Mark Regnerus
Photo taken at the Catholic Information Center, an Opus Dei operation.
The sociologist — and Defender of the Faith — will never give up his efforts to conform society to his religion.

The latest spew from Mark Regnerus is titled: Arkansas and the Politics of Experimenting on Children. So right off the bat you know that Regnerus is shoveling manure again. For the record, Regnerus has a legitimate PhD in sociology. Regnerus has no experience or training in the area of pediatric gender dysphoria.

In the way of background, Mark Regnerus is most infamous for “research” on behalf of two ultra-conservative Catholic pressure groups intended to influence the Supreme Court in its 2013 deliberations over United States v. Windsor. Regnerus claimed that gay couples are crappy parents without any real evidence to support his assertion.

Getting back to the current diatribe:

The Arkansas legislature knows something the governor apparently does not: hormonal treatment of adolescent gender dysphoria yields little across samples and studies. Transgender youth medicine involves numerous known and serious risks that are already identifiable, while the long-term effects and possible harms of off-label drug uses are completely unknown.

Thus sayeth the man who is wholly unqualified to dispute the established medical science. There could and should be more research but it is a minuscule population; a tiny percentage of children and adolescents who are transgender. The Catholic Church is obsessed over this tiny population in defense of scripture.

There does exist some very good research on trans kids, Those studies led the American Academy of Pediatrics to base its clinical practice guidelines on the gender-affirming care model. Research demonstrates that children who are supported in their gender do very well. They have levels of anxiety and depression at or close to normal.

Regarding risk, the greatest risk for trans youth is self-harm. Regnerus’ claim about possible harms from off-label drug uses is pure horse shit. Medical science has established a thorough understanding of, for example, puberty blockers (GnRH agonists). The risks are the same regardless of what is being treated. Puberty blocks are used to treat a great many conditions including certain cancers and precocious puberty.

In briefest terms, those Arkansas legislators were in no position to dispute the finding of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society and the Pediatric Endocrine Society. They refused to listen to the experts because attacking trans youth is very popular in Republican and conservative Christian circles (which have considerable overlap).

Keep in mind that Regnerus is as qualified as a plumber is to treat pediatric gender dysphoria as he repeats himself:

… hormonal treatment of adolescent gender dysphoria continues to yield little demonstrable benefit across samples and studies, save perhaps for idealized self-image—a subjective outcome once considered unworthy of dramatic intervention. Critics will claim otherwise (they already are), and will seek to weaponize the risk of suicide in a manner long considered dangerous and unethical.

Regnerus does not provide any evidence to support the idea that gender-affirmation yields little or uncertain benefit. Furthermore, gender identity is not subjective. “Weaponize” is used to suggest evil intent; an evil agenda. The clinicians who do have the necessary training and experience are only interested in one thing: That children and adolescents receive the very best medical care available.

Regnerus is also interested in only one thing: Supporting the teachings of the Catholic Church regardless of the effect on trans youth.

Just who has the evil agenda? Youth in distress because of gender incongruence are at extreme risk of self-harm. No one is making that up. No one has any reason to make that up.

Imagine the distress experienced by adolescents who develop secondary sex characteristics. A trans boy growing breast tissue or a trans girl developing a male Adam’s apple. It is just common sense that preventing those changes drastically reduces the potential for self-harm including suicide.

Just last month, a pair of reports commissioned by the UK’s National Health Service was released, revealing yet again little evidence to suggest that puberty-blocking and gender-affirming hormonal treatments improve the mental health and psychosocial functioning of minors. The “clinical effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness” of such treatments just aren’t there, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) report found.

The UK reports did, in fact, say that. The AAP reviewed about 80 studies and reached a different conclusion entirely. Furthermore, the UK reports seem to be focused on cost-effectiveness. These are the last two paragraphs of the authors’ conclusion regarding puberty blockers:

No cost-effectiveness evidence was found to determine whether or not GnRH analogues are
cost-effective for children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.The results of the studies that reported outcomes for subgroups of children and adolescents
with gender dysphoria, suggest there may be differences between sex assigned at birth
males (transfemales) and sex assigned at birth females (transmales).

The way I read that:

  1. We do not know whether or not the expense is justified. (Keep in mind that UK medical care is at no cost to the patient and this was a government report.)
  2. We grudgingly admit that there are youth who have incongruent gender.

The intent of the report was to influence others:

This document will help inform Dr Hilary Cass’ independent review into gender identity
services for children and young people.

Also of note is that the UK High Court reversed their earlier ruling which basically outlawed puberty blockers without Court approval. The Court has determined, upon reflection, that parental consent is sufficient.

Regnerus is relying upon a government review in another country which was not subjected to peer-review. Regnerus cannot find a peer-reviewed United States study published to a respectable academic journal that supports Regnerus’ claims which are based upon the teachings of the Catholic Church.

After several more paragraphs from the UK review:

As I noted at the time, given the surge in interest, demand, and supply of hormonal therapies to self-identified transgender persons today, you would think that it is a solution that pays obvious benefits in reduced subsequent need—over time—for treatment of mood or anxiety disorder or hospitalization after a suicide attempt. In fact, the confidence intervals in the AJP study actually reveal a nearly significant aggravating effect of hormonal treatment on subsequent mental health needs.

In other words, he is attempting to authenticate his view with his own polemic. Regnerus doesn’t have the applicable training and experience to be authoritative in either essay. Regnerus also knows that he has an incurious audience susceptible to confirmation bias. Regnerus concludes with two paragraphs.

Transgender youth medicine involves numerous known and serious risks that are already identifiable for the young people involved, while the long-term effects and possible harms of these off-label drug uses are completely unknown. These troubled young people are indeed being “treated like an experiment”—but with no control group to discern actual efficacy. No wonder people desperate to prevent harm revert to lawsuits and legislative action.

There are several links in there. Only one is to a peer-reviewed study which Regnerus cites to support his “serious risks” nonsense. It is also based upon UK experience. Its conclusions:

Overall patient experience of changes on GnRHa treatment was positive. We identified no changes in psychological function. Changes in BMD were consistent with suppression of growth. Larger and longer-term prospective studies using a range of designs are needed to more fully quantify the benefits and harms of pubertal suppression in GD.

The reason I call Regnerus’ claims nonsense is because every single medical intervention has risks associated with it. Just taking a Tylenol involves risk of liver damage. We rely on the training and experience of our doctors to assess benefits vs. risks.

Regnerus’ final paragraph is an attempted inoculation. “Don’t be influenced by the pushback against Arkansas’ legislation.”

In the coming weeks, the Arkansas legislature will be pummeled by external actors—politicians, media, athletes, and woke pediatricians. Corporate threats will be leveled. But what nobody has at their disposal are the results of the kind of rigorous clinical trials that Americans have long benefited from in every other branch of medical research—except this one.

Regnerus is just recycling the same bullshit. Regnerus wants people to believe that the risks of treating gender dysphoria with puberty blockers are different than the risks of treating cancer with puberty blockers and that is dishonest, … and nonsensical.

A very good read on this issue was written for the New York Times by Dr. Jack Turban (then at Harvard, now a fellow at Stanford). At the time (February, 2020) South Dakota was considering similar moronic legislation. The title of his piece is: What South Dakota Doesn’t Get About Transgender Children. “Here’s how their medical care really works.”

Dr. Turban could now author an almost identical piece titled: What Mark Regnerus Doesn’t Get About Transgender Children! It would be a waste of Dr. Turban’s time because Mark Regnerus doesn’t want to get it.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.