The goal of my column this week is simple: pointing readers to The New Atlantis, one of the nation’s best journals about science, technology and their intersection with ethics. Earlier this week (August 22), The New Atlantis released an important new overview of nearly 200 peer-reviewed studies from the 1950s to the present on issues of sexuality and gender identity, with findings from the biological, psychological and social sciences.
The overview, entitled “Sexuality and Gender,” can be found on line here. While the body of the overview may be data-dense for the average reader, the report’s executive summary, conclusion and prefatory notes to each section are clear, well-written and accessible to any interested adult. And we should be interested, because sexuality and gender identity are now sharply disputed topics with big implications for the health of individuals and our wider culture.
Fortunately, the authors of the overview are both men of distinguished professional credentials. Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D., is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Some of the key findings include:
The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property — that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence. Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex — so that a person might be a “man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.
Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. In fact, a large majority outgrow their gender confusion by the time they’re adults. Thus there is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.
Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. And discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.
Given the heavy media coverage of transgender issues over the past year, the overview’s third section, “Gender Identity,” is especially valuable. As the authors note, “there is little evidence that the phenomenon of transgender identity has a biological basis. There is also little evidence that gender identity issues have a high rate of persistence in children.”
Additionally, the “scientific evidence suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex-reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to the elevated health risks among the transgender population.”
The authors are especially wary of medical interventions that are “[p]rescribed and delivered to patients identifying, or identified, as transgender. This is especially troubling when the patients receiving these interventions are children. We read popular reports about plans for medical and surgical interventions for many prepubescent children, some as young as six, and other therapeutic approaches undertaken for children as young as two. We suggest that no one can determine the gender identity of a two-year-old.
“We have reservations about how well scientists understand what it even means for a child to have a developed sense of his or her gender, but notwithstanding that issue, we are deeply alarmed that these therapies, treatments, and surgeries seem disproportionate to the severity of the distress being experienced by these young people, and are at any rate premature, since the majority of children who identify as the gender opposite their biological sex will not continue to do so as adults. Moreover, there is a lack of reliable studies on the long-term effects of these interventions. We strongly urge caution in this regard” (emphases added).
We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the “Sexuality and Gender” report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.
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Thank You Bishop
There is little doubt in my mind that those who are “open-minded” and “multicultural” in perspective will likely reject this piece of work. Yes, it does present a point of view, one that is quite contrary to what is pervasive but that does not make it anymore “wrong” than those that have the opposite point of view. MDegnan said it best, if you’re not determined to dislike the content (based on the executive summary), read it and decide for yourself. Many Americans seem content to make decisions by simply letting others read for them.
Are you screening comments for “catholic” content or do you want to have a discourse?
Please cite your sources. I do not disagree with your premise, Archbishop. But if you’re trying to educate the confused and the skeptical regarding gender and sexual identity, then you need to cite what scientific evidence you draw from. Otherwise, your article succumbs to the same rhetorical evidence that you decry.
Go back and read the second paragraph. There you will find reference to the source and this link to it http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/preface-sexuality-and-gender
nice article, but am still looking for a gender reinforcement program in early formative years. How about Catholic schools conducting in seriatim the names of animals, male, female and young and name of their families? An antidote for confused gender identity in a very permissive politically correct society.
As a wife I find myself in a 31 year relationship with a man who now identifies as a woman. What is a wife to do?
So much talk is about the gender dysphoric person but there is not much on the chaos that is left in the wake of this transition. There are counselors out there that want to help the person “feel” good about their new normal and ignore the innate goodness of God’s gift of creating man and women.
Also the responsibilities of being a husband all seem to be pushed aside in favor of making the gender dysphoric person “happy”. Happiness is a moment by moment decision not something to be attained that lasts forever.
I shortened by name for anonymity purposes, but I had undiagnosed gender dysphoria growing up. It turned out as an adult I just have same sex attraction, but through the grace of God, have come to embrace and accept my biological womanhood. It’s no easy feat, but when God is always with you, no matter how you feel, He will always reaffirm His love for your own body, whether you yourself are comfortable in it or not. And it’s God’s love for me that only matters, not my own feelings.
This is a literature review which means that it is prone to selective observation. There is no way to know because it has not been subjected to peer review. Given that the conclusions directly contradict those of Dr. McHugh’s own professional organization peer review would seem to be an essential element. As is, this amounts to a lengthy blog post with footnotes.
This is the best critics can do: Invoke peer review where it’s not in fact mandatory, call it a blog post and ignore the gravity of the content, which is well assembled and persuasive.
For those not determined to dislike the findings: Do actually read the report. It’s quite valuable.
Did you read that part of the article that indicates that the studies reviewed were peer reviewed?
The study in question is a “meta-study” of peer reviewed studies, thus requires no peer review.
That said, the peer review process has become so politicized, its benefits have become highly questionable with the exception of very concrete issues, none of which apply to a meta-study.
Thank you for sharing this knowledge. It is an urgent matter to talk to kids about the Truth of our bodies identity. Gods master piece within us. We must teach it before the media disturbe the lenguage of our young ones. TOB for everyone will help. Thank you for all you do Bishop.
I thank Archbishop Chaput for bringing this report to our attention and for giving pastoral guidance on the issue.
In this culture, we do not talk to each other. We let individuals go on their own, thinking an opposing view would hurt or offend them. Christians must take the courage and engage with people over all these issues. We know the truth, and it’s God’s wish that none of his creations go astray.
Abraham Lincoln talked about this. If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? The answer is not 5 but 4. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg. It remains a tail. Calling a boy a girl does not make him a girl. He remains a boy. Likewise calling a girl a boy does not make her a boy. She remains a girl.
Bravo Archbishop for sharing this report. We need clarity on issues like this to come from the pulpit.
I agree. I have always found it disturbing to say the least that parents would consider allowing children to have surgery or even therapy to convert their expressed gender identity to physical reality. This is child abuse. No child under the age of 18 should be allowed to do anything permanent to their bodies, and anyone who does it over the age of 18 is a fool and is guilty of self mutilation which will always end badly for all concerned, the patient as well as their families.