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Naming rights

Family | A pediatrician pushes back on allowing gender-confused children to change their names
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 4/13/18, 01:40 pm

Mainstream social scientists are on a mission to prove that transgenderism is innate and gender identity affirmation is the only hope of health for transgender individuals.

A new study out of the University of Texas claims to have proven that when transgender youth are allowed to use a chosen name, their risks of depression and suicide drop. But the study only looks at short-term benefits, not long-term consequences.

The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health late last month and has been widely cited since. Researchers interviewed about 130 young adults, ages 15 to 21, in three U.S. cities. They found their participants using LGBT community organizations.

In the study, those who said that they were allowed to use their chosen name—which corresponded with their gender identity, not their biological sex—at school, home, work, and with friends reported 71 percent fewer symptoms of severe depression, 34 percent fewer thoughts of suicide, and 65 percent fewer suicidal attempts when compared to those who were not allowed to use a chosen name. Just being allowed to use a chosen name in one social setting, but not the other three, was associated with 29 percent fewer suicidal thoughts.

Of the 129 youth, only 74 changed their name. Participants in the study self-identified as both transgender and gender nonconforming, a wide spectrum that could include young people who affirm their biological gender but don’t like gender stereotypes.

Lead author Stephen T. Russell, a professor and chair of human development and family science at UT, said in a statement he was “surprised by how clear that link was,” and concluded, “It’s practical to support young people in using the name that they choose. It’s respectful and developmentally appropriate.”

But short-term benefits do not erase long-term suffering, said Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician and the president of the American College of Pediatricians.

“Think of it this way: Just as a tantruming child becomes content when parents give into the tantrum, so too does a distressed gender-confused child when parents cooperate with the confusion,” she told me. “This sort of contentment does not indicate sound mental health; the false belief is still there.”

Cretella pointed to the research of two international experts on the treatment of child gender identity disorders, Susan Bradley and Kenneth Zucker. In nearly 40 years of working with gender dysphoric children, Cretella said Bradley and Zucker found social reinforcement of a child’s false belief led to persistence of the disorder.

Gender confusion is hard on children, but far from solving the problem, gender transition comes with its own severe physical and mental health risks. Children and teens who take puberty blockers and then cross-sex hormones risk sterility, cardiovascular disease, elevated blood pressure, and breast cancer, among other side effects. And studies of transgender individuals who have embraced a new gender identity still show elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

The best evidence for the long-term benefits of encouraging children to embrace their biological sex, according to Cretella, are studies that show the vast majority of children who are not fast-tracked to gender transition eventually desist in their gender identity disorder. In short, affirming the false belief prolongs the disorder and pushes the struggle down the road.

Associated Press/Photo by Julio Cortez Associated Press/Photo by Julio Cortez A transgender runner trains for the Boston Marathon in Jersey City, N.J.

Redefining fairness

At least five biological males who identify as female are signed up to run in Monday’s Boston Marathon. Some have undergone surgery and lowered their testosterone levels; others have not. But they will all compete as women.

Previous policies required transgender individuals to have undergone medical treatment, but race officials have instead decided to just “take people at their word.”

“We register people as they specify themselves to be,” said Tom Grilk, chief of the Boston Athletic Association, the group behind the race. “Members of the LGBT community have had a lot to deal with over the years, and we’d rather not add to that burden.” The only requirement is that runners qualify and compete using the same gender.

Other major marathons are following suit. Organizers of the Chicago, New York City, London, and Los Angeles marathons have all said they will accept the gender a runner submits during sign-ups.

The transgender runners signing up for races aren’t competitive enough to take the title—yet. But female athletes might be less supportive of the policy if men with testosterone coursing through their veins eventually take both the male and female titles. —K.C.

Whitney Williams Whitney Williams A screenshot of a Google search

Fighting STDs with Google

April is national STD Awareness Month, and after hitting historic lows in 2000, rates of the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are roaring back to record highs.

In particular, rates of syphilis—which can result in damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, and heart—have jumped 17.6 percent since 2015.

Researchers in California are trying to fight the surge of cases using an unusual method: artificial intelligence.

A team at UCLA is developing a program to predict when and where a syphilis outbreak is likely to occur by analyzing Google search terms and social media comments related to risky sexual behavior, according to reporting by The Washington Times.

Public health officials hope they can use the new program to respond to an outbreak before it becomes a crisis. But fighting the disease will remain an uphill battle, especially among gay and bisexual men, among whom rates of syphilis are more than 100 times higher than among men who only have sex with women. —K.C.

Paternal instincts?

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week in an important same-sex custody dispute. The case asked whether the former same-sex spouse of a woman who got pregnant through assisted reproductive technology while they were married has the same “presumption of paternity” as a male spouse?

A nine-judge panel last Thursday said yes.

The decision overturns a lower-court ruling by a judge who said that because two women cannot have a baby, the spouse who was not the biological parent should have adopted the child to establish parental rights. He ruled that the anonymous sperm donor had parental rights, not the ex-wife.

Pro-family groups argue rulings like this one—and they are happening across the country—further dissolve the meaning of parenthood and encourage parental arrangements that deny children a relationship with their biological mother and father, something social science continues to show is best for a child. —K.C.

Free-range parenting catching on

Parents from Idaho and Texas to Massachusetts and New York are pushing for so-called free-range parenting laws after Utah passed the country’s first law legalizing the practice last month. The laws protect parents who allow their children to walk to school, stay at home, or play at a park alone from intervention by child protective services. Many consider the concept of allowing kids more independence a welcome pendulum swing away from overscheduled and overprotective helicopter parenting trends. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.

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  • Janet B
    Posted: Sun, 04/15/2018 11:25 am

    So now parents have to have permission from the government to let their children walk to the playground.  

    Good grief!!