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What the Science Really Says about “Gender-Affirming” Medicine

More studies find that transitioning minors leads to less life satisfaction, higher suicidality, and real life-long medical problems. 

06/21/23

John Stonestreet

Jared Hayden

While activists in the U.S. seek to eliminate any restrictions to so-called “gender-affirming” interventions for minors, a number of European countries are adding safeguards around or backing off altogether from these controversial procedures. Following European neighbors Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the Norwegian Healthcare Investigation Board announced that it will revise its recommended standards of care for minors struggling with gender dysphoria. The proposed revisions would no longer allow the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and transition surgery for minors. 

As NHIB rightfully points out, the science surrounding “gender-affirming care” is far from settled. In fact, the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or transition surgeries to treat gender dysphoria lacks adequate research. There is hardly any substantial research on the long-term effects of these treatments on minors, and what we do know about them is disregarded by ideologically driven proponents. Puberty blockers, for example, have been known to plague patients with loss of bone density. Cross-sex hormones lead to sterilization. Transition surgeries are rife with serious complications. In the name of a dubious ideology, we’re experimenting on children. 

Additionally, most of the long-term studies that proponents cite to support current “gendering-affirming” protocols are poorly designed. As the report summarized: “As a rule, there is no control group in the studies.” This means that any effects are “often assessed at group level and not at individual level, so that unwanted effects for some patients can be masked by improvement in the rest of the group.” The results are also skewed by factors such as patient dropout and a failure to make contact for follow-ups. In other words, the numbers are played with to get the desired result.  

At the heart of the case for so-called “gender-affirming care” is the claim that transition prevents suicide. Research, however, shows the opposite. In a summary of recent research, Ben Johnson described how life satisfaction among those who undergo “transition” surgeries decreases rather than increases. Another study published last month found that self-identifying transgender individuals—not necessarily those who have had transition surgery—have high levels of loneliness. These studies confirm the findings of one of the best studies on the effect that transitioning has on the mental health of patients, which finds that those who undergo gender transition are over 19 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.  

Given the clear dearth of quality research on the long-term effects of chemical and surgical “transition” interventions, any promotion of such controversial medicine is motivated not by science but by ideology.  

At the heart of transgender ideology is a belief that the physical, human body, specifically our God-given biological sex, does not constitute what it means to be a person. Rather the person is an intangible self, separate from the body, that can only be defined by one’s own inner sense of self. Motivated by this central belief, activists tailor their views on health and wellness to match. Health, for them, is ultimately defined by the satisfaction of the immaterial self, not one’s physical wellbeing. So the harms to one’s body found in transitioning are worth the actualization of the inner self’s true gender. 

Like every false ideology, transgender ideology is at odds with reality. As much as transgender activists want to say “gender-affirming care” will bring people satisfaction, our experience of God’s creation finds just the opposite. While more research may be necessary, studies indicate that gender transition surgery, on the whole, exacerbates patients’ unhappiness. This tells us that, as much as we’d like to disregard and deny the reality of our God-given bodies, they are a vital part of us that should not be discarded for the sake of our own sinful designs. 

Rather than trying to destroy the body, care that truly affirms gender would seek to reconcile people with their God-given bodies, helping them simultaneously accept the gift of the body and lament its brokenness.  

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Jared Eckert. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.

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