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House Hearing Used Misinformation to Continue Pushing Anti-Trans Agenda

The hearing relied on misrepresenting studies and many blatantly false claims by representatives.

Paula Scanlan, former University of Pennsylvania swimmer, testifies during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government hearing titled the "The Dangers and Due Process Violations of 'Gender-Affirming Care' for Children," on July 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing focused on the subject of gender-affirming care, with the title “The Dangers and Due Process Violations of ‘Gender-Affirming Care’.” The hearing took place in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government and featured testimonies from individuals such as anti-trans conservative media darlings Chloe Cole and Paula Scanlan. Additionally, Jennifer Bauwens from the Family Research Council, from an anti-LGBTQ+ group labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, also participated in the hearing. The speakers presented misinformation commonly raised in various state legislatures throughout the United States on gender affirming care.

Here are the five most significant instances of misinformation from the hearing, along with the corresponding fact-checks to address them:

Myth 1: “The Swedish Study” and 19x Suicide Rates

Jennifer Bauwens, representing the Family Research Council, consistently cited what she referred to as “the Swedish study” during the hearing. According to her claims, this study indicates that transgender individuals face a 19x higher suicide rate even after undergoing gender-affirming care. This assertion is a frequently used anti-trans talking point and has become one of the most prevalent pieces of misinformation propagated in such hearings. The influence of this misinformation is evident, with even Elon Musk having recently tweeted it in support of anti-trans bills in the United States. Unfortunately, is is simply incorrect.

The Swedish study she references, however, has been widely misused and misinterpreted because it looks at transgender people in the 70s and 80s when gender affirming care was next to impossible to receive, and when medical and social discrimination was extremely high. Even still, that study did not compare trans people who were allowed to get gender affirming care with trans people who were not — rather, it compared transgender people to the general population. Lastly, the 19x rate that she mentions is an all-cause mortality rate, which includes things like AIDS/HIV deaths — factors that were very prevalent in the decades old data being used here.

It is important to point out that transition in the 1970s-2000s was an extremely discriminatory and traumatizing process — the standards of care at the time forced transgender people to go without hormones while presenting publicly as their gender for two years or longer. Furthermore, many transgender people lost family members and had to move across the country in order to be allowed to transition. While transphobia is certainly still high today, mistreatment of transgender people was uniquely high in the time period studied, and health care quality was notably poor.

The misuse of this study of decades old data has been so widely prevalent that the author of the study has forcefully come out against its misuse:

“The conclusion that cross-sex hormone treatment increases suicide rate is completely wrong,” Cecilia Dhejne, author of the study, said in an interview.

Myth 2: Allowing Trans Youth to Get Gender Affirming Care Is Like Allowing Them to Eat Too Much Ice Cream

During the hearing, one of the more peculiar moments arose when Congressman Hunt displayed a picture board featuring the food pyramid, with all foods replaced by “ice cream.” He used this visual to draw an analogy, suggesting that providing gender affirming care to transgender youth under medical supervision and adhering to best practices is akin to allowing a child to choose an unhealthy snack for every meal. While this framing of this myth about gender affirming care is unconventional, the myth has been perpetuated through other comparisons, such as equating it to allowing kids to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.

This myth revolves around two fallacies. Firstly, the notion that being transgender is a matter of choice, and secondly, the misconception that transitioning is detrimental to health. In reality, neither of these claims holds true. There is no evidence supporting the idea that being transgender is a voluntary decision; gender identity is an intrinsic aspect of a person. Furthermore, transitioning is far from unhealthy; in fact, it serves as a life-saving intervention for transgender youth who genuinely require it.

A recent report from the esteemed medical journal, The Lancet, published on July 26, highlights that gender affirming care constitutes a form of preventative healthcare. It is associated with an improved quality of life and plays a crucial role in the well-being of transgender youth. Numerous studies have shown that it leads to positive psychological outcomes and reduces suicide rates significantly — some studies report a remarkable 73% decrease in suicide rates. The endorsement of gender affirming care is supported by a collection of over 50 papers compiled by Cornell University, all of which underscore its beneficial effects. Hence, gender affirming care is not an “unhealthy decision” but rather a medically sound approach grounded in scientific evidence, which greatly benefits transgender individuals who genuinely require it.

Myth 3: Washington State Will Take Away Kids and Trans Them

Representative Matt Gaetz used his speaking time to spread misinformation about a Washington State law concerning transgender runaways. However, his statements were inaccurate as he incorrectly claimed that SB5599, a bill passed in Washington this year, allows the state to “take kids away” and administer “gender blockers” to them. This misinformation was promptly refuted by Shannon Minter, the witness with whom Rep. Gaetz was engaging when delivering the misleading information.

