Today, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed from Dr. Paul McHugh, a well-known opponent of transgender healthcare, in which he claimed that "transgender surgery isn’t the solution." The op-ed is filled with outdated and factually inaccurate information about transgender people, and McHugh, despite his credentials, draws disturbing conclusions from medical data presented without context.
Facts left out of this op-ed include the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association's positions that healthcare treatments, including hormone therapy and surgeries, are medically necessary for many transgender people. These institutions have also declared that trying to change a person's gender identity, much like trying to change their sexual orientation, is a waste of time that only causes more distress for the individual.
The op-ed attempts to connect advances for transgender healthcare, such as the Department of Health and Human Services' recent decision to remove a regulation in federal Medicare that banned transgender healthcare coverage, as the result of a "government and media alliance." However, such advances are actually steps to bring the practices of healthcare coverage providers in line with what authorities on healthcare support.
McHugh also failed to mention the many transgender people whose lives have improved as a result of living as the gender they identify with, rather than the one they were assigned at birth. Anguish felt by transgender people, even after receiving medical treatment, could be the result of several factors outside of surgical outcomes, including family rejection, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, anti-trans harassment and violence, and other issues that transgender people face every day. McHugh cites a study from the Karolinska Institute to claim that transgender healthcare causes distress for transgender people, leading to earlier death, but the study's own conclusion explicitly dismisses that line of reasoning.
McHugh's reduction of all the difficulties that transgender people may face to a single issue is incredibly misleading and irresponsible, and fuels anti-trans stigma that could prevent transgender people from accessing services that do improve their well-being. Instead of listening to transgender people (some of whom are psychologists and doctors themselves), the Wall Street Journal is promoting someone who has dedicated most of his career opposing the findings of medical associations on many psychological issues, including the reality of transgender people.
GLAAD immediately reached out to editors at the Wall Street Journal. The Editorial Page Editor offered to receive a letter to the editor in response to McHugh. GLAAD is considering that option, even while speaking out about the inclusion of this misleading op-ed.
"At a time when more and more media outlets are following the best practices on reporting about transgender people, the Wall Street Journal is moving in the opposite direction," said GLAAD's President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis. "By publishing McHugh's op-ed, contradicting widely accepted medical standards for transgender care, they are sacrificing accuracy and integrity."
The Human Rights Campaign also spoke out against the op-ed. "The fact is transgender people are our neighbors, our co-workers, our sons and daughters, and despite facing enormous barriers, are some of the strongest and most resilient people I know," said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. "McHugh's piece only furthers the stigma that faces the transgender community and isn't worth the ink it cost to print. Furthermore, his half-truths are rejected by the medical community he purports to represent -- including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, who have all issued statements affirming the benefit of transition-related care."
McHugh's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal comes just a week after the Chicago Sun-Times ran an op-ed by anti-LGBT activst Kevin D. Williamson titled "Laverne Cox is Not a Woman." After outreach from GLAAD, the Sun-Times pulled the op-ed, noting the false claims and misinformation contained within.