Wall Street Journal Op-Ed: American Academy of Pediatrics Continues Defense of Youth Transgender Treatments While Other Nations Reject Them

Pediatrician Dr. Julia Mason and Manhattan Institute fellow Leor Sapir warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the left-wing media has championed a “deeply flawed” study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) flagship journal, one that argues the surge in young people claiming to identify as transgender is not due to “social contagion,” a concept, therefore, that should not be cited by state legislatures to regulate puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and transgender surgeries for youth.

The study, published in Pediatrics, was penned by child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Jack Turban, a controversial clinician-activist, who completed a fellowship at Stanford Medical Center and went on to specialize in helping gender dysphoric youth obtain puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and transgender surgeries.

Turban rejects the notion that the influence of the current culture, spread quickly via social media, has anything to do with the rise in young people, especially girls, claiming to identify as transgender.

His work is controversial because, first, as he acknowledges in his current paper, he works for LGBTQ activist organizations, getting paid to serve as an “expert witness” by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

Second, as Sapir observed in City Journal, Turban is “an oft-quoted proponent of “gender affirming care” (GAC) and propagator of the affirm-or-suicide myth.

In fact, as Mason and Sapir noted at the Journal, Pediatrics published Turban’s “highly flawed 2020 study alleging that puberty blockers reduce suicide in teens.”

Turban and his co-authors said data regarding the increase in young people identifying as transgender “have been used to suggest that youth come to identify as TGD [transgender and gender diverse] because of ‘social contagion,’ with the underlying assumption that AFAB [assigned female sex at birth] youth are uniquely vulnerable to this hypothesized phenomenon.”

They added as well that such data “have been cited in recent legislative debates regarding the criminalization of gender-affirming medical care.”

Using the 2017 (91,937 adolescents) and 2019 (105,437 adolescents) Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 16 states, Turban et al said they calculated a ratio of boys to girls identifying as transgender for each year and also analyzed “rates of bullying victimization and suicidality” among trans youth compared with peers who are comfortable with their biological sex.

Turban said they found 2.4 percent (2,161) adolescents identified as transgender in 2017, and 1.6 percent (1,640) identified as trans in 2019.

He also said that boys encounter trans identification at a higher rate than girls, an outcome he viewed as negating the “rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD)” paradigm found previously as a central factor, particularly for girls.

“Rates of bullying victimization and suicidality were higher among TGD youth when compared with their cisgender peers,” Turban et al also wrote.


Turban added that the “sex assigned at birth” ratio for both years showed “our findings are in direct contrast with central components of the ROGD hypothesis, as well as previous studies that used smaller samples from single clinics.”

That ratio of trans adolescents in the United States “does not appear to favor” female adolescents, and the notion of ROGD should not be used to restrict the provision of gender-affirming medical care for TGD adolescents.”

“Results from this study also argue against the notions that TGD youth come to identify as TGD because of social contagion or to flee stigma related to sexual minority status,” Turban concluded.

However, as Mason and Sapir noted at the Journal, Turban’s “deeply flawed” study “likely couldn’t have survived a reasonable peer-review process.”

Even those who support “gender-affirming care” noted Turban’s research was “shoddy” and “undermined their cause,” the authors wrote, adding, nevertheless “the media have promoted his work.”

Elaborating on the study’s “flaws,” they observed:

  • Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) who designed the Youth Risk Behavior Survey “explicitly warned that youths who identify as transgender may list their sex as their gender identity,” thus making it hard to obtain whether they are male-to-female or female-to-male.
  • Turban used a “flawed sex statistic” in his study, citing “three sources suggesting that respondents interpret ‘sex’ as ‘sex assigned at birth’ – even though none of those studies says anything of the sort.

Perhaps continued publishing of Turban’s “flawed” research is expected by the AAP, especially since the organization has “ignored evidence that has led Sweden, Finland and most recently the U.K. to place severe restrictions on medical transition for minors,” Mason and Sapir wrote.

“Medical societies in France, Belgium and Australia have also sounded the alarm,” they added. “The U.S. is an outlier on pediatric gender medicine.”

Mason and Sapir suggest numerous reasons why AAP should no longer be considered an organization to be heeded:

The AAP has stifled debate on how best to treat youth in distress over their bodies, shut down efforts by critics to present better scientific approaches at conferences, used technicalities to suppress resolutions to bring it into line with better-informed European countries, and put its thumb on the scale at Pediatrics in favor of a shoddy but politically correct research agenda.

“Its preference for fashionable political positions over evidence-based medicine is a disservice to member physicians, parents and children,” they asserted.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Transgender Person” by Greta Hoffman.


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