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The New York Magazine lies to parents about trans children

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Jesse Singal, Senior Editor at nymag.com, has enlisted his New York Magazine blog to promote the widely publicized presumption that painful distress with birth-assigned sex and gender are just a phase for the great majority of children who suffer it:

While the actual percentages vary from study to study, overall, it appears that about 80 percent of kids with gender dysphoria end up feeling okay, in the long run, with the bodies they were born into.

Singal’s article defines “desistance” as, “the tendency for gender dysphoria to resolve itself as a child gets older and older.”  Singal praised the 80% “desistance” claim in his article as “solid scientific consensus” and boasted that “every” study, not some, but “every study that has been conducted on this has found the same thing.” He scorned those who do not accept the 80% presumption (Tannehill 2016, Serano 2016, Olson and Durwood 2016) as “part of the problem,” as essentially “ignoring” science, and preventing “intelligent, informed discussion.”

NY Magazine

Singal’s NY Magazine article

The real problem, however, is that Singal’s support for the 80% presumption and its promoters from the Toronto Clarke Institute/Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Dutch VU University Medical Center rests on a critical, misleading statement in this article:

It’s hard to imagine a kid meeting all the necessary criteria in the DSM-IV and not ‘actually’ being gender dysphoric… Since 63 percent of the subjects in Singh’s study met these criteria, this really wasn’t a sample of children who were ‘just’ gender nonconforming.

The author preceded these remarks with a listing of the 1994 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV)[1] diagnostic criteria for “Gender Identity Disorder of Children” (GIDC, 302.6) that were used for intake selection in childhood “desistance” studies in Toronto and Amsterdam between 1994 and 2013, but the actual diagnostic criteria contradicted his conclusion. In fact, the subcommittee responsible for Gender Identity Disorders in the DSM-IV, as the 4th edition is known, deliberately chose to allow diagnosis of GIDC without any “explicit wish to be of the opposite sex”[2] –a loophole that was partially corrected in the DSM-5, published in 2013. For example, the following statement could be false, and yet children could still be diagnosed as having a “gender identity disorder” under the DSM criteria used for “desistance” research:

“1. Repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex.”

The above quote comes from  Subcriterion 1 of Criterion A of the Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood diagnosis, but this subcriterion was not required for diagnosis. In fact, only four of five subcriteria were required to meet Criterion A. Here are the remaining four. They all describe gender nonconforming behavior:

The NOW VOID DSM 4 criteria for gender identity in children | DSM-IV, 1994

By this now void standard, children could be judged to meet Criterion A strictly on the basis of gender nonconformity alone, with no indication of actual gender dysphoria or incongruent gender identity. Here’s a quick breakdown of the rest of the now void DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR criteria :

Criterion B referenced gender dysphoria (in the Fisk, 1973, sense of distress with physical sex characteristics or assigned gender roles[3]) but once again had loopholes that allowed diagnosis because of behavioral gender nonconformity without evidence of actual gender dysphoria. Birth-assigned boys could meet criterion B with “aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games, and activities.” So could birth-assigned girls with a “marked aversion toward normative female clothing.”

Criterion C excluded diagnosis for children with intersex conditions.

Criterion D was the clinical significance criterion, added to almost all categories in the DSM-IV. It required significant distress or impairment in “social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” However, the GIDC supporting text maintained that distress from societal prejudice, rather than from gender dysphoria itself, would meet criterion D (APA 2000, p. 577).

To be clear, the criteria of the DSM-IV –the very standard under which kids could be diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” without actually having gender dysphoria– is how these researchers came to tout an 80% desistance rate that is quoted in New York magazine. Remember, these flawed standards[4][5] are NOW VOID. These loopholes were partially corrected in the DSM-5 in 2013, but the data from the prior “desistance” studies of gender nonconforming children were never reevaluated in light of the new diagnostic criteria.

