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    The Growing Attack on Science

    Science being censored because it's socially unpopular is a terrible decision.

    What's worse is that those opposed to the science are distorting and misrepresenting what the science shows. The researcher and the studies in question were not anti-transgender at all. They simply urged caution about pushing young children too early into the transgender path.

    I think this is a very worrisome trend. We are seeing it happen already in the US under the Trump administration. It would be disastrous to let it begin to fester and spread to Canada and the rest of the world.

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    Re: The Growing Attack on Science

    Transgender Kids doc doesn't present facts fairly. CBC was right not to show it
    By Florence Ashley, CBC News | Opinion
    December 18, 2017

    When CBC decided not to air the documentary Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?, multiple commentators saw it as an affront to empiricism and free debate. Transgender Kids is a BBC documentary that challenges the "gender affirmative" approach to supporting children with gender dysmorphia ? that is, children whose gender identity does not align with that assigned at birth.

    Critics of CBC's decision saw the network as yielding to trans activists, who they saw as rejecting science and acting as an unreasonable mob.

    I, however, rejoiced at this decision. Empirical evidence is important. It's often an essential tool when advocating urgent change. But showing this documentary would not have contributed to healthy public debate based on the available scientific evidence.

    Presenting facts fairly
    In defence of airing Transgender Kids, people have argued that we should present the facts and let people make up their own minds. While I generally agree, important presuppositions are required.

    Firstly, the facts must be presented in a fair manner and be presented in their totality. Cherry-picking facts ? which this documentary does, as I will describe in detail below ? does not make for healthy public debate. Secondly, viewers must generally be rational decision-makers who are capable of critically assessing the ideas being presented. Neither presupposition is accurate in this context.

    The documentary centres on Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist "whose controversial approach with transgender children led to his being sacked in 2015 from a Toronto gender identity clinic," according to The Guardian. His approach to therapy ? which includes exploring what he calls the mental health and psychological reasons for gender dysphoria, and not necessarily believing a child who says he or she was assigned the wrong gender ? has been described as "disturbingly close to reparative therapy for homosexuals" by Dr. Simon D. Pickstone-Taylor in a letter to the editor published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Zucker has strongly denied he has performed reparative or conversion therapy.

    Nevertheless, when the documentary was shown in the United Kingdom, 13 mental health and advocacy groups including the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the Royal College of GPs, and the British Psychoanalytic Council and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy condemned the documentary and disavowed the approach put forward by Zucker.

    The documentary mentions, for example, that most trans children grow up to be cisgender ? that is, not trans: their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth ? citing a figure around 80 per cent. However, past publications on the matter that have influenced that figure have been riddled with methodological issues, such as presuming that children who did not come back for follow-up interviews had desisted from their trans identity.

    At the 2014 symposium of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), Dr. Kelley Winters also pointed out that the intake criteria for those studies included many children who were merely gender non-conforming, but not transgender. Most gender non-conforming people, whether children or adults, are not trans. This is the sort of context that is absent in Transgender Kids.

    Also absent were details like this: in a 2010 study of 70 adolescents who were given puberty-suppressing hormones, researchers de Vries, Steensma, Doreleijers and Cohen-Kettenis found that not one discontinued treatment in favour of identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth. Practitioners generally report that trans children overwhelmingly grow up into trans adults.

    It is unreasonable to expect viewers to know that the empirical data that guides the documentary is flawed. After all, they come to the documentary to learn about a reality with which they are not necessarily well acquainted. Do we really expect them to go search for the publications that underpin each statement and then conduct a careful comparative analysis of its methodological quality versus that of more recent research?

    What's more, if you asked people around you whether trans people are normal, I suspect that most would answer "no." Being trans is seen by many to be a suboptimal outcome that should be avoided except in the clearest of cases. In a recent CROP survey prepared for the anti-bullying organization Fondation Jasmin Roy, only 39 per cent of people expressed being very close to believing that gender identity can differ from gender assigned at birth. Everyone else believed to some extent that gender is biologically determined.

    Accounting for viewer bias
    Given that transitude ? the fact of being trans ? is understood to be abnormal and undesirable by large swaths of the general population, we cannot expect viewers of the documentary to be unbiased in their assessment of the evidence presented. It is well known that people tend to favour information that confirms pre-existing beliefs. Even if data is presented in an unbiased way, viewers introduce their own bias by overvaluing data that confirms their pre-existing beliefs about gender being based in birth assignment.

    In this light, the decision by CBC not to air the documentary should not be seen as an affront to science and public debate. On the contrary: it demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the interactions between empiricism and free debate.

    Let's not forget that the stakes are high, considering the vulnerable state of trans people in our society. People are already hesitant to affirm their children's gender identities. Showing the documentary would have been negligent and inimical to healthy public debate.

    1 Florence Ashley is a transfeminine activist and LL.M. candidate at the McGill University Faculty of Law. Her research bears on trans legal issues with a focus on bioethics and health law.

