April 9, 2024

Finnish study sceptical of trans teen suicide narrative

The most powerful argument for launching a teenager onto a gender-affirmation path is this: do you want a dead daughter or a living son? Young people with gender dysphoria use the threat of suicide to persuade their parents to support them in changing their gender.

This message is being relayed to fearful parents by the highest echelons of the medical establishment in the United States. According to Dr Rachel Levine, US Assistant Secretary of Health, a transgender person appointed by President Biden, “Gender-affirming care is medical care. It is mental health care. It is, in some cases, suicide prevention care.”

However, is it true that stopping teenagers from living as different genders leads to more suicides?

According to a just-published study of data from Finland in BMJ Mental Health, this does not seem to be the case if the teenagers’ mental health is taken into account. They write that the “main predictor of mortality in this population is psychiatric morbidity, and medical gender reassignment does not have an impact on suicide risk.”  

It is true, they say that “Among gender-referred adolescents, self-harming thoughts, self-injurious behaviours and suicide attempts are common, with a prevalence of up to 50% of the patients.” But a large percentage of gender-dysphoric adolescents already had serious psychiatric issues when they knock on the doors of a gender clinic. 

The Finnish researchers also point out that gender affirmative medicine could be harmful — but there is very little data about its long-term effects. 

There is limited and partially conflicting evidence regarding the long-term somatic safety of GR (gender reassignment). … Considering the young age of our sample population, we cannot conclude the somatic safety of GR because any potential impact on mortality would likely require follow-up periods of up to several decades. 

The researchers conclude:

When psychiatric treatment history is considered, GD (gender dysphoria) significant enough to result in contact with specialised gender identity services during adolescence does not appear to be predictive of all-cause or suicide mortality. Psychiatric morbidities are also common in this population. Therefore, the risk of suicide related to transgender identity and/or GD per se may have been overestimated.

Gender Clinic News, edited by Australian journalist Bernard Lane, is one of the best sources of information about the controversial field of gender medicine. Oxford University sociology Michael Biggs told Lane that this was a landmark study: 

 “[it] shows again that the risk of death by suicide for young trans-people is thankfully low in absolute terms. This confirms the results of my own analysis of British data from the Tavistock clinic, with superior Finnish data…. 

“Although the rate of suicide [in the Finnish study] is just over four times higher among trans young people than their peers, this is explained by their more serious psychiatric problems. When these psychiatric problems are taken into account, there is no evidence that transgender people have a higher rate of suicide.”