The 80% “desistance” myth is like claiming that since most mammals don’t have spots, leopard cubs are most likely to “desist” in being spotted. That’s not science. That’s not logic. That’s something else entirely. Conflation of a much larger superset of gender nonconforming children, who never actually suffer gender dysphoria, with a much smaller subset of children with actual gender dysphoria is not “solid scientific consensus.” Gender nonconformity is not gender dysphoria. Children who were never gender dysphoric to begin with are not “desistant.”

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A version of this article originally appeared on GID Reform.

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, D.C.
  2. S. Bradley, Ray Blanchard, et al. (1991). Interim Report of the DSM-IV Subcommittee on Gender Identity Disorder Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 20, 4, p. 339.
  3. Fisk, N. (1973). Gender dysphoria syndrome. (The how, what, and why of a disease). In D. Laub & P. Gandy (Eds.), Proceedings of the second interdisciplinary symposium on gender dysphoria syndrome (pp. 7–14). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
  4. Winters, K. (2008). Disallowed Identities, Disaffirmed Childhood. GID Reform Blog: Issues on reform of the diagnostic categories of Gender Identity Disorder and Transvestic Fetishism in the DSM-5, Oct. 28. https://gidreform.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/disordered-identities-disaffirmed-childhood/
  5. Winters, K. (2014). Methodological Questions in Childhood Gender Identity ‘Desistence’ Research. 23rd World Professional Association for Transgender Health Biennial Symposium, Feb. 16, 2014, Bangkok, Thailand. https://gidreform.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/methodological-questions-in-childhood-gender-identity-desistence-research/
  • May Loo

    Even if you dispute the 80% number, you need to admit that most children will go onto to admit their birth sex, and be heterosexual or homosexual after going through a normal puberty.

    • Teresa Landreth

      yeah, no. the 80% number is NOT just trans kids, they put ANYONE who had a “gender non conforming” activity/etc in the mix. so tom girls, boys are just a bit feminine seeming, etc. its CRAP science made to fit the answer THEY wanted. same kind of crap science most the doctors, etc who say its not real use. some trans are homosexual, most are straight, might be a slightly higher incident of being gay, from being forced to “conform” to societies standards.

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  • Wow, it’s because of study’s like these and often tilted media articles that I decided to publish our family’s journey to discovering the son we never knew we had. My son, is now a health, happy, well adjusted 18 year old transgender man and trying to conform to society’s binary almost killed him in his teens – thank goodness we didn’t believe he’d grow out of it. If we had of held that mentality and forced him to stay on the path to wait for him to feel ok, he likely would be dead today. Kindest regards, Cheryl B. Evans

  • ChloeAlexa Landry

    Anytime someone writes using the ” 80% ” study, it is a false study incomplete of documentable information.

  • So glad that you have made clear the problem with the diagnostic criteria used in the much quoted studies. There are a few more points though.

    Singal mis-stated in his article that the diagnosis used, and quoted was Gender Dysphoria – the current diagnosis. How many mistakes can he make before we call “prejudice”?

    Recent research on how the “desisted” former patients of children’s gender clinics differed from those who “persisted” found that most “desisters” said that thy found they were happy with what their physical sex enabled after puberty started, whereas the “persisters” became increasingly unhappy with their physical sex – an opposite reaction to pubertal hormones. In terms of what indications there might have been before puberty, it was generally “the earlier and most intensely dysphoric” who persisted. Thus Singal’s gloss that “desisters” had “rather severe gender dysphoria” is even more misleading.

    This ignoring that the most dysphoric (or perhaps the only ones who actually were dysphoric, as opposed to gender-non-conforming) are the ones who need the right puberty – medical transition – has been deliberate and of long standing. Peggy Cohen-Kettenis is on film saying in 1995 that the children who reject the sex of their body, or demand that of the other sex, never change their minds. She was then head of the Netherlands Children’s Gender Clinic, and leading in providing hormones at 16 rather than denying them until 18. Unfortunately she hasn’t advanced her ideas much more since then. The head of the HBIDGA, then WPATH Children’s Committee for many years was head of the London children’s clinic, which has long been allied with Kenneth Zucker. From their founding in 1989 until only about 2 years ago they were citing desistance, and being quite unable to tell which patients needed medical intervention, to deny medical intervention to all patients. Their records were audited for a paper published in the IJT and it was found they had no records of which patients expressed physical dysphoria, and therefore the records were not there to back their desistance findings. That was probably often the case. Clinics were avoiding being of assistance; instead children, and their families suffered greatly.

