Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Transgender High Profile Fails to Tell the Whole Truth
I read with great interest the June 20 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette High Profile on Evelyn Rios Stafford, a transgender Justice of the Peace from Fayetteville.
The article was as much about Arkansas’ Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, a law recently passed by the legislature that prohibits gender transition procedures on persons under age 18. Those who follow Family Council are probably aware I don’t see things the way High Profile writer Lara Jo Hightower and Evelyn Rios Stafford do. However, no matter which side of the issue you’re on, most people believe it is always good to be factually accurate. I was disappointed that the Democrat-Gazette’s standards of accuracy fell short this time.
The article says that Arkansas’ SAFE Act prohibits “gender-affirming care for trans youth.” Most people don’t know what that is, and the article does not define it. “Gender-affirming care” sometimes goes as far as performing sex-change surgeries on boys to make them physically into girls and then giving them high-powered hormones in an attempt to make their male bodies more female. Most people don’t consider surgically removing a young girl’s breasts and giving her large doses of testosterone as “gender-affirming care.” Just to be clear, “gender-affirming care” as transgender activists use the term is not about a doctor or therapist helping boys and girls feel good about their biological sex; it is quite the opposite.
The article says that it looks like no other state is going to pass such a law. Well, the truth is Tennessee just joined Arkansas by passing a similar bill. According to the pro-LGBTQ organization Freedom for All Americans, similar bills have been introduced in 11 other states. So much for the author’s effort to lead people to believe Arkansas is out of step with the rest of the country.
The article says the SAFE Act is essentially “a complete ban on trans-related health care for anyone under 18.” In reality, the law prevents gender transition procedures, including drugs or surgeries, for the purpose of changing a child’s sex. It permits other types of healthcare. The law is narrowly focused on protecting children from sex-reassignment procedures, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones intended to change a child’s gender. Hormones and even surgeries for other purposes are still allowed under the law.
The article mentions that politicians are not the experts on transgender healthcare. While this is debatable—several state legislators are physicians or other healthcare professionals— the article leaves readers with the impression that lawmakers didn’t consult any experts before voting. They did consult experts. Three psychiatrists and two pediatricians provided expert testimony in support of the law preventing gender transition procedures on children. In addition, lawmakers were provided numerous scholarly articles that supported such a law. There was simply no comparison between the expert testimony in support of the SAFE Act and expert testimony against it.
I totally agree with the sentiments expressed in the article about the need to protect youth from self-harm, bullying, and other dangers. But the column fails to mention that the suicide rate does not change after a child transitions to the opposite sex. The rate of suicide only goes down when the child gets help coming to terms with his or her biological sex—not by changing it.
Finally, the column mentions sparing kids from going through “wrong puberty.” That is exactly what the SAFE Act does. It prevents parents and doctors from doing irreparable and irreversible harm to a child by forcing the child’s body into something terribly wrong. None of these powerful drugs have been approved by the FDA for gender-reassignment on children. Even in socially liberal Sweden, the Karolinska University Hospital announced in May that it would no longer provide puberty blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones to children under age 16. They cited both the experimental nature of the treatments and concerns about the long-term effects of the procedures, as well as questions about the fully informed consent of patients under age 16.
The tone and presentation of the article was clearly to cast being transgender in a very favorable light. I disagree with that, but the people at the paper can write and print what they choose. However, it’s not alright for them to misinform the public about the facts. Unfortunately, that is what this article does.