Youth suicides 'significantly higher' when parents bypassed for puberty blockers, hormones: study

Studies that find gender-affirming care reduces suicide risk are plagued by "inferior" designs, Heritage scholar says, and science journalist finds similar flaws. Evolutionary biologist possibly deplatformed for distinguishing sex from gender.

Updated: June 13, 2022 - 11:09pm

Studies purporting to show that gender-confused children who take puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are at lower risk of suicide are plagued by "inferior" methodologies, according to a new study that claims to use a better approach.

The Heritage Foundation research published Monday used a "natural policy experiment" to determine the suicide rate has become "significantly higher" in states that let minors bypass their parents for "routine medical care" since 2010, "when puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones became widely available."

The conservative D.C. think tank, which has partnered with gender-critical radical feminists in recent years, isn't the only one putting the research supporting so-called gender-affirming care under the microscope. 

Science journalist Jesse Singal, known recently for his Atlantic cover story about youth who abandon transgender identities after medical interventions, explored methodological problems with studies used to justify rushing children into drug therapy in his Friday newsletter.

"For reasons ranging from complete irrelevance to the question at hand to broken comparison groups to genuinely unimpressive results," the studies do not show kids are harmed without drug therapy or that it gives them "significantly improved mental health," Singal wrote.

The Biden administration has promoted gender-affirming care, which prioritizes drug therapy over talk therapy when children express discomfort with their bodies. 

Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki called blockers and hormones "medically necessary, lifesaving healthcare" for kids, and a March White House "fact sheet" pointed readers to a document laying out "the evidence behind the positive effects of gender-affirming care."

But researchers cannot draw "credible causal conclusions about a relationship between medical interventions and suicide" based on this research, according to the Heritage paper. The gender-affirming use of blockers and hormones, originally approved to treat irregularities in young children, has never been tested through a "large-scale randomized controlled trial."

Both Singal and Heritage senior research fellow Jay Greene, who founded and led the University of Arkansas's Department of Education Reform, surveyed research by Stanford School of Medicine psychiatrist Jack Turban published in PLOS One in January.

It's a "secondary analysis" of a 2015 survey of 27,000 self-identified transgender adults, largely recruited through trans support groups, comparing results between 14-17 year-olds who succeeded and failed in getting hormones. Those who never sought hormones were excluded.

The "obvious defect" is that parental consent is often instrumental in minors getting hormones, which is reflected in Turban's data on the "enormous differences" in parent-child relationships between those who succeeded and failed, Greene wrote.

"If a close and positive relationship between parents and children struggling with gender identity is the key to successful outcomes for those adolescents, then the hormones themselves might make no difference, or even be harmful," he said. 

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Greene also noted global guidelines for hormone treatment recommend it only for youth who are already mentally stable, as well as Turban's failure to disaggregate results by hormone type. Natal males taking estrogen are much likelier to plan and be hospitalized for suicide attempts. Turban did not respond when questioned about the critiques of Greene and Singal.

The Heritage scholar obtained suicide rates by age and state between 1999 and 2020 from the CDC. He used Google Trends search data and a homeless youth nonprofit's state-law tracker for data about where minors can make their own medical decisions for the prevalence of adolescent use of blockers and hormones.

Greene chose the age range 12-23 because it covers the group that "could have entered puberty" since 2010. His statistical model accounts for state-specific variation by controlling for their suicide rates in ages 28-39 - too old to be a minor when blockers and hormones first became available.

Youth suicide rates between states with and without "minor access provision[s]" started to diverge "observabl[y]" in 2010 and spiked in the former around 2016, reaching about 3.5 more suicides per 100,000 by 2020. There was no spike in the 28-39 control group.

When adjusting for "somewhat higher" suicide rates in states with minor access provisions before 2010, Greene found an additional 1.6 suicides per 100,000 or a 14% higher rate. There are no "theoretically plausible alternatives" to the conclusion that these drug therapies caused the suicide rise, he said.

Meanwhile, explaining the differences between biological sex and gender identity may have played a role in the deplatforming of an evolutionary biologist.

PayPal and craft e-commerce platform Etsy both banned Colin Wright, the managing editor of Quillette, according to notices he posted. He recently testified in a legal challenge to California's gender-identity prison placement law.

When Wright asked PayPal, which he uses to receive donations, to explain why his business model was "risky," it told him to submit a subpoena. Wright told Just the News PayPal actually canceled his account April 29, "but I thought it was an error so I didn't report it," and only disclosed it publicly on Friday when PayPal mentioned the subpoena. 

Etsy told Wright on Friday his store lists items that are "demeaning or disparaging" toward one or more protected classes, and denied his appeal the next day. Neither company responded to Just the News queries.

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Wright's merchandise for his "Reality's Last Stand" brand includes the male and female symbols at opposite ends of the logo. He also sells items emblazoned with a political cartoon tweeted by Elon Musk.

While he thought going freelance would free him, Wright said "being hostage to the political whims of payment processors presents a whole new level of uncertainty and stress."

A Prague-based gender-critical artist, Lucia Eggen, made similar accusations in an essay last month about the e-commerce platform Shopify's response to a campaign against her by a trans rights activist.

"Nearly two years of my work were gone in an instant," she wrote, because her "infographic explaining difference[s] between Feminism and Gender Ideology" violated Shopify's policy against "hateful content." Shopify didn't answer a query from Just the News.

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