There’s a movement brewing in the public consciousness that wants to link teen transgender suicide rates with a failure to “affirm” the teens’ gender identities. In other words, transgender activists want to boil the issue down to a moral dilemma: provide hormones and surgeries to any transgender minor seeking them, or suffer increased suicide rates as a result.
However, data surrounding the dilemma does not support the narrative. Leor Sapir, a Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and researcher with a PhD in Political Science, argues that the hyperbole surrounding suicide rates in trans-identifying youths actually does more to increase suicide rates than to prevent them.
“The affirm-or-suicide mantra has become the central strategy of contemporary transgender activism, and at times it would seem that activists have little else in their rhetorical arsenal,” said Sapir. According to Sapir and other research scientists outside of the hyperbolic activist arena, the rhetoric serves political interests more so than human safety interests.
Political activists tend to use language like “life-saving,” “gender affirming,” and “transphobic” when describing sex changes for children — and the pushback against them.
“Despite the unwaveringly confident manner in which these claims are often asserted, there is no good evidence that failing to ‘affirm’ minors in their ‘gender identity’ will increase the likelihood of them committing suicide,” said Sapir. “Gender activists commonly argue that roughly four in ten transgender-identified youth (TIY) attempt suicide when not socially and medically ‘affirmed.’ Does the research bear this out? The simple answer is: no,” he added.
The entire basis of the trans-affirming myth is the assumption that trans-identifying youth should be compared with mentally healthy teens. It doesn’t take a research scientist to understand that this is a deeply misleading claim; trans-identifying teens are hardly the same mentally as their binary counterparts, and when the comparison is made in good faith (trans-affirming teens and other teens with similar mental health issues), suicide rates are nearly identical.
Suicide is always a result of multiple factors, not a single traumatic event
And if you don’t think gender dysphoria should count as a mental illness, think again. Teens with rapid onset gender dysphoria are “known to have very high rates of anxiety, depression, history of sexual trauma, anorexia, and eating disorders, all of which typically precede their gender-related distress,” said Sapir. Put more simply, gender confusion behaves more like a symptom of a troubled teenage life, but it is incorrectly treated as the underlying cause of the trouble.
Also, attempted suicide rates are largely self-reported and based on questionnaires. There’s very little vetting or follow-up to see if suicide was actually attempted, or if suicidal thoughts just crept in for some period of time.
What’s worse is that much of the recent medical data that purportedly advocates for puberty blockers is full of omissions and “egregiously” flawed logics.
“The hyperbole surrounding the suicide threat is designed to get us to overlook the fundamentally experimental nature of pediatric gender medicine,” said Sapir. The point of suicide alarmism, he adds, is to get us to not weigh the pros and cons, benefits and risks; but rather to minimize the issue into a black and white choice of morality.
And yet, the CDC (the same bureaucratic organization responsible for overwrought COVID-19 guidance, including economic lockdowns) warns not to trivialize suicide into a simplistic, black and white issue.
“Suicide is never the result of a single factor or event, but rather results from a complex interaction of many factors and usually involves a history of psychosocial problems,” said the CDC. But that’s exactly what’s happening, despite mountains of common-sense evidence that gender confusion tracks more like a mental health issue than a moral one.
“It’s difficult to imagine a more ‘simplistic explanation’ than ‘kids will kill themselves if their gender identity is not affirmed,'” noted Sapir.