    I wrote quite a bit on this https://medium.com/@oatc/in-detransition-desistance-and-disinformation-a-guide-for-understanding-transgender-children-5ea27284445c?source=responses———0- in response to Julia Serano’s piece on the same site.

    As a woman who was a trans child – coming out as a girl at 30 months – and whose parents were forced to follow the prevailing advice that desistance should be encouraged, this matters greatly.

  • TERESA LANDRETH

    yeah this is complete crap. the 80% figure is when its kids going “through a phase” like tom girls, etc, and grow out of it. not the same thing. i hate people who twist things to fit their goal/agenda.

    • May Loo

      Like you trans and supporters don’t do the same thing?

      • Teresa Landreth

        LOL, yes. look who ever you are, you dont know MY story, and if you did, you would likely be crying and apologizing. i knew when i was 5, when i first noticed my younger sister was different than i was. for several years i told everyone in my family, was told its just phase, etc, etc. until between 8-9 three cousins used it to get me to be “compliant” by treating me like a girl, said they believed me, etc. and proceeded to “teach” me how a girl acts for a boy, for over a year. after this happened and i figured out it was bad/wrong, i blocked it for the next 30+ years. i always had compulsions about girls, not liking them but liking what they wore, more friends were girls etc, i figured i was a cross dresser, it was the 80’s transsexuals were all but unheard of in most parts of america. then for a while i thought i might be gay. after several failed attempts at relationships, i gave up, and focused on helping my sister and brothers families, then cared for my mother for the last 10 years of her life. it was ONLY after she passed, and at her memorial i learned that one of my molesters was in prison for doing it to HIS three sons, one was dead, the other was living scott free in Oregon. this caused a recall of what happened, and over the next 9 months i was fighting guilt and grief about my mothers death, the memories i was recalling. finally the depression was so deep and after much research on the internet, i finally went to therapy, it took most of a year for ME to admit i was trans (no the therapist was NOT pushing it, she was NOT a gender specialist, but someone who had personal experience, cousin, child of a friend, etc) because i was worried what was done to me may be influencing my memories, but it wasnt.

        see a lot of trans are prime candidates for pedophiles, who is going to believe the little boy who says hes a girl when he is trying to say good uncle joe was doing naughty things to him? he OBVIOUSLY is just making it up, right?

        as to the research, no, many scientists, NOT involved (its called PEER review) saw that the numbers were being manipulated by adding in people who should NOT have been included.

        • May Loo

          You were born male or female according to your body parts. Not acting to social or family expectations does NOT make you transgender. Why did you even think your ‘gender identity’ had to match your birth sex in the first place? Do you think most of us normal people even think about gender presentation on a daily basis? We don’t.

          • Teresa Landreth

            how stupid are you? thats kind of the whole freaking point. when your gender IDENTITY and you physical body do NOT MATCH, that is the very definition of being transgender/transsexual. everyone thought i was going to be a girl i came out with some male anatomy. i never knew this until my mother passed away (that they thought i was supposed to be a girl, in 69/70 it was not as accurate as it is today) i dont have the money to do genetic tests, i already know i have genetic issues from birth.

            here is something to look up, by your unintelligent thinking, anyone with XY is male right? or XX female? there are members of both sexs who have the OPPOSING set of chromosomes, or have extra, or missing one. xy/xx are the Average/majority, they are NOT the SOLE and ONLY way sex is defined, not for a a decade or two, but when you listen to people teaching 80 year old science, what can you expect?

