Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dr. Beyer Responds to Garza's Comments

In yesterday's Board of Education public comments, CRC attorney John Garza made a statement about sex reassignment surgery that was, well, you don't know where that came from, really. There was nothing in the proposed curriculum about sex reassignment surgery, nor was anything ever recommended. There was a definition of the word "transgender" for tenth graders, and that's as close as it came. Regardless, yesterday Garza shared his thoughts on the subject with the Board, the Internet, and the television audience.

A member, Dana Beyer, MD, has written a response to Garza's statements. Dr. Beyer is a physician and surgeon, trans woman, chair of Trans Equality Maryland, senior medical advisor to National Center for Transgender Equality and the DES Sons International Network, presenter on sex and gender to the International Behavioral Development Symposium. She is also a former and possibly future candidate for delegate, district 18.

First, here's what Garza said yesterday:
Good morning friends. May I ask each of you to not encourage our young children to chop off their body parts? I am talking about the medical procedure known as sexual reassignment surgery. The board continnues to be swayed by groups such as Advocates for Youth, PFLAG, GLSEN, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood. These groups believe the answer to a individual's transgenderism is to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. These groups assert that transgenderism is "as natural as being straight." The new and improved sex education curriculum that each of you backed to the point of losing a federal lawsuit, affirmed this view of transgenderism. Do you still believe this?

Will you promise, right now, to at least mention the other side? Will you tell our children that last December, Dr. Paul McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, urged psychiatrists to put an end to sexual reassignment surgery for individuals with gender identity disorder?

Will you, right now, promise to tell our children what doctors at Johns Hopkins discovered during follow up studies of people who had sexual reassignment surgeries? Will you tell our children that they found that these individual's psychological condition had little or no change? At least the doctors are honest and truthful. Bear in mind that Hopkins is the place that pioneered sexual reassignment surgery. Plus, a second study backs that up.

I conclude by quoting Dr. McHugh on the topic of sexual reassignment surgery, he said "We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure and ultimately prevent it."

Don't cause our children to stumble. Don't be swayed by PFLAG, GLSEN and NARAL. Instead, reach out to the parents of the children in your care. You will be richly rewarded.

And Dr. Beyer's response:
I have tried not to deal with this subject on this blog, because it's not relevant to the ongoing debate. It's very relevant to me, of course, and I believe it elucidates many important issues related to sex and gender. But transgender issues were the most minor topic in the sex-ed curriculum.

It is also obvious that Garza, Watson and Jacobs have serious problems with sexuality, obsessing about various aspects that the average, well-adjusted adult does not. Be that as it may, I will leave it to others to parse this out, and I will present the science once again, as I did last month to the BoE.

Gender variance is an increasingly visible aspect of life, for various reasons. But it should be understood that the medical profession has been dealing with it since the 1960's. Since then, the overwhelming majority of medical professionals, including psychiatrists and psychologists as well, have concluded that human beings have a sexual, or gender, identity. That is, we all know, in our minds, that we are male or female. And over the past ten years neurological research has discovered that rooted in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is composed of smaller regions called nuclei and subnuclei. One in particular, in humans, the BSTc, appears to be the controlling area. In males this is a particular size and shape, with a certain number of nerve cells; in females it is grossly different. Autopsy studies have shown that transsexual women, who were born with female gender identities and male genitals, have a female BSTc. Note: The size of the brain region correlates directly with gender identity, not the presence or absence of a penis.

Over the past thirty years medicine has come to recognize this. Psychiatrists tried, oh, did they try, to fix the brain to fit the genitals. Aversion therapy, electroshock therapy, shame, humiliation - whatever came to mind. Nothing worked. Eventually, a consensus developed that the mind could not be changed, and a new generation of neuroscientists logically chose to determine why. They discovered the brain results I've mentioned above.

So it is obvious that if you can't change the brain, you change the genitals. This is what Mr. Garza and his friends find so abhorrent. I don't suppose they would consider tumor excision to be "chopping off body parts." I haven't read anywhere that they feel cosmetic surgery, including hair transplantation, is against Biblical precepts. But there is something that really excites them about women having their penises fashioned into vaginas.

This is really no big deal today. The procedure is routine, done thousands of times annually in the US, even more often abroad. It is one of the most successful surgeries in medicine today, and the satisfaction rate is 95-98%. Few surgeries came that close. I know. I'm a surgeon.

Mr. Garza lists NARAL, PFLAG and other social action groups, ignoring the fact that American medicine approves of sex reassignment surgery overwhelmingly. That's why those groups support the transgender community. Based on the facts.

Now I will come to the core of his argument, the religious extremists' favorite poster boy, Dr. Paul McHugh. Dr. McHugh is a cuddly sort of fellow, beloved by his students and patients. He is no longer a Professor at Hopkins, but is an Emeritus Professor. That means he's retired. He has specialized in eating disorders. He advises the Vatican as well as President Bush.

But he knows little to nothing about sex and gender. He arrived at Hopkins in 1975 with the express desire to shut down its sex reassignment surgery. This he did, and he commissioned a study to justify it. The Meyer study, published in 1979, is well known as a hatchet job, methodologically flawed and useless, and ignored by everyone without a bias against trans people. All studies since that time have supported gender transition and genital reconstruction surgery. All. Which is why the extremists always call on Dr. McHugh, because he is the only person of note to take their position.

I'm sure he likes the attention. Given that he knows little about the subject, one must wonder why he's been obsessed with the issue for over thirty years. But I will give him some credit. Until last year, he refused to acknowledge the existence of a gender identity, and its source in the brain. But he was overwhelmed by evidence provided by his colleague, Bill Reiner, in his path-breaking study on physically intersexed children. Reiner's study conclusively showed that we all have a sense of our sex irrespective of our genitals, and, even if we have no genitals at all from birth. So maybe Dr. McHugh will finally face facts and join the rest of us. Until then, it is his madness that is on display, and his professional credibility that is in tatters.

And, by the way, for all of Dr. McHugh's titles and accolades, he's never published his ideas about sex and gender in a peer-reviewed journal. Sound familiar? Nor has he been willing to debate the issue. He just publishes where he can outrage and not have to face criticism, in Catholic journals like First Things.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We should be able to expect an officer of the court to be honest in his public representations.

But then what should we actually expect from people involved in a lawsuit that employed the tactic of confusing items in the curriculum with those in the teacher resources in court?

More of the same, no doubt.

October 12, 2005 9:22 PM  

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