Group of modern doctors standing as a team with arms crossed in hospital office. Physicians ready to examine and help patients. Medical help, insurance in health care, best desease treatment and
Group of modern doctors standing as a team with arms crossed in hospital office. Physicians ready to examine and help patients. Medical help, insurance in health care, best desease treatment and

Say No to ‘Public Health’ Imperialism

Crossposted at Humanize

Gender ideologues keep pretending that laws limiting so-called gender-affirming care for children — such as puberty-blocking, mastectomies, and facial-reconstruction surgeries — are based on hate for transgender people and only supported by reactionaries. Such assertions are both wrong as to motive and false as to fact.

An op-ed just published in the New York Times provides a clear case in point. Written by a transgender woman and Barnard College professor, Jennifer Finney Boylan, the piece accuses conservatives of wanting to restrict gender-affirming care for minors because of hatred and an obsessive desire to control other people’s bodies:

This same group of conservatives has also exploited Americans’ impatience with nuance to define extremely complex issues in the most simplistic of terms. . . . It’s not just dangerous rhetoric. In 2023 alone, some 20 states banned or limited gender-affirming care for minors; similar legislation is being debated in a number of others. Conservatives began by claiming they were protecting children — despite protests from the American Academy of Pediatrics that trans children should “have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space.”

Boylan is the one who has no patience for nuance. Do the professor and NYT’s editors not know that the AAP is now revisiting the question of gender-affirming care for children? Can they possibly be unaware that the red-state laws protecting gender-dysphoric children that the op-ed so disdains are much closer to the policies adopted in the last three years by several socially progressive European countries than is the fast-track gender affirmation that ideologues favor?

It bears repeating because mendacity by omission on this subject can’t be allowed to stand. The science is not settled. The United Kingdom has shut down its major gender-affirming clinic as it is “not safe for children” and now significantly restricts puberty-blocking and other such interventions in children. So does France. So does Norway. So do Denmark and Sweden. So does Finland. These are not socially conservative countries by any definition of the term. No discussion of the subject can be complete without grappling with these facts.

Nor can an honest discussion avoid the question of why these countries and red states have enacted such protective policies. The data show that gender confusion in children is often “transitory.” The evidence for the benefits of gender-affirming care is also scant, while its potential to cause permanent harm — such as infertility, poor bone formation, and neurological problems — is well documented. Not only that, but a recent study showed that 34 percent of children receiving puberty-blockers saw their mental health deteriorate, compared with 29 percent who improved.

Finally, it isn’t just conservatives who oppose transitioning children. A Washington Post poll in May found that 68 percent of Americans oppose administering puberty-blockers to gender-dysphoric children. Needless to say, this country is not 68 percent conservative. Indeed, I would say that people oppose such interventions in children not because of hate but out of a sincere desire to protect minors from irreversible harm. I know that’s my motive.

How to best care for children with gender confusion is a matter of grave importance about which people of goodwill can disagree. It does a profound disservice to these children to omit crucial facts from the debate and to denigrate the motives of one side as hateful and bigoted. We should expect better from an op-ed published in the country’s most important newspaper.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.