Is transgenderism healthy?


Tonight I commented on an article about the hot-button issue of transgendered people and locker rooms, and it got me thinking.

I'm very much a civil libertarian: I support people's right to dress, behave, and alter their bodies however they wish so long as they don't harm others. But saying I support their civil liberty doesn't mean I think their choices are wise or healthy. I tried to find studies on long-term mental outcomes for individuals who've undergone a sex change; there's very little research, unfortunately, but what exists is not encouraging:

Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.


So this raises an issue: in support of people's civil liberties, we left-leaning types tend to deny that transgenderism is a mental disorder. But it seems that even if we don't think there's anything morally wrong with transgenderism, it may nonetheless be in the individual's best interest to seek out psychiatric care rather than surgery.

John Huges, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins University, argues in an op ed for the Wall Street Journal that sex reassignment is not the answer, and that transgenderism does indeed fit the description of a medical disorder:

This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.
I must admit, I'm sympathetic to these arguments. I do not think transgenderism is immoral or repulsive. And ultimately, I support individuals' civil liberty to do with their bodies what they deem best. However, my fellow liberals seem to conflate arguments about civil liberties and morality with arguments about personal health, as if to shout "There's nothing wrong with being trans!" as some sort of unequivocal absolute. The problem is that it appears to produce very bad long term mental health outcomes. Perhaps, in our zeal to advocate for civil equality, we on the left have been hasty in concluding that transgenderism poses no mental health threats to those it afflicts.

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