This Week In Scientific-Conclusions-For-Pay

       With every news story making bolder and bolder claims, based on smaller and smaller bits of evidence, about discovering “stunning” proof of trans brains and the like, one can become a bit jaundiced in one’s view of science news.
       So it was of no surprise that China’s recent claims to have performed human gene splicing were met with not only ethical objections to the idea that the Chinese would do such things, but also a good deal of skepticism as to whether they actually had.
       It was a bit of a surprise, however, when this week a Harvard geneticist named George Church claimed to have verified China’s success at human gene splicing.
       After all, China might have reasons to exaggerate technological claims.  It is involved in a trade war with the US, and is undergoing a re-consolidation of despotic rule under President Xi in the face of economic crisis. It has many reasons to be incapable of producing good science, not least being the same human foibles that bedevil scientific rigor in general.  And it has perhaps some incentives to engage in propaganda campaigns that might make it appear more technologically capable, even threatening, than it is. Even China’s own English-language state news publication warns about the unreliability of genetic technology claims in a hot market.  Skepticism would seem to be the order of the day.

       And yet, here is a top American research facility telling Stat News that we should not be skeptical.  So, just what is Stat News?

       Stat News describes itself as “reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine.”  It is a local Boston news outfit, spun off from the Globe.  Of perhaps more interest to the topic before us, Stat News was re-tooled from the Globe’s business model in order to help recoup the Globe’s losses by, to put it bluntly, publishing what people pay it to say.
       Lest this be mistaken for snark, attend the words of Stat News’ own chief revenue officer, who told NPR that Stat News “intends to rely…on branded content in which advertisers pay for posts that evoke themes that fit with their brands.”
       This might raise a few questions:
       1) Might Harvard’s own bottom line have something to gain from a “stunning” pro-tech headline in which its scientists boast that there is no turning back, for  “the genie is out of the bottle”?
       2) Might China have something to gain by running technology propaganda through the mouth of a highly credentialed US scientist?
       3) Might Harvard’s local “branded content” publisher have something to gain from either 1) or 2) or both?
       We’ve all experienced that awkward moment at a luncheon when it must be decided how to split the tab.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall when that luncheon is between US biotech, US biotech pay-to-play publishing, and the Chinese government.
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Children’s Bodily Autonomy and the Rule of Law

With drastic medical experimentation on children becoming more commonplace, and growing evidence that free speech is being quashed to push an activist medical agenda, we must strive more than ever to maintain a US Supreme Court lineup that upholds the rule of law.

We should be nervous about the fate of the US Supreme Court.

Whatever side of the aisle one is on, if one believes in a family’s right to raise a child free of interference from schools and state agencies, and to access mental and medical care that is free of propaganda, one must take a stand for the US constitution and corollary institutions around the world.

Children are already being taken from parents who dare to express skepticism about medical experimentation in the name of political gender theory.  Here in Oregon, a Corbett parent lost custody of her child to a school teacher who schooled the child in gender-based ideology behind the mother’s back and without her permission. 

Portland Public Schools has now adopted a policy that pushes unscientific, political gender theory from Kindergarten forward, and requires schools to hide crucial information from parents about their children’s mental and physical health.  These policies flout district rules as well as state and federal laws forbidding the exploitation of teacher-pupil relationships to promote causes or second-guess parents.  And yet the policies have nonetheless been passed, in broad daylight.

Because Oregon has also passed “anti-conversion-therapy” laws that make it illegal for anyone to help a child overcome identity crisis and learn to be comfortable with his or her body, Portland Public School’s policy to “affirm” and refer so-called gender-questioning children without parental knowledge or consent will necessarily mean that such referrals will be to “affirmation-based” services.  Portland Public Schools will now promote political gender theory to children as young as five, with full knowledge that doing so is bound to cause confusion where there was none before; then respond to that confusion–which PPS itself has created–by secretly facilitating the creation of gender-theory-based identities, and referring children for potentially drastic experimental intervention.

This will end up in the courts.  It has already ended up in the lower courts, which have aided and abetted the process with bad decisions, in some cases because families have raised the wrong issues and chosen the wrong venues, and in some cases due to flagrantly unconstitutional legislation from the bench.  But either way, the constitutionality of gender-theory-based experimentation on children has not yet been subjected to the ultimate test before the Supreme Court.

