, skipping the step of finding out what the underling issues are. Paul even points out that “those health care professionals and scientists who do not think clinicians should automatically agree to a young person’s self-diagnosis are often afraid to speak out.” I note again: this is in the New York Times.
Paul cites examples of medical professionals being targeted for wanting to take a more cautious approach, and Edwards-Leeper told her that of “the dozens of students she’s trained as psychologists,” few wish to go into gender-related care because “some have told me that they didn’t feel they could continue because of the pushback, the accusations of being transphobic, from being pro-assessment and wanting a more thorough process.” Indeed, anyone who questions the model pushed by the LGBT movement is viciously attacked by transgender activists. Many have lost their careers. Parents, too, told Paul that as they struggled to find the best care for their children struggling with gender dysphoria, they faced a battery of experts insisting on the medicalization path. Most were told that their child might commit suicide if they did not take that route. (All spoke to her on the condition of anonymity.) Paul writes:
Parents are routinely warned that to pursue any path outside of agreeing with a child’s self-declared gender identity is to put a gender dysphoric youth at risk for suicide, which feels to many people like emotional blackmail. Proponents of the gender-affirming model have cited studies showing an association between that standard of care and a lower risk of suicide. But those studies were found to have methodological flaws or have been deemed not entirely conclusive. A survey of studies on the psychological effects of cross-sex hormones, published three years ago in The Journal of the Endocrine Society, the professional organization for hormone specialists, found it ‘could not draw any conclusions about death by suicide.’ In a letter to The Wall Street Journal last year, 21 experts from nine countries said that survey was one reason they believed there was ‘no reliable evidence to suggest that hormonal transition is an effective suicide prevention measure.’
Moreover, the incidence of suicidal thoughts and attempts among gender dysphoric youth is complicated by the high incidence of accompanying conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder. As one systematic overview put it, “Children with gender dysphoria often experience a range of psychiatric comorbidities, with a high prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders and autism spectrum conditions, suicidality and self-harm.”
Paul recounts the stories of detransitioner regret – heartbroken young women who had their breasts removed and their voices permanently lowered by hormone blockers. One mother told Paul that after her teenage son “desisted,” he told her: “I was just rebelling. I look at it like a subculture, like being goth.” That is precisely what critics of the transgender movement have been saying since around 2015. How many kids were permanently mutilated in the meantime? Far, far too many.
As Paul writes: “Studies show that around eight in 10 cases of childhood gender dysphoria resolve themselves by puberty and 30 percent of people on hormone therapy discontinue its use within four years, though the effects, including infertility, are often irreversible.” Paul concludes by noting that many European countries have begun to turn away from the transgender “treatments” that are presented to the public in the U.S. and Canada as “necessary” and “life-saving” – and that a reconsideration is desperately needed.
She’s right. The New York Times is late to this party, but better late than never.