New Documentary Released on the Rush to Reassign Gender
July 15, 2021
by Andrè Van Mol, MD
In keeping with their history of producing eye-opening documentaries taking highly controversial societal trends head on, The Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) recently released a film on gender affirming therapy titled Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender? Running just under 52 minutes, the feature presents activists, healthcare professionals, educators, parents and the patients themselves—among others—regarding “the medical and surgical transitioning of children.” The guests exhibit varied points of view, and they include members of both CMDA and the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds).
Film director and CBC president Jennifer Lahl and her team created the documentary, their ninth, during the challenge of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I asked Jennifer what prompted her to take on this profoundly charged issue that so many have avoided. She responded that as a PICU nurse and “a science tech medical geek” with a long-standing interest in assisted reproduction, she became motivated to film after noting “trans men” (biological females, thus with uterus) having babies, reading a study claiming that “trans women” (biological males) wanted uterine transplants, and seeing fertility preservation services being offered to children planning transitions. Jennifer concluded, “That’s enough.”
The documentary opens and follows along with testimonies of several detransitioners, including their telling of adverse childhood events in often difficult homes and what motivated them to seek transition and thereafter to reverse their decision. Parents provide moving stories of their experiences of betrayal and intimidation by the very healthcare professionals whom they trusted to help with their children’s underlying issues.
Parent Brenton stated, “They were laying on the pressure more to my son’s mother….” Elizabeth, another parent, found that “Everywhere I went to try to find help, all they wanted to do was affirm her and put her on hormones.” She added that a psychiatrist told her regarding her daughter, “…if I don’t go along with this, she could likely commit suicide. She said that right in front of my daughter.”
And it’s not just emotional blackmail from healthcare professionals. Tina shared, “The most challenging thing for me has been, the realization that most of my community, my friends and even some of my family is not supporting me and thinks that I am making the wrong choice for my child, who I have known for her entire life, you know. I just feel so betrayed.”
The viewer will observe what an across-the-aisles effort opposition to the transition of minors has become. Natasha Chart, former executive director of The Women’s Liberation Front/WOLF; Colin Wright, PhD, evolutionary biologist and atheist; trans, lesbian and gay-identified adults; and others are shown. Their shared motivation is asserted by Scott Newgent, a trans-identified adult during testimony on the South Dakota Vulnerable Child Protection Act so many of us were involved in crafting and supporting, “I’m trying to save your kids.”
Supporters of gender-affirming treatment (GAT, but really TAT, as it is transition that is being affirmed) are presented in force. Brown University’s pediatrician Michelle Forcier declares, “…you have to go back and say gender diversity, or a transgender identity, isn’t pathologic, it’s a part of human development….” Dr. Forcier expressed a profoundly inconsistent viewpoint, one held by many in the pro-GAT field, “the data suggests and continues to suggest that kids that go on blockers will stay on them and probably go on gender-affirming hormones, or explore some aspect of a gender diverse identity. But that’s the benefit of blockers is you don’t have to decide, and you’re safe. And you have time and room to figure things out. And your parents have time and room to figure things out. And nothing’s permanent. It’s the pause button of puberty.” If puberty blockers are a “pause button” and “nothing’s permanent,” why is it that “kids that go on blockers will stay on them”? She’s describing a gateway drug, not a pause button.
I am quoted explaining “watchful waiting” for gender dysphoric children: “that since they’re tied together, perhaps proper psychologic investigation and support toward helping those mental health issues, overcoming the traumas, the adverse childhood events, helping the family dynamics, that when you help correct those, you also will be helping to correct the gender dysphoria, that’s the idea of watchful waiting.”
The majority of the evidence against GAT and for watchful waiting, including psychological intervention and support, along with the limits of informed consent in a minor (they cannot give it) is provided from interviews with pediatric endocrinologists and academics Drs. Quentin Van Meter and Paul Hruz, along with me (Dr. Van Meter heads ACPeds and the latter two co-chair the CMDA Sexual and Gender identity Task Force, not noted in the film). Further strong evidence and a painful life story are given by detranstioner and former UCSF epidemiology expert Hacsi Horvath.
Also addressed is big pharma and biotech. I explain, “If you’ve got a company that’s producing some little widget that has a stake in the game of making a biological male look more female or vice versa, there’s money for you in this.” “If you’re a pharmaceutical firm that is producing some manner of sex hormone or gonadotropin-releasing agonist, what we’re going to call puberty blockers, you’ve just increased your market share tremendously. And once a kid is medicalized, they are medicalized for the rest of their lives. That’s a big market, it’s a big profit.”
There is much more in this impressively well crafted and gripping documentary. The stories are compelling, the information broad and revealing, and Trans Mission ends on a hopeful note. Dr. Van Meter relates a conversation with Prof. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins on what psychiatrist McHugh thinks will turn the tide: “There’s going to be major lawsuits by families or individuals who have been through this. Gone down that pathway and come back at the other side and they are going to take down, not only the physicians, but the drug companies and the hospital, healthcare systems and the insurance companies that allowed this to happen, and that’s when this will all end.” May Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender? accelerate that outcome!