Johns Hopkins Profs Criticized for Controversial Transgender Research

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Last month, two Johns Hopkins public health professors published a 143-page paper that’s won them widespread condemnation from human rights groups.

The paper, which was published in an explicitly conservative, religious (and not peer-reviewed) journal called The New Atlantismakes a number of controversial assertions, but its general gist is that gender identity is an elusive concept, and thus leads to questions about whether it’s legitimate to identify as trans.  More concretely, the paper’s authors argue that young people who identify as trans are actually harmed by medical and societal accommodations.

The study’s authors are also being given some extra scrutiny, and for good reason. Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the paper, has said that homosexuality is “erroneous,” opposes gender-reassignment surgery, and supported efforts to block gay marriage; his fellow author, Lawrence Mayer, is a scholar in residence in the psychiatry department at Hopkins who testified as an expert witness in North Carolina’s contentious battle over letting trans people use the bathroom that conforms to their gender identity. I’ll give you one guess to figure out what side he was on.

Human Rights Watch, the nation’s leading LGBTQ rights organization, has issued a strongly worded statement opposing the paper; behind the scenes, the HRC has been calling on Johns Hopkins to distance itself from McHugh and Mayer. The Johns Hopkins Hospital is just one of 150 health care institutions nationwide to have received a perfect score on the HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index; this research puts that at risk, NBC reports. Meanwhile, the two authors stand by their paper: it “may be politically biased but it is not scientifically biased,” Mayer told ThinkProgress.

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