One might be tempted to assume this is just Portland Public Schools being its crazy self.  And it is true that PPS occupies the leading edge of the trend.  But similar scenarios are playing out throughout the state, around the country, and around the world.

The US Constitution, and equivalent liberty-protecting doctrines around the world, will need to be upheld if families are to have any chance of preserving their children’s fertility, bodily autonomy, and right to defer life-altering decisions until they are old enough to understand the implications.

Lower courts’ failures will be brought to light, and the issue will inevitably make it before the US Supreme Court.

When that happens, make no mistake:  we will need soundly constitutionalist, non-activist judges to uphold childrens’ and families’ constitutional rights.

The Constitution is already on the side of family rights and children’s bodily autonomy–it is already illegal in the US for schools to conspire behind parents’ backs; it is already illegal for doctors to mislead patients or withhold information in order to promote unsafe and untested treatments. Lower courts may be turning a blind eye, and activist groups may be making the wrong arguments, but these things are nonetheless illegal.  Gender ideology has no scientific basis, and state interference in its name is unconstitutional.

But all it will take to cause irreparable harm to legal precedent is for some horrible lower-court ruling to be affirmed by an activist US Supreme Court that chooses to please a political group at the expense of constitutional principals and the rule of law.

So much hinges upon our ability to uphold US constitutional concepts, and to model them to the rest of the world.

The US Supreme Court is not a theater upon which pseudoscientific postmodernist sociological theories may be promoted using by-any-means-necessary realpolitik to tip the makeup of the bench.  The US Supreme Court is not a kangaroo court, where the accused is presumed guilty, and spectral evidence is the standard by which he is convicted.  The US Supreme Court is the ultimate guardian of the rule of law, of due process, of evidentiary standards, of the presumption of innocence, of the Constitution, of liberty, and of truth.

If we do not demand that our Supreme Court justices be selected based upon judicial fitness and the application of constitutional principals, we will soon find ourselves without a Supreme Court when we need it most.

Why Are Oregon’s Kids Becoming Exceptionally Good at Suicide? The Nagging Questions

Recently, a friend sent me a GoFundMe link to pay for the funeral expenses of a 10-year-old suicide victim. Ten years old. Jesus.

This kind of thing has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. Not just for the obvious reason that such a death is horrifying. But also because I’ve grown wary of what I lend my signature to regarding teen suicide, given that it’s become a rallying point to justify experimental drugs and surgeries for children who don’t conform to sex stereotypes.

Tragedy plus suspicion make for an uncomfortable mix.

The suspicion has partly to do with this friend’s tendency to post about gender theory. And with that news story last week about the out-of-state boy, also 10 years old (!), whose suicide followed a request to wear girls’ clothes to school. No doubt that greased the mental gears, though in truth I don’t know if such things figured in the local child’s death. Indeed, I hope they didn’t–though such hope won’t bring him back.

But it was this statistic, quoted in the child’s GoFundMe, that got me in the gut:

“According to Oregon Health Authority, suicide was the second leading cause of death among persons 10-24 years of age in Oregon in 2013. Oregon suicide rates among persons 10-24 years of age have increased since 2010. This trend is not observed with the same age group in the US overall.”

This is not the kind of exceptionalism that Oregon prides itself on.

The statistic comes from this Oregon Health Authority Report: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DiseasesConditions/InjuryFatalityData/Documents/Fact%20Sheets/suicide-youth-2015v2.pdf. If credible, which I have no reason to believe it isn’t, it would be disturbing on many levels. But perhaps the most troubling implication would be for our current rush to experiment medically on children in the name of suicide prevention.

Put simply, it suggests a logical fallacy in the suicide claims of trans-industry activists.

As a career health worker, I’ve followed with great interest the political debate over gender-related medical experimentation on children. It took off like gangbusters in the late oughts, especially here in Portland, where we have a major research facility that’s been doing gender surgery for decades, and where we pride ourselves on our progressive politics.

When one follows the debate about surgical experimentation on children in the name of gender theory, one can’t help but notice that suicide is always front and center. As the saying goes, it’s better to have a living son than a dead daughter, or vice versa. Frequently, this saying is also followed by misquoted statistics, suggesting that if not medically “transitioned” ASAP, kids with gender issues are exceedingly likely to kill themselves.

Suicide is a pretty damned serious concern.