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    Re: The Growing Attack on Science

    CBC's decision against airing Transgender Kids doc should leave everyone unsettled
    By Debra W. Soh1, CBC News | Opinion
    December 18, 2017

    Last week, CBC was scheduled to air the controversial BBC documentary Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? but scrapped the plan the day of, citing audience feedback and its own "further review of the doc." Activists had argued that the film was "harmful" and poised to "feed transphobia."

    In actuality, the documentary offers a rare and factual perspective on the politicization of gender therapy by featuring interviews with Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and international research expert on gender dysphoria in children. (Zucker also happens to be a former colleague of mine.)

    Although his research and approach to therapy are scientifically sound, they counter transgender orthodoxy in ways on which I will elaborate below.

    Zucker's approach
    But first, some background: in December of 2015, Zucker was fired from his position at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), where he had served as head of the Child, Youth, and Family Gender Identity Clinic. Many activists who had petitioned for his removal claimed victory.

    What was so controversial about Zucker's approach? In short, he did not blindly follow the current popular dogma of affirming young children who say they want to transition to the opposite sex. Instead, Zucker's therapy was informed by research that shows that the majority of gender dysphoric children desist by puberty.

    Indeed, across all 11 studies conducted on this topic, including research published in the last five years, about 60 to 90 per cent of gender dysphoric children grow up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender.

    Zucker's approach was not about "curing" transgender kids or conducting "reparative" or "conversion therapy," as some of his critics contend. Rather, it was about recognizing that it simply doesn't make sense for a child to undergo the challenges of a social or physical transition if they are likely to grow comfortable in the body they already have, on their own. That is the so-called "harmful" view the documentary explores.

    To be clear, Zucker wasn't against transitioning for transgender people; he published academic studies supporting the use of hormonal blockers and cross-sex hormones for patients upon reaching puberty. He simply challenged the notion that every single child who says he or she is of the wrong gender is actually transgender.

    The film also discusses the subject of detransitioning: a process whereby people who have transitioned end up regretting it and transition back to their birth sex. It also shed light on the theory that underlying conditions can be mistaken for gender dysphoria, including autism and borderline personality disorder.

    When Transgender Kids was released earlier this year, I sensed a feeling of relief among my colleagues in sexology that someone was finally willing to challenge the "gender affirmative" approach, especially in a way that was made for public consumption.

    Nowadays, clinicians face extreme pressure to endorse the early transitioning model for their young patients, even when it may not be the best way forward for them. That's certainly the message that Zucker's firing sent, and it speaks all the more to why the film needed to be aired.

    Controversy in the UK
    This is not the first time Transgender Kids has encountered controversy. Upon first airing in the U.K., the film was widely protested and has since been removed from the BBC's website. That's not altogether surprising: in extreme cases, transgender activists have harassed and intimidated sex researchers who produce work that counters their political agenda. That's a big reason why you'll be hard-pressed to find many new studies countering the early transitioning approach.

    More recently, this activism has influenced Canadian policy by way of Ontario's Bill 77 ? the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act of 2015 ?which incorrectly conflates therapeutic approaches like Zucker's with unethical attempts to change a person's sexual orientation. And Bill 89 earlier this year, which writes gender ideology into child welfare laws and justifies intervention on the part of the government if a parent does not affirm a child's gender identity or expression.

    Now the activism has made its way to Canada's publicly funded national broadcaster, which has opted against airing dissenting views on this issue. This should have individuals on both sides of the debate feeling unsettled.

    Supporting transgender people, including their right to dignity, support and medical intervention, isn't at odds with taking a scientifically guided approach to determining the best outcomes for children. But as is commonly the case with political movements, these nuances only complicate the narrative and cede opportunities for activists to gain further ground.

    Those complicit in the silencing of legitimate science have lost sight of the forest for the trees. The issue is no longer about what's in the best interest of these children, but about winning, at any cost, the ideological war.

    1 Debra W. Soh writes about the science and politics of sex and holds a PhD in sexual neuroscience from York University.

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    Re: The Growing Attack on Science

    I am amazed that in this day and age there are individuals who continue to believe the earth is 2000 years old and deny evolution..to the point of initiating lawsuits against educational institutions who teach evolution.

    It almost seems there are many would like to see the pendulum swing from our current technological advances of the last century, to take us back to medieval times.

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    Re: The Growing Attack on Science

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter View Post
    They simply urged caution about pushing young children too early into the transgender path.
    My feedback to this is, thank God they're urging caution. When I was 15 years old I was living in an emotionally abusive relationship with my Mom.

    My solution was to hang around with Dad and my brothers instead. I became, what used to be called, a Tomboy.

    I was then sent to a psychiatrist. He insisted I was a man trapped inside a woman's body. For two years I was told to talk about my feelings of maleness in therapy.

    I wasn't a male. I didn't want to become a male. I couldn't escape it though.

    Thank god that doctor moved away. But talk about messing with someone's head. I lost all sense of self-identity. It took years to make peace with it and learn how to be proud of the fact that I'm a woman who can still do, what used to be considered male oriented things.


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