A seemingly legitimate pediatric group in the U.S. criticized the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify trans identity as a mental illness.
WHO announced on Monday it would no longer categorize “gender incongruence” under its list of mental disorders in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision. Instead, it would be listed under “sexual health conditions.” In a statement, the U.N. group—which operates in 147 countries—claimed conflating the experiences of trans people with mental illness “can cause enormous stigma.”
While LGBTQ advocacy groups around the world have championed the decision as a “historic achievement” in the international recognition of transgender lives, the American College of Pediatricians isn’t ready to join the party.
President Dr. Michelle Cretella reaffirmed the organization’s belief that sex is “binary” in comments shared with the Christian Broadcast Network.
“It’s an objective biological trait, and that’s what we need to get back to,” Cretella told the far-right television channel, which airs programs like evangelist Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club. “Thoughts and how we perceive ourselves are not hardwired by biology and can be correct and incorrect.”
CBN presents that statement alongside findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics alleging that students who “claimed to be transgender also reported worse mental and physical health than other kids.”
There are two major problems with the conservative channel’s presentation of the facts.
First, research from the National Center for Trans Equality shows that the problem isn’t the intrinsic mental state of trans people but the overwhelming stigma to which this vulnerable population is often subjected. Young people whose parents support their gender transition are 20 percent less likely to experience suicidal ideation than transgender youth who are rejected by their loved ones and communities.
Meanwhile, these two groups may have similar sounding names, but the American College of Pediatricians and American Academy of Pediatrics are very different. The latter is a respected medical organization representing 60,000 pediatricians across the United States.
The other, however, is a hate group and has been classified as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The American College of Pediatricians—often referred to by the shorthand “ACPeds”—is a fringe organization which broke off from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002 over its support for same-sex parents. In a statement opposing adoption by gay couples, the Gainesville, FL group claimed “societal forces [should] support the two-parent, father-mother family unit and provide for children role models of ethical character and responsible behavior.”
Among its many anti-LGBTQ positions, ACPeds has backed conversion therapy and opposed same-sex marriage, calling the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize marriage equality “a tragic day for America’s children.”
Even despite the SPLC estimating that less than 200 members are affiliated with ACPeds—many of whom are not pediatricians—the group has used its veneer of legitimacy to attempt to discredit affirming treatment for trans youth. It has referred to offering transition-related care to transgender young people as “child abuse.”
“The American College of Pediatricians urges healthcare professionals, educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex,” the organization wrote in a position paper titled “Best For Children,” which was most recently updated in September 2017. “Facts—not ideology—determine reality.”
ACPeds went onto suggest that being transgender is, in fact, a mental illness.
“When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such,” the group claimed.
But six years after the American Psychiatric Association reclassified “gender identity disorder” as “gender dysphoria,” this week’s decision from the WHO—which will not be adopted until January 2022—reflects a growing medical and popular consensus that transgender people do not have a psychological affliction.
Four in five Americans (79 percent) do not believe that trans individuals are mentally ill, according to surveys from YouGov. Both the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association agree.
Conservatives, though, have continued to back a group that’s decades behind nearly every other leading U.S. medical association on the subject of trans identities. Right-wing news organizations like Breitbart, The Blaze, The Daily Caller, Townhall, and now the Christian Broadcast Network have cited ACPeds without fact-checking to see whether the group has any credibility.
Robertson, the most well-known figure on CBN, once predicted marriage equality would bring about “the wrath of God” and compared members of the LGBTQ community to “murderers,” “rapists,” and “thieves.” He believes trans people are “frauds.”