Single mom Bri was visiting the pediatrician’s office with her 15-year-old, a child struggling with anxiety, when the doctor said: “If you don’t affirm your daughter’s gender identity, or get her the help she needs, and she kills herself, you’re going to feel awfully guilty.”
Bri, who asked The Post to publish only her nickname for fear of being branded a bigot and doxxed by transgender-rights activists, was horrified — not only by the insinuation her teen would commit suicide if she didn’t transition, but also the fact that the general practitioner issued the warning in front of them both.
Activists are increasingly pushing for laws that allow children to make their own decisions to transition without parental approval, insisting that going through puberty is traumatic for those who feel misgendered.
But some experts now question the threat that they say is commonly used by medical professionals. They believe many doctors are so scared of the label “transphobe” that they automatically present skeptical parents with a doomsday scenario: “Would you rather have a dead son or a living daughter?” or vice versa.
Critics of the blunt proposition include pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Paul Hruz, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. He told The Post: “In these circumstances, I would advise parents to ask, ‘On what evidence are you making this claim?’”
His concerns focus on the widely accepted belief that sex-reassignment treatment prevents emotionally damaged kids from ending their lives. He questions the theory, pointing out that its supporting studies are variously limited or skewed. According to the physician, fundamental problems with the research include large numbers of self-selected subjects, a lack of control groups and inadequate reviews by peers.
By contrast, a 2011 study spanning three decades by the respected Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that people who underwent sex reassignment were 19 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. In the US, a yearlong survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality concluded that those who had transitioned were more likely to have attempted suicide than trans people who had not had medical or surgical treatments.
Hruz’s views are also backed by a study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, which concludes that when it comes to the mental health of those diagnosed with gender dysphoria, there is “no advantage of [reassignment] surgery.”
His take on the issue is explored in the newly released film “Trans Mission: What’s the Rush To Reassign Gender?” Produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, the documentary is streaming on YouTube and Vimeo, and arrived a month after a similar investigation by “60 Minutes.“
Lesley Stahl’s exposé highlighted the surge in unregulated, money-spinning transgender clinics serving kids and young adults in the US. The Human Rights Campaign currently lists more than 40 “clinical care programs for transgender and gender-expansive youth” on its Web site.
Only one such institution existed in America in 2007.
In the “60 Minutes” segment, chronically depressed young woman Grace Lidinsky-Smith describes how, in her early 20s, she believed transitioning would make her feel “free.” She tells Stahl that a gender therapist she found on the Internet “didn’t go into what my gender dysphoria might have been stemming from.”
She was hastily prescribed testosterone and, just four months later, was approved for so-called top surgery, trans speak for a double mastectomy. But, instead of experiencing relief after the drastic operation, she felt traumatized. “I started to have a disturbing sense that a part of my life was missing — almost a ghost-limb feeling,” Lidinsky-Smith, now 27, reveals on camera. She de-transitioned by coming off testosterone, and says she complained to the unnamed clinic about its agenda-driven methods.
Meanwhile, according to 39-year-old Bri, her daughter, who aims to become a boy, has comorbid psychological issues because of a traumatic childhood, partly caused by the difficult divorce of her parents. The Baltimore-based mom remains convinced her child has been duped by peer pressure, social media — which seems to champion transgenderism among young people without question — and the “grass is greener” trope that men have an “easier” lot in life.
“There was no indication between her birth and the age of 13 that she felt she was in the wrong body,” said Bri, who sadly believes the catalyst was her girl being lusted after and shamed by boys. “As they started taking an interest in her — she told me how a classmate had repeatedly touched her inappropriately — she began to bind her breasts and became introverted and round-shouldered, as if she was trying to disguise the fact she was a woman.”
Following several rounds of counseling — which, Bri claims, only accelerated her desire to transition — she contemplated top surgery at only 14. This operation is frequently followed by bottom surgery, a k a an elective hysterectomy.
Bri said, “I felt the need to safeguard my daughter before she decided to mutilate her body.” By then, without the mom’s knowledge or consent, teachers at the eighth-grader’s school were exclusively calling their student by her boy name.
“I felt completely marginalized — like the odd one out,” said Bri, whose state does not require parental permission for anyone 16 and older to either take cross-sex hormones or fully transition.
Hruz has become increasingly worried about the way kids are allowed to make these life-changing decisions on their own. In the state of Washington, for example, a child as young as 13 can defy the wishes of their parents by transitioning via medical treatments. Moreover, that same seventh-grader is legally entitled to use their family’s health insurance to cover gender-affirming procedures such as tracheal shaves, or Adam’s apple reductions.