But, disturbingly, it’s also become a badge of honor in the recent political trend that’s positioned suicide as the last and greatest (though queasy and tenuous) link between the world of medical intervention and the world of gender politics. All the proverbial eggs that would justify human experiments in the quest to prove that gender is a thing have been placed in suicide’s basket, as it were.

____________

It didn’t used to be that way. Until fairly recently, discomfort with biological sex was classified and treated as a more routine psychological disorder. Akin to myriad other struggles that people experience with the growing-up process–like anorexia, cutting and other body dysmorphias–it was a psychological problem with a dash of social contagion. It went by various names through the years, but in the psychology industry’s fourth diagnostic manual, DSM-IV, it was called gender identity disorder. And, as with other psychological disorders in developing kids, it was treated with psychotherapy and a great deal of caution.

But in the last decade or so things changed rapidly, and by the time the manual was revised in 2013, the condition had been strangely de-fanged. Gender theory was now pushing for immediate surgical and chemical intervention, and (not surprisingly) found itself under political scrutiny. DSM-V now avoided words that might equate gender theory with anything sounding like pathology.

Political activists had persuaded DSM-V’s publishers that people who experience discomfort with their biological sex are not ill; they are simply, truly, born in the wrong body. And the publishers agreed (without any medical evidence being offered in support of the contention) that being born in the wrong body is a routine thing that simply up and happens to a predictable section of the human population. That it can even be cruelly “assigned” to people by unscrupulous birth attendants. And, more importantly, that it has absolutely nothing to do with all those other things that mess with kids’ heads when they’re growing up.

This wholesale reclassification might raise eyebrows, one would think, with the medical doctors who, in the years preceding DSM-V, had increasingly bowed to pressure by trans activists to prescribe early medical intervention on gender-confused kids, under assurances that these kids were truly unwell. They’d been proceeding much as they had in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) cases: Sure it’s unphotogenic, and we don’t have a theory for why it works. But somehow, for some reason, in some people who are unwell, we give them this therapy, and then they aren’t as unwell.

Once gender theorists had successfully removed the possibility of unwellness from consideration, it became hard to explain why a non-disease required drastic and experimental medical intervention. This wasn’t just ECT, after all, which was risky enough. This was the surgical removal of healthy tissue, off-label administration of cross-sex hormones, permanent sterilization, even loss of sexual function.

But activists and doctors alike had already committed themselves. The die had been cast. So both exclaimed, “Because suicide!”

Even though we were no longer to consider gender-confused kids ill like the people who received ECT, we were still supposed to accept the ECT argument. Let us take drastic measures on these kids, they said, because if you don’t, the kids will kill themselves.

This entailed no small amount of tap dancing. Why would totally healthy, sane people up and kill themselves? But gender politics had an answer for that: Because we give them no choice. Suicide based on gender ideology is not a sign of mental distress, they insisted; it’s a sign that society is irredeemably transphobic. Kids preemptively erase themselves from a society that conspires to erase them. And, since the evil of “cis” culture is as inherent as original sin, the only solution is to give nonconforming kids social and medical “authenticity,” and fast. Gender surgery, cross hormones and a new birth certificate. Only wholesale reinvention will quiet our stiflingly backward society that keeps insisting that biological sex is biological.

Or something.

Of course many people balked. But they could be dismissed as part of the irredeemable original sin of “cis” wrong-thinking.

At first it seemed to work. Politics, after all, aren’t immune to the laws of gravity; big logical somersaults have a way of gathering momentum. The trans industry (and its market share) grew like discontent on a college campus. The born-in-the-wrong body argument started making inroads into Middle America via TV, movies, and grade school curricula featuring the Genderbread Person.

If anyone started asking questions, the suicide argument would hopefully shut them up. (That, and a liberal dose of online and in-person harrassment; see, e.g., https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/08/new-paper-ignites-storm-over-whether-teens-experience-rapid-onset-transgender-identity.)

___________

And yet here in Oregon, where we were at the forefront of the last decade’s progressive movement, and adopted some of the country’s most liberal policies toward every kind of social engineering including gender-based medical interventions–made easier by our eye-poppingly low age of medical consent, of 15 years–kids still kill themselves. And when they do, their families assail us with gut-wrenching statistics showing that our state is outpacing the other 49 in the race to the bottom.

How can this be?

If the trans-activist brand of progressivism is to be believed, suicide is the sole medically significant feature of an otherwise non-pathological, statistically small, and totally-not-indicative-of-social-contagion demographic of gender-nonconforming youth. And our state leads the way in providing exactly what the trans industry says we’d better do or-else-suicide.

