Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 94

Politics, Science, and Trans Youth

Transgender youth need our help.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

After over 3 weeks of daily columns on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is time for another topic. Or, is it? The underlying issue in today’s column seems similar to the process going on in Ukraine, that being the use of political power to control those with less power. This process seems to be escalating in the world. In today’s case, the less powerful are trans and nonbinary youth.

Coming to Texas for a visit in the middle of February, I was struck by the news on February 22nd, which was right before the Texas Republican primary, that the Texas Attorney General Governor announced that affirming a transgender young person’s gender identity could be considered “child abuse” under Texas law. Many other states, especially in the South, drew up similar bills in 2021. Seems more like the other way around to me, that such politicians are abusing these youth.

This news hit home both personally and professionally. We have a trans youth in our family and I was Medical Director of a Milwaukee clinical specializing in gender identity from about 1992-2012.

Our clinic experience at Pathways was clearly that most trans adolescents had improved mental health when their perceived gender identity was confirmed. Our subjective impressions were scientifically confirmed only a couple of months before the Texas announcements. The research from the Trevor Project, the largest suicide and crisis prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, had a new study published that found that gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) was significantly related to lower rates of depression and suicidality.1 And, yet, Texas and other states are not only going against such science, and potentially putting parents and clinicians at risk, but also increasing the stigma and homicidal risks toward trans youth. Thankfully, the Texas endeavor seems to be on hold after a judicial response.

More specifically related to the Ukraine invasion, Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church has deplored transgender identity.

However, we also should not ignore that there might be a grain of truth involved in their concern. When gender fluidity reflects social experimentation, rather than a hardcore identity issue, there can be misinterpretation about what is needed or not needed to help, such as permanent physical alterations.

Responding with concern to this societal risk to the mental health of trans youth is a prevention opportunity for psychiatrists and organized psychiatry. We should not let it go by.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

Reference

1. Green AE, DeChants JP, Price MN, Davis CK. Association of gender-affirming hormone therapy with depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted suicide among transgender and nonbinary youth. J Adolesc Health. 2022;70(4):643-649.