“There’s well-established literature on the inherent tendency of adolescents to be impulsive and not fully able to appreciate long-term consequences,” Hruz said. “It’s the whole basis for society limiting their autonomy on things like drinking alcohol, purchasing cigarettes and even voting until a certain age.
“The concept that gender reassignment is an exception needs to be challenged.”
Concerned about enduring health effects of medical and surgical interventions such as puberty blockers, sustained hormone therapy and the removal of intimate body parts, he added: “These issues are so under researched. We don’t have the long-term data on the relative risks and benefits of this approach.”
Californian Abigail Shrier, who wrote the 2020 book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” is horrified by the way children — particularly girls — have easier access to hormones and surgeries.
“Most of these girls seeking interventions don’t have typical gender dysphoria at all, and there is no evidence they will be helped by any of the treatments they are getting with almost no medical oversight,” Shrier told The Post. “It’s a crisis in the making.”
She’s argued that “peer contagion” may play a part, an idea that’s supported by a 2019 study from Brown University that found that parents of children experiencing gender dysphoria observed their teens feeling pressure to fit in with their friend group.
Brenton Netz, 49, of Marquette, Mich., feels his parental concerns over the medical treatment of his child, Miles Gewirtz, have been ignored. Appearing in “Trans Mission,” he expresses his opposition to his 11-year-old, who has autism, taking puberty blockers. He fears the boy will be considered for gender-reassignment surgery when he reaches his mid to late teens.
“Miles is very impressionable,” Netz told The Post. Netz has joint custody with Miles’ mother, Sarah Gewirtz, and feels the tween has been unduly influenced by “overzealous” clinicians who diagnosed him with gender dysphoria at age 8.
“My son has said he’s going to drink a magic potion to keep him young forever,” he said. “It demonstrates his limited capacity to understand his feelings about something as important as gender.”
Netz, who launched an online campaign called Save Miles to generate publicity for his cause, recently won a significant victory in a lengthy legal battle. The judge’s ruling prevents Miles’ mother from pursuing medical interventions at a gender and sexuality clinic in St. Cloud, Minn.
“Miles’ autism makes him particularly vulnerable,” said Netz, explaining that the disorder has already made his son feel lonely and isolated, leaving him with an overwhelming “need to please and fit in.”
Not everyone is so distrusting. Dr. Michelle Forcier, professor of pediatrics at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, who is featured in “Trans Mission” as a supporter of early “gender care,” describes the practice of gender intervention at a young age as “beautiful and inclusive,” since it “helps kids express their authentic identity.”
She says in the film, “We’re telling parents to love your child, no matter their gender trajectory, because every kid is better if they are loved for who they are and feels safe, respected and valued at home.”
Forcier insists that the process is not rushed; consideration and balance are employed before puberty blockers and other hormone treatments are administered to children.
“It has to be a safe and careful process for both parents and kids to move forward wherever their gender exploration goes,” adds the doctor. “It doesn’t work that a child says, ‘I’m trans, give me hormones,’ and then gets a shot of testosterone.”
However, she stressed that the practice of “watchful waiting” — where parents and clinicians resolve to delay intervention until the child gets older — can be harmful, since they may miss the “window” when treatments are most effective.
Addressing the prevalence of autistic children such as Miles who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria — the Tavistock Centre, the only gender identity clinic in the UK for under-18s, has reported some 35 percent of its referrals are kids on the spectrum — Forcier offers a controversial explanation.
“They are neuro diverse, and might also be gender diverse,” she says. “With their wiring and their hormones, they are not necessarily going to fit in this square hole. They’re going to need a different fit.”
She adds: “If you are not super attentive to social cues — and you’re not, ‘Oh, God, what will people think of me?’ — you may be more willing to think, ‘My gender isn’t this clear cut.’ ”
As for Bri, the staunch feminist hopes to persuade her daughter to first tackle her mental-health issues before making an informed choice about a possible transition. As she says in the documentary: “It’s because I love her so much [that] I’m willing to take on this whole ideology just to protect her.”
Nonetheless, she told The Post she would never turn her back on her child, whichever road she eventually chooses.
The mom concluded: “I’ve said that — even though I don’t agree with it — if you feel lousy after hormonal treatments or surgical interventions, I will still make chicken soup for you.”