This misinformation has also circulated within right-wing media on multiple occasions. Elon Musk boosted it earlier this year. Catelyn Jenner, a right-wing media personality, labeled it as “an absolute disgrace.” Donald Trump Jr. spread similar falsehoods about the bill, alleging, “These sick bastards are evil. WTF happened to ‘reasonable’ or ‘moderate’ democrats? Washington passes bill allowing the state to TAKE CHILDREN AWAY FROM PARENTS that do not consent to their child’s gender transition surgeries…”

Contrary to these claims, SB5599 does no such thing. Instead, the bill addresses a crucial requirement in Washington State. Under the current law, if transgender youth seek shelter, the shelter must report their presence to their parents immediately. However, the bill adds an exception to this parental notification requirement, specifically when these youth have sought or are trying to access gender-affirming care or abortion services and have reason to believe their parents will withhold them.

It is vital to emphasize that SB5599 does not alter child custody law or amend existing child abuse statutes. It does not grant the state the authority to remove transgender children from non-affirming parents’ homes. The bill also does not modify the state’s existing mature minor law, which already allows certain youth under 18 to provide consent for gender-affirming care and abortion services. Instead, it offers trans youth who have already run away an opportunity to seek shelter instead of sleeping on the streets in an attempt to avoid being reported to parents. This compassionate decision addresses the significant issue of high homelessness rates among trans youth runaways.

Moreover, the bill serves to protect against forced detransition and abuse. Many LGBTQ+ youth who run away from home do so due to mistreatment or fear of mistreatment. If transgender youth were immediately reported and returned to such parents, they might be forced to undergo detransition and conversion therapy—a deeply traumatic process for them. The bill is a compassionate solution to an existing problem in the state, not a means for the state to “take kids away and trans them.”

Myth 4: Being Trans Is Socially Contagious

Dr. Rauwens made multiple statements claiming that the rise in transgender identity is due to “social contagion,” a concept often employed by anti-trans advocates to suggest that young individuals are being “influenced” or “groomed” into being transgender. These advocates argue that transgender individuals emerge “suddenly” as a result of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” after being exposed to peers who have come out as trans or through social media, a debunked claim that has gained a foothold in right-wing circles. There is no peer-reviewed evidence supporting the existence of “social contagion” or “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” and several studies have refuted the idea of transgender identity being “socially contagious.”

One such study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, specifically examined this notion and concluded that it is false. The study found that trans youth have a long-standing awareness of their gender identity before coming out, leading some parents to perceive the onset of their child’s gender dysphoria as “sudden” and “rapid.” Children often wait for 3-6 years or even longer before openly discussing their gender identity and seeking support from clinics. You can review the results of this study here:

The compelling evidence against the existence of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” and “Social Contagion Theory” prompted a coalition of more than 60 psychological associations, including the American Psychological Association and the Society of Behavioral Medicine, to call for the abandonment of these terms. Despite this, the myth continues to be perpetuated in various hearings at state legislatures and, concerningly, now within the United States Congress.

Myth 5: Trans Kids Are Put on A Fast Track to Surgery

Representative Hunt made a statement suggesting that transgender youth are rapidly pushed toward gender reassignment surgery, spreading misinformation about gender affirming care and the support they receive. This myth has taken various forms in other hearings, such as labeling bans on gender affirming care for trans youth, which is comprised of social transition, hormone therapy, and puberty blockers, as “transgender surgery bans.” Additionally, press headlines often focus on transgender surgeries among trans youth in the bills, further amplifying this misinformation. Republicans have been known to claim that “little kids” are undergoing gender reassignment surgery in hearings.

However, this myth is far from reality. Gender reassignment surgery, typically referred to as “bottom” surgery, is a procedure primarily performed on adults, with only exceedingly rare exceptions involving minors. Numerous studies and organizations have confirmed that gender reassignment surgery is not happening among transgender youth. For instance, the Louisiana Medicaid Study reported no surgeries performed on minors between 2017-2021. Vanderbilt Medical Center stated that among all its transgender patients, it conducts approximately five top surgeries per year and no bottom surgeries. Moreover, even among adults, the rate of gender reassignment surgery remains relatively low, with 1% for transgender men and 10% for transgender women. Therefore, there is no basis for the claim of a “fast track to gender reassignment surgery” for transgender patients of any age.

Additionally, it is essential to note that transgender youth under 12 receive no medical interventions at all. For this age group, the transition is primarily social, involving the use of a new name, preferred pronouns, haircut, and clothing choice. Despite this reality, conservatives across various levels of government have raised concerns about “gender reassignment surgery on kids” to support their attempts to ban all forms of trans care. Such claims misrepresent the nature of gender-affirming care provided to transgender youth.

This piece was republished with permission from Erin In The Morning.

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