            as to why i “ever thought that” i didnt, until i saw my baby sister and saw the differences. even at five i wasnt like my brothers, i knew it hell m y whole family knew it, they just didnt know what to make of it. my mother thought it was her fault as a single parent, so forced me to do tee ball and little league. i did it to please her, not for myself. you had no issue so you didnt have to “think about it” thats the “privilege” of a CIS person, they dont have to go through what we do.

            i have yet to meet more than a few trans people who if offered a 100% sure fire fix for being this way who woudnt take it. whether it was one way or the other. its not about WANTING to be one or the other, its about BEING that. and since they have NO fix for the brain yet, the ONLY effective treatment is for what is going on now, Therapy, HRT and for some, SRS/GCS. but not all can or need to go that route. some can live as they are and prefer NOT to risk surgery. some have self mutilated themselves to get rid of their deformity (which is dumb because without that tissue, a functioning vagina can NOT be constructed with todays medical knowledge.) so you can think what you want, but someone who cant even show their face or a real profile is pretty much a coward and/or troll in my book

          • May Loo

            Why did you feel that your gender identity ( other than the stereotypes expected of your sex) had to match your birth sex? As for the rest I am older and actually like my privacy. I am not a millennial who lives on social media like Facebook.

          • Teresa Landreth

            ok, i am assuming you are female based on the name, how would you feel if you woke up with no breasts and a penis tomorrow? most of us DONT realize until later, but some realize sooner. one of the KEY things that Therapists look for is that anyone claiming to be transsexual/transgender (they are not always interchangeable but a lot of people see them that way) must be INSISTENT, PERSISTENT & CONSISTENT not for weeks or months but years. it is why there is a protocol to prevent those who are NOT but just “in a phase” getting medical treatment that is NOT appropriate. i love how conservatives think its either about getting attention (the kind of attention we get is NOT the kind most people want, being bullied, discriminated against, beaten and oh yeah MURDERED just for the fact we are transsexual, yep everyone wants that kind of attention) or that doctors/therapists/parents are “pushing” an “agenda” the only trans agenda i know of is being accepted (i could care less about approval, its MY life, not yours so you should have NO say over how I live it, etc) not discriminated against, etc.

            the fact that our gender Identities do NOT match our physical sex causes Gender Dysphoria, this is a condition that can cause mild to extreme stress, depression, etc so while it is NOT a mental disorder/disease, it can cause them, so much so that some have committed suicide, self harmed, or joined groups like the military, police, fire departments in the hopes it would “fix” them and prove they were the man they appear to be, or that the job will kill them and their problem is solved either way. i am sure some join because of a true desire to serve, etc. but the fact a higher than the average percentage join these groups is kind of telling.

            i dont live on facebook, but its a good way to contact those who are afraid for themselves and DONT come outside in fear of their lives, or being beaten, etc. its also a good way to do research and so on. but THIS isnt face book its a trans advocacy page that you are trolling. but i will give you the benefit of the doubt and say you TRULY want to be educated on this, is that so? or was my trolling diagnosis correct?

          • May Loo

            My current questions are about why most people would think their gender identities have to match their birth sex. I grew up before this gender crap, and this whole transgender movement seems to be based on the wrong imo opinion that there is one box labeled male and another labeled female. Within those boxes are strict guidelines about what colors you’re supposed to like, clothes you are supposed to dress in, toys (where applicable) you’re supposed to play with …. Why there is such a need to genderize everything? And why do children have to declare themselves as male or female so young?What good is there in going online when all you hear and read is in the echo chamber of the translobby, backed up by ‘research’ it has paid for. Do you ever think of getting an objective opinion of your condition? Or are you looking for affirmation?

      • Teresa Landreth

        also, most of us want NO ONE ELSE to have to go through this, you tend to think its about attention? yeah the highest death rate per capita of ANY other group, great attention. until very recently most of us could not get work, housing, etc (when you look and act female but your id shows male, its really easy to discriminate) we get assaulted, both verbally, physically and sexually at a higher rate (after all, thats all tranny’s are good for right, sex? or so the cretin thinking runs)