By Rebecca Juro
Originally published on Advocate.com June 16 2014 5:29 PM ET
The Wall Street Journal Friday published an op-ed by the notoriously antitransgender psychiatrist Paul McHugh claiming that "transgender surgery isn’t the solution" and featuring what GLAAD calls "outdated and factually inaccurate information about transgender people."
In the op-ed, McHugh, a University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, denounces recent progress regarding the rights of transgender people and objects to surgical treatment for trans individuals. "'Sex change' is biologically impossible," he writes. "People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder."
Previously, McHugh has referred to postsurgical trans women as “caricatures of women” and has also argued that providing hormone blockers to a child who has expressed a clear desire to transition from male to female is “like performing liposuction on an anorexic child.”
Author and journalist Nathaniel Frank, writing for Slate, pointed out some of the many holes in McHugh’s arguments in the Journal piece.
“Dr. Paul McHugh, former chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, wrote that 'policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.' To McHugh, 'the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken,' because trans identity 'does not correspond with physical reality.' To which one can only respond: Right — isn’t this exactly what it means to be transgender?”
McHugh has long been an opponent of gender reassignment surgery and has argued that what is mistakenly labelled transsexualism is actually autogynephilia, a sexual disorder category invented in the 1980s by Canadian gender specialist Ray Blanchard and described by Blanchard as "a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman."
The views of McHugh and Blanchard are wildly at odds with the opinions of the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, both of which argue that trans people can live happy, healthy, and productive lives with proper medical and psychological treatment.
GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign have spoken out against the Journal for giving McHugh a platform. "At a time when more and more media outlets are following the best practices on reporting about transgender people, The Wall Street Journal is moving in the opposite direction," said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement published on the group's blog. "By publishing McHugh's op-ed, contradicting widely accepted medical standards for transgender care, they are sacrificing accuracy and integrity."
Added HRC president Chad Griffin: "McHugh's piece only furthers the stigma that faces the transgender community and isn't worth the ink it cost to print. Furthermore, his half-truths are rejected by the medical community he purports to represent."