State lawmakers are quickly and correctly moving to restrict so-called “gender-affirming care” for children. Transgender activists are loudly claiming this will cause children to commit suicide. It’s a powerful claim, and at Do No Harm, we are firmly committed to protecting children’s mental and physical health. Yet the claims of suicide due to these laws are as false as they are alarmist.
Transgender activists used to know better. As the Manhattan Institute’s Leor Sapir notes, in 2017, pro-gender-affirming-care groups agreed not to blame “anti-LGBT” laws for causing suicide. Now, however, such accusations are rampant, driven by activists’ fear that they’re losing the policy fight. Yet the data don’t support the argument. As Sapir shows, “actual suicide in this population remains extremely rare,” with one United Kingdom study concluding that 0.03% of clinic-referred, transgender-identified youth committed suicide between 2010 and 2020. To be clear, even one suicide is too many. Digging down deeper further undermines activists’ claims.
It appears that such suicidal behavior is driven by other mental health conditions, and likely not by gender issues per se. Sapir reviews the evidence:
“Claims about trans identification being a proxy for suicidality typically rely on apples-to-oranges comparisons. They compare rates of suicidality among youth with trans identification or gender dysphoria with rates among youth in the general population. An apples-to-apples study would compare suicidality rates in the first group with suicidality among non-gender-distressed youth with similar mental health comorbidities (e.g., depression). A recent study did exactly that and found that the disparities in suicidality between gender-distressed and non-gender-distressed youth all but disappeared.”
It turns out that mental health issues are extremely common among minors with gender dysphoria, further undermining the claim that state policies are driving suicide:
“Studies from multiple countries that offer “gender-affirming care” have shown that the majority of minors referred to pediatric gender clinics are teenage girls with no history of gender-related distress before puberty and with at least one psychiatric diagnosis… In the U.S., one study found, 70 percent of pediatric patients are diagnosed with autism, ADHD, or some other mental-health problem prior to receiving a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.”
The conclusion is both unmistakable and heartbreaking: “It is more likely that teenagers with suicidal tendencies are gravitating toward a trans identity than that some kids are born transgender and are suicidal as a result of being an embattled minority.” In other words, transgender activists are using the suicide narrative to stop states from doing the right thing. State lawmakers should continue to pass laws that restrict gender-affirming care for children, instead of giving into a false, ideology-driven narrative that actually puts vulnerable boys and girls at risk.
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