Chance Agrella

The debate surrounding the Pima County Board of Supervisors resolution to ban paid conversion therapy seems to have been taken by some as an opportunity to question the legitimacy of transgender and gender non-binary identities as a whole.

These arguments generally use phony science, faulty statistical analysis and ill-informed personal conjecture to construct a transphobic false narrative under the tired guise of protecting children from liberal parenting and political correctness.

Commonly offered – and easy to find on the internet — are a number of studies from Michelle A. Cretella, M.D., President of the credibly-named American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds). ACPeds is actually a small, socially conservative political advocacy group promoting anti-LGBT propaganda, often by duping journalists into citing anecdotal “studies” published in ACPed’s own journals. ACPeds was founded in order to advocate against adoptions by same-sex parents and has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

One common “scientific” argument relates to the incidence of gender nonconformity in identical twins, stating that when one twin transitions, the other will follow suit “only” 28 percent of the time. Leaving behind the fact that 28 percent is a very high incidence of a trait, like gender nonconformity, that occurs in less than 1 percent of the population (thus strongly indicating a genetic link), research shows that this data is also drawn from a study by ACPeds, which itself cites a 2013 study by Dr. Milton Diamond.

Looking at the Diamond study firsthand, one will find its conclusion to be the exact opposite of that promoted by ACPeds: “The responses of our twins relative to their rearing, along with our findings regarding some of their experiences during childhood and adolescence, show their identity was much more influenced by their genetics than their rearing.” In other words, a very strong genetic component and very little political correctness.

Particularly galling is the idea that a child’s sexual or gender identity is a result of self-congratulatory prompting on the part of overly liberal parents. When transgender kids come out, they often do so at great personal and social expense. It is a shock to the family, initiating a scramble for information and sparse local resources. Before receiving significant medical intervention, transgender kids are required to be under the care of multiple doctors, who carefully monitor them to ensure they are insistent, consistent and persistent (and yes, that is the real terminology) in their gender identity over a significant period of time. Gender identity is not a flippant game played by progressive parents, and the suggestion is offensive.

The most dangerous arguments are often those that sound most benign. Last Sunday, the Star’s own columnist Jonathan Hoffman advocated for “helping of children to align themselves with their respective physical realities,” which is a de facto endorsement of the conversion therapy explicitly banned in the Pima County resolution. By the time kids come out, they have often already engaged in a long, losing battle to align themselves with their birth bodies, and forcing them back into battle drives them deeply into anxiety and depression. It’s a well-documented fact that over 40 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, and it’s increasingly clear that the primary cause is lack of support. Recent studies (e.g., Olson et al., Pediatrics, 2016) have shown that when trans kids are supported and accepted by friends and family, the incidence of self-harm plummets to near the national average.

Simply put, supporting intellectually disingenuous “science” provides fodder for politically motivated, dehumanizing arguments against the well being of our transgender and gender non-binary friends and neighbors. Providing gender nonconforming kids a safe, open, supported environment to express themselves clears a path to a healthy, productive future. Denying that path is literally life-threatening.

Chance Agrella belongs to the Trans Parents Group, which is part of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. Learn more at sagatucson.org