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'Lies and suicide scare tactics'
A whistleblower calls out 'experimental' gender medicine
Gender clinicians told blatant lies to legislators about transgender surgery on minors and used suicide scare tactics to pressure parents to go along with experimental hormone drugs for their children, according to American gender clinic whistleblower Jamie Reed.
“I think we need a moratorium [on trans hormonal interventions] and we need to go back to square one — and square one in [experimental] drug studies is in animals,” Ms Reed, a former case manager at a Missouri children’s hospital gender clinic, told a webinar hosted earlier today by The Free Press, which broke her story.
Ms Reed, a queer woman married to a trans man, said she had gone from passionate enthusiasm for “gender-affirming” healthcare to watching in disbelief as psychologically unstable patients were judged fit for irreversible treatment with synthetic hormone drugs.
“It felt like … there was no end in sight to how extreme this was going to get,” she said, noting that she had repeatedly raised concerns internally before alerting Missouri’s Attorney-General Andrew Bailey, who has launched an investigation. Republican Senator Josh Hawley has also announced an investigation.
In the webinar, Ms Reed said: “These [children’s] hospitals that are running these [gender] centres, it’s their mission to support kids and to take care of kids and to take care of families. And by turning a blind eye to what’s happening in the centres, they’re also failing at their mission.”
She said teenage girls with no long history of gender distress dominated the clinic’s caseload and were given testosterone after one appointment with a therapist and one with an endocrinologist.
She cited one teenage patient with a “somatisation” disorder whereby the girl became convinced she was blind, despite having no physical defect, and even took to walking with a cane.
“These types of conditions have elements of social contagion. They’re often found in adolescent girls and they demonstrate a real underlying mental health need,” Ms Reed said.
“In the same way, many of the girls that came in [to the clinic] had tic disorders that they believed [were] Tourette’s … they believed they were having seizures, they were falling down in class, they would claim their legs could no longer support them.
“And they really had a severe mental health condition. Somatisation disorders are so severe and require so much work in treatment. There's absolutely no way that these patients were in the right mental place to be able to make any long-term decisions about their health, let alone decisions about gender transitioning as a child. And we were beginning to see more and more cases of this.”
Reed’s on-the-record testimony follows more guarded expressions of concern in 2021-22 from gender medicine insiders about hasty medicalisation and possible social contagion as an element in the unprecedented international surge in chiefly teenage girls rejecting their female sex and seeking irreversible medical interventions.
Reed’s lawyer Vernadette Broyles of the non-profit American law firm Child and Parental Rights Campaign claimed that the legal protections for humans involved in experiments — protections dating back to the 1945-46 Nuremberg Trials — were absent not only in the Missouri clinic but also in counterparts around the country. The United States has more than 100 specialist paediatric gender clinics; the first opened in 2007.
“We're subjecting our kids to a level of recklessness — medical recklessness — without any of the attendant safeguards that are normally utilised for bringing [an experimental] drug into the mainstream of common usage,” Ms Broyles said.
“And these are kids whose bodies are still developing. We have no idea of the long-term impacts that we're going to see — are we going to have all kinds of strange cancers?
“These [hormonal] treatments, there’s no question about it, they are experimental —there is not a single controlled clinical study that supports the efficacy and safety that establishes it as a medical standard.”
Ms Broyles highlighted the absence of an objective test showing which children would persist in gender distress and which children would emerge from a passing phase.
“You're giving kids treatments that are irreversible … And yet you do not have an objective assay test that you can give to say, OK, this one, yes. And this one, no. That that's very troubling.”
The gender clinic issue has been caught up in America’s polarised politics and medicalisation of gender non-conforming youth has been framed as “progressive”, but the message from the webinar was that regardless of their affiliations, both legislators and career public servants had a duty to protect children.
“We have simply got to get past the partisanship,” Ms Broyles said. “Our kids are not Democrats or Republicans.
“They require of us to get past these political divisions for the sake of their future. [The politics] frankly should not matter to us, the facts should be what [matters].”
