Fox News Uses Junk Science, Anti-LGBT “Critics” To Condemn Same-Sex Couple’s Transgender Daughter
October 19, 2011 2:00 pm ET by Carlos Maza
Fox News just can’t seem to quit its obsession with anti-LGBT pop-psychologist Dr. Keith Ablow. It’s been just over a month since Ablow received widespread condemnation for his pseudoscientific rant against Chaz Bono, but he’s already back on Fox to promote more misinformation about LGBT people. And this time, he’s brought backup.
On Monday, FoxNews.com posted an article criticizing a same-sex couple for allowing their transgender daughter Tammy to begin taking child hormone blockers. Hormone blockers are often used to delay the onset of puberty – which can be a traumatizing experience for transgender teens – and allow them more time to decide if they want to transition their gender. The treatment is relatively safe, simple, and reversible.
The “critics” Fox News chose to round up for its article, however, painted a very different picture.
First up was Dr. Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University:
"This is child abuse. It's like performing liposuction on an anorexic child," said Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.
"It is a disorder of the mind. Not a disorder of the body. Dealing with it in this way is not dealing with the problem that truly exists.”
McHugh’s anti-trans statements sound a lot like Ablow’s, which makes sense given that Ablow refers to McHugh as one of his mentors on transgender issues. It should also come as no surprise that McHugh’s statements contradict the conclusions made by the American Psychological Association on the issue of gender identity.
McHugh himself is notorious for defaming transgender people. Michigan University Professor and outspoken transgender activist Lynn Conway has extensively documented McHugh’s junk science, writing:
McHugh has for decades tried to stop transsexual sex reassignments, under a bogus theory that trans women are homosexual men or sexual paraphilics… For decades now he has pushed and promoted the idea that "sex changes are wrong", even in the face of mounting evidence that his theory was incorrect - evidence that transsexual transitions can work out extremely well.
Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, echoed Conway’s sentiment in an email to Equality Matters:
Dr. McHugh’s statements about transgender people are dangerous, outdated, and have no basis in current medical knowledge or practice. His opposition to providing medically necessary treatment for transgender people is not supported by science. It is important that doctors base their positions on credible scientific data rather than their personal religious views.
Fox then turned to Dr. Manny Alvarez, chronic medical misinformer and senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com:
"I think that it’s highly inappropriate to be interfering with natural hormonal growth patterns,” Alvarez said. “There are significant potential problems necessary for growth and development.
"Potential long-term effects can include other abnormalities of hormones, vascular complications and even potential cancer. I think that if this child – as he finishes his puberty and teenage years – decides to undergo a transgender procedure – then there are proper channels to do so.
“But to do it at the age of 11 -- to me -- could be potentially dangerous to the health of this child," he said.
Alvarez’s medical advice is exactly backwards. Waiting until after puberty to begin hormone blockers increases the risk that children will experience negative side effects, according to the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health:
Pubertal suppression would be appropriate (with parental/guardian informed consent) for those patients who have had a persistent and consistent cross sex identity from childhood who are entering puberty and have reached Tanner Stage 2. Occasionally, there may be patients who desire halting their pubertal trajectory who are further along in their development. For these patients, GnRH analogues may be useful, but it is important to note that side effects are more common when a person already has circulating adult levels of sex hormones.
According to Children’s Hospital Boston – which opened the first clinic for gender-variant children in the country – the appropriate use of hormone blockers has “not been shown to cause any major side effects.” The Endocrine Society, which is “the world’s oldest, largest, and most active organization to research on hormones,” recommendsthe use of hormone blockers to treat transgender youth.
Fox also solicited commentary from Walt Heyer. Heyer is well known for having transitioned to being a woman and then transitioning back after he realized that he was actually suffering from a dissociative disorder:
Walt Heyer, whose book "Paper Genders" details his own experience transitioning from a man to a woman and back again, agreed. "The blockers should NOT be introduced to a child," Heyer said. "If they are going to make a transition, they should wait to do so when they reach 18 to 20 years old. When you start the therapy at that age you are not dealing with the fact that the mind is not fully developed."
Since he transitioned back to identifying as a male, Heyer has been committed to speaking out against gender reassignment surgery and therapy. He’s been embraced by a number of anti-gay hate groups, including MassResistance and American for Truth About Homosexuality, which tout his life story as proof that one’s gender identity, like sexual orientation, can be cured.
Heyer’s personal blog is a source of extreme anti-trans commentary. Heyer has called gender reassignment surgery a “modern day frontal lobotomy,” asserted that parents who help their children transition should be punished with “at least 20 years in prison,” and has called Chaz Bono a “poser transgender” because “she has resisted having a ‘Snoopy’ attached.”
Last but not least, Fox turned to Dr. Keith Ablow, who continued his habit of psychoanalyzing patients he’s never even met:
“Undue influence on the child simply has to be ruled out,” said psychiatrist Keith Ablow, a Fox News contributor. “It's the psychologically correct thing to do, the ethical thing to do and the moral thing to do."
"Obviously, when two females adopt a male child, then assert that the child is not actually male, but is, instead, actually a female -- like both of them. Everyone in the family should be psychologically evaluated in a comprehensive way before a step like gender reassignment is considered,” said Ablow.
In case you missed it, Ablow is basically asserting that Tammy’s lesbian parents may have pressured or persuaded her into identifying as transgender. The myth that one should assume that gay parents influence their children into identifying as LGBT is completely false.
It’s just the latest in Ablow’s growing record of baseless and unscientific anti-LGBT smears. In the past, he’s attempted to link homosexuality to pedophilia, compared transgender people to people suffering from anorexia and heroin addiction, and accused Chaz Bono of suffering from a “psychotic delusion.”
His recent attacks against Chaz Bono were so divorced from medical realities that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) specifically condemned them.
Unfortunately, Fox’s transphobia isn’t just evidenced by its reliance on anti-LGBT pseudoscientists; it’s in the way the network talks about transgender people. The FoxNews.com article repeatedly refers to Tammy as a “boy” and a “he,” even though both Tammy and her parents refer to her as a female.
Intentionally using the wrong gender to refer to a transgender person is a common tactic used by anti-LGBT groups and activists to trivialize and even mock transgender people’s lives and experiences. Fox Nation’s headline for the story was even clearer in its attempt to trivialize and mock the issue:
[Fox Nation, 10/17/11]
The fact that Fox continues to promote anti-trans misinformation, even after being chastised by one of America’s leading medical organizations, is a testament to how committed the network is to appealing to an extreme anti-LGBT audience base. Rather than back away from its indefensible and unscientific claims about transgender people, Fox News seems to be calling in reinforcements.