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Misleading: Activists Tout Survey After Gender Transitions. There’s Just One Problem

A recent survey promoted by trans activists found that over 90% of transgender Americans reported higher “life satisfaction” after transitioning genders; however, experts who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation expressed concerns about the survey’s methods.

The 2022 U.S. Trans Survey’s (USTS) Early Insights, released on Feb. 7, surveyed over 90,000 people and was “open to binary and nonbinary transgender people aged 16” and up. The study found that of respondents “who lived at least some of the time in a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth,” 79% said they were “a lot more satisfied” and 15% said they were only a “little more satisfied” with their life after transitioning.

However, medical experts who spoke to the DCNF criticized the survey’s methods, arguing that it appeared to exclude individuals who no longer identified as transgender, a demographic that would presumably be most likely to be dissatisfied with their gender transition.

Dr. Stella O’Malley, a psychotherapist and founder of Genspect, an international organization that advocates for an “evidence-based approach” to sex and gender medicine, told the DNCF that because the survey didn’t include those who had reverted to their biological gender, the data fails to tell the full story of transitioning experiences. She added that the “startlingly happy” results from the survey don’t “add up” with her work with patients, many of whom are in the process of detransitioning.

“If you send out a survey and only the people who are still transitioning participate, it’s almost like asking everybody who is in a gym, ‘So how are you?’ And then ignoring the large percentage of people who joined the gym in January and never came back. They’re not in the survey. You’re not getting a good snapshot,” O’Malley told the DCNF.

The survey’s preliminary results were touted by transgender activists; many of whom argued that the results combat claims that there is significant regret after transitioning. Others praised the study for its diverse group of respondents, which included “Black, Indigenous, impoverished, people of color and other marginalized identities within the trans community.”

Ash Orr, press relations manager for USTS, told the DCNF that the purpose of the survey was to understand the “development of people’s gender identities” and therefore was open to those “at any stage of their lives, journey, or transition” but nevertheless “identified as trans at the time they took the survey.”

Survey respondents were asked several questions about their experiences during a specific time frame, such as “in the last 12 months or the “last 30 days,” according to the survey. Over 80% of the respondents who were put on hormones said that their “life satisfaction” improved significantly and 88% said the same about transgender surgeries.

Both Jay Greene, a senior fellow at Do No Harm, an organization that opposes medically transitioning children, and O’Malley said that they hoped the time frames in the full survey results went beyond 12 months as a year is too short a time period to learn about the long-term effects of transgender medical procedures.

The survey was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, founded in 2003 to promote policy supporting the LGBTQ movement. USTS distributed the survey from Oct. 19 through Dec. 5, 2022, and included 92,329 anonymous respondents with 84,170 adults that were 18 and older “from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. military bases overseas.”

Greene told the DCNF that while “being satisfied” was a “good thing,” the methods of the survey and its results raised concerns.

“Being satisfied with one’s life is a good thing, but it is only meaningful in assessing the effects of surgery or hormones if the information is representative of those who have received these interventions and is compared against the life satisfaction of a similar population that did not receive these interventions,” Greene said. “The new USTS report fails to meet either of these conditions. It is neither a representative survey nor does it offer a basis for comparison.”

O’Malley also noted that the USTS’ emphasis on anonymous responses both in 2022 and its previous survey in 2015, weakened the data. She argued that in her experience anonymous or self-reporting surveys were not reliable.

“That was a big criticism of the 2015 survey; anecdotal reports online are often pro-transgender and there’s an intensity in this world making it hard to find good research, so I’m just very, very wary of anonymous surveys. I think they bring out really shoddy research,” O’Malley said.

Orr disputed this argument and told the DCNF that using anonymity in these types of research studies is “a common practice.”

“Anonymity in survey research is a common practice that does not impact the reliability of respondents’ answers and often provides a level of safety and comfort that yields more honest and accurate responses,” Orr said.

The data from USTS should not be viewed as “a scientific project” but instead as “advocacy,” Greene told the DCNF. If the organization was “truly interested in learning about the effects” of gender transitions, then they would have conducted “randomized controlled trials” to see how some groups fared without the medical procedures as opposed to those who got them, he argued.

Orr told the DNCF that the USTS “did not have such a research design” requiring “Placebo effects” that are used “in clinical trials where medical interventions, like pharmaceuticals, are being tested” and argued that kind of a design would not “be appropriate for the study.”

“The fact that they are unwilling to subject their preferred practice to rigorous scientific evaluation should be a red flag for policymakers, medical practitioners, and prospective patients,” Greene said.

Many researchers have acknowledged that there are not enough studies to definitively show the long-term effects of transgender medical procedures, but that has not stopped doctors from prescribing sex-change hormones and recommending surgeries.

Cross-sex hormones have been found to cause bone damage, blood clots, fertility issues and liver damage, while sex-change surgeries are often fraught with serious complications and require additional surgeries.

Multiple detransitioners have publicly stated that their mental and physical health became worse after medically transitioning.

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Kate Anderson

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Kate Anderson

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