And yet….suicide.

Could it be a logical fallacy?

_________________

Allow me to elucidate the many facets of this problem; the nagging questions, if you will:

In order for suicide to be the second leading cause of death for the 10-24 age group, how can trans advocacy simultaneously claim it is the sole distinguishing feature that separates a tiny subset of that group from the rest?

In order to claim that a tiny subset of the 10-24 suicide risk group needs drastic surgical intervention and identity reinvention, might one need to explain why analogous interventions aren’t offered to the millions of other at-risk kids in this age group?  E.g., why no urgent liposuction for kids who are depressed about their weight?  Why no urgent skin bleaching for ethnic-minority kids who are depressed because they’ve experienced racism?

In order to convince the public that suicide risk justifies medical intervention in the name of “gender,” shouldn’t one prove that suicide numbers haven’t grown commensurately with one’s success in ushering in an explosion of said gender intervention?

In order to convince people that kids who think they’re in the wrong body aren’t simply messed-up kids, should one perhaps not rely, as one’s primary piece of evidence, upon something that messed-up kids do?

_____________

After wrestling for some time with these nagging questions, I find they’ve begun to coalesce, and that I can articulate the germ of my unease. Namely, I worry that the statistics cited in this poor child’s memorial correspond to something else that’s been brewing over roughly the same time interval. Something that encompasses gender politics but is much bigger, and affects every kid in Oregon.  Something that the better-a-living-son-than-a-dead-daughter activists never mention:

The rise of political extremism in Oregon.

The time period in question is the same interval in which I watched my neighborhood devolve from barbecues to uprisings. The era when grown Oregonians started shunning each other, and threatening to leave the country, and lying on the ground weeping over election results, and telling children that the world as they knew it had ended. When Portland started regularly making national headlines for its free meth pipes and its nullification of federal laws and its riots.

When life became measurably more stressful for kids in an economically depressed state where things were already hard enough.

When Portland school teachers stopped teaching the three R’s and started straw-polling kids to find out how their parents voted. When playground bullies ceased to focus on kids’ zits and BO and realized it was more effective to spread rumors about kids being various kinds of “phobic.” When assemblies became political rallies. When Portland Public Schools (followed closely by nearby districts in a spreading pattern) stopped setting educational policies and started dictating how City Council and the US Congress should vote on partisan issues. When teachers started leading kids out of the classroom and into marches with the Mayor and the Governor, tearfully proclaiming the children to be civil rights warriors, responsible for fighting their parents’ crimes of “not listening.”

When every school e-mail and syllabus that came home included the signator’s preferred pronouns. When sex ed started teaching that if you don’t fit archaic sex stereotypes you’re in the wrong body and you need surgery. When the kids I overheard in the bleachers at local football games were no longer talking about the dumb things kids are supposed to talk about in the bleachers at football games, but about how depressed they were that their teachers never shut up about how kids needed to adopt political identities and fight for them.

When it became obvious in the schools, on the streets, and in the hospitals that kids were increasingly possessed–at the urging of adults who should know better–by the notion that violence and nihilism are not problems to overcome, but precious tools to be nursed and cultivated.

One could accept the progressives’ argument, I suppose. The kids are killing themselves because Literal Nazis have taken over the country. But notwithstanding the lunacy of that argument, it refers to Republicans, whereas Oregon is a Blue State. A Blue State that’s been outpacing the country in kids offing themselves, even as it becomes ever bluer. A state where kids’ suicide rates spiked while progressive identity politics and governmental disdain for family autonomy became firmly codified in Oregon’s medical, mental health and educational bureaucracies.

______________

So, yes. In a way I’ve come to accept the “progressive” notion that there’s probably a link between gender ideology and teen suicide. But not for the reasons that progressive activists and agitators claim. Rather, it seems that an already vulnerable age group is being taught that hating themselves and others is the way to make the world better.

In Oregon, this nihilistic world view is eagerly cultivated by the very community leaders who are supposed to be working–who in many cases have been richly paid to be working–to address the economic stagnation that’s left so many in Oregon despairing of finding work, housing or purpose. The very leaders who daily point the finger at national political controversies in order to aim the questioning gaze of young Oregonians away from themselves. Away from inconvenient questions about why Oregon has declined despite over a generation of one-party rule by so-called progressives.

Don’t look at us, they say; look at yourself