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Ms Reed, a native of the Republican state of Missouri who describes herself as politically to the left of Bernie Sanders, said she had watched gender clinic colleagues “go to my state’s capitol and blatantly lie to the legislators … they specifically stated that there [were] no surgical referrals ever occurring [for minors]”.
She said parents put their trust in the St Louis Children’s Hospital, home to the Washington University Transgender Centre, which she felt she had to leave last November.
“The parents trusted that the doctors were doing the assessments. And the doctors weren’t doing the assessments because the doctors wanted the mental health providers to do the assessments,” she said.
“But the mental health providers aren’t really doing the assessments either. And it’s just this loop of nobody wants to actually take the responsibility for the real decision-making that needs to happen. And so it lands in the lap of the child.
“A lot of the parents really were trusting, but also, we really lied to them all the time. We maligned parents who didn't want to go along [with hormone treatment], we told them that they were going to hurt their kids.”
The dogmatic gender-affirming treatment model internationally invokes dramatic but low-quality and misleading statistics on suicide risk, sometimes delivered to parents with the line “Do you want a live son or a dead daughter?” in the presence of their child.
“You’re putting these parents in a non-winning situation, you’re putting their seriously distressed child in front of them, the child who believes that if they could have just had this medication, these hormones, last week, that their entire world would now be rainbows and glitter,” Ms Reed said.
She said the workings of the gender clinic system failed to “build up” the family, to keep them intact and empower the parents to be able to say No. Ms Reed’s view was that once a parent opposed treatment, the right thing for the clinician to do was to back off.
“That was not what happened … these doctors would push and push [reluctant parents]. And they would talk in the team meetings about … if we could just convince them.
“And there were also plenty of parents who … would say things like, ‘You’re going to do this anyway, I don’t really have a choice. I feel like I’ve been bullied into saying Yes.’ And somehow the doctors thought that that was a true, good consent.”
Ms Reed said that in any event, the suicide scare tactics were in conflict with modern clinical practice — “It's 2023 … and from a mental health care perspective, we actually have a lot of really good interventions for suicidal ideation that are not hormones, that could also be tried.”
Washington University issued a statement saying it was “alarmed” by the allegations in The Free Press and had begun to look into them.
Ms Broyles of the Child and Parental Rights Campaign said she had heard accounts similar to Reed’s from “dozens and dozens” of parents across the U.S.
“Almost every last one of these patients, these kids, had really significant mental health co-morbidities, trauma, autism spectrum, dissociative identity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders,” she told the Free Press webinar.
She said the rationale for hormone treatment was to improve mental health but “for so many of the patients, mental health actually got worse, or there were physiological manifestations of harm to them — cholesterol going up, blood pressure, renal, liver issues”, together with associated problems fitting in socially.
She said these troubled young people came to see medicalised gender change as their “ticket to feeling normal … to acceptance.
“It’s actually offering them a completely false hope, because a female can never become a male. So, are we putting these kids on the path to a conflict with their developing bodies that will just never be resolved?”
What is a woman?
Ms Reed said these teenage female patients often had no sexual experience, nor a chance to try to understand what it meant to be a girl or a woman.
She said the normal process of gender exploration was blocked by the increasingly common practice of early social transition, whereby the child lives out an opposite-sex role endorsed and reinforced by family and school.
Public declarations of changed names and pronouns could lock a child into this new identity, meaning that social transition was not neutral nor free of harm.
“And once they're trapped, they not only don’t see a way out, but I’ve heard kids talk about [re-embracing their birth sex as] letting their families down.”
Ms Broyles said schools across America were usurping the traditional role of parents in crucial decision-making concerning their children.
“School officials, teachers, are somehow believing that they have the authority to take the place of parents in making these life-altering mental health decisions whether to endorse their child’s assumed identity [and] cut the parents out,” she said.
“They need to understand … anytime you drive a wedge between a child and their loving parent, you are harming that child because you’re harming the whole family unit.”
And five to ten years later, if the young person had serious problems, the teachers and school officials had moved on, leaving the parents with the fall-out.