Sample Letter to Science Friday on NPR
On March 4, Science Friday on National Public Radio featured a doctoral student who asserted that there is a "robust evidence base" for medically transitioning children.
This purported expert presented misleading and incomplete information. Listeners of this show need to hear from people who know better, and who are able to provide more accurate assessment of the evidence base for treatments.
Please e-mail Science Friday at: http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/contact-us/
Tell them the safety and efficacy of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones is being debated around the world…It is not settled science—far from it. Parents need accurate information to make good decisions for their children.
Here’s an example letter to use as a template for your own response:
REGARDING: 3/4/2022 Science Friday story titled, Once Again, Transgender And Nonbinary Kids Are Under Attack in Texas
Dear Mr. Flatow:
While I agree that Governor Abbott’s idea of conducting child abuse investigations on parents whose children medically transition is politically motivated and counterproductive, your recent guest’s assertions that the science around medical transition is settled are incorrect and misleading. As the parent of a trans-identified child, I am begging you to provide coverage of the emerging controversy around the safety and efficacy of medical transition for minors.
A number of European countries are pivoting away from medical transition for minors and/or warning of the experimental and risky nature of these treatments. This is what European experts and medical associations are saying about using puberty blockers and cross sex hormones on young people:
Last month, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare released Updated recommendations for hormone therapy for gender dysphoria in young people. After a review of the literature on the safety and effectiveness of hormone treatments, the Board concluded “…that the risks of anti-puberty and sex-confirming hormone treatment for those under 18 currently outweigh the benefits for the group as a whole.”
Last month, The National Academy of Medicine in France approved a statement urging the greatest caution in using puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to treat minors “…taking into account the side-effects such as the impact on growth, bone weakening, risk of sterility, emotional and intellectual consequences and, for girls, menopause-like symptoms.” The National Academy warned that since there is no test to distinguish persisting gender dysphoria from transient adolescent dysphoria, there is a real risk of over-diagnosis.
In May 2021, the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Sweden stopped using puberty blockers and cross sex hormones to treat patients with gender dysphoria outside the context of clinical trials. The Hospital’s guidelines stated that the available research provided “…low quality evidence that the treatments have the desired effect…” and that the treatments “…are potentially fraught with extensive and irreversible adverse consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis.”
In 2020, the Finnish Health Authority issued new guidelines stating that “…psychotherapy, rather than puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, should be the first-line treatment for gender-dysphoric youth. This change occurred following a systematic evidence review, which found the body of evidence for pediatric transition inconclusive.” The guidelines called gender reassignment of minors, “an experimental practice,” and said, “It is critical to obtain information on the benefits and risks of these treatments in rigorous research settings.”
The United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a review of literature on using puberty blockers to treat gender dysphoria. The reviewers concluded that the studies reporting an impact on gender dysphoria, mental health, body image and global/psychosocial functioning were of very low certainty. They described the studies measuring the impact of puberty blockers on bone density as unreliable.
In 2019, Britain’s Royal College of General Practitioners issued a position statement saying, “There is a significant lack of robust, comprehensive evidence around the outcomes, side effects and unintended consequences of such treatment [i.e. puberty blockers and cross sex hormones] for people with gender dysphoria, particularly children and young people, which prevents GPs from helping patients and their families in making an informed decision.”
These statements and guidelines coming out of Sweden, France, Finland and the United Kingdom are at odds with your guest, Doctoral Student Diana Tordoff’s assertion that there is a robust evidence base for medically transitioning children. Families who listened to your program would have no idea that the safety and efficacy of these treatments is contested among medical and mental health professionals and health authorities internationally. And it is contested, hotly, with ample emerging evidence that medicalization of trans identities is not safe, and is also ineffective at improving the patient’s mental health and quality of life. I believe you ran your segment on March 4 because you want to help transgender young people receive the best care possible. You can do that by better informing families as they consider treatments for their children.
I hope you will have the courage to address the worldwide debate about the treatment of trans-identified minors on your program. Some people you might consider interviewing include:
Riittakerttu Kaltiala, Chief Psychiatrist, Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Tampere University Hospital, Finland and Professor of Adolescent Psychiatry, Tampere University, Finland
Angela Sämfjord, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg Sweden. Dr. Samfjord started a pediatric gender clinic, but resigned two years later because of the lack of evidence supporting medical treatments for children and adolescents.
Professor Carl Heneghan, Editor in Chief of the British Medical Journal and director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University. Professor Heneghan conducted an independent analysis of research on transgender medicine for the BBC.
Professor Michael Biggs, Department of Sociology, St. Cross College, University of Oxford. Professor Biggs conducted an extensive review of the literature on puberty blockers for a British court case.
The Society for Evidenced Based Gender Medicine at https://segm.org/ and Transgender Trend https://www.transgendertrend.com/puberty-blockers/ are two organizations that can also help you find medical and psychological experts who are familiar with the current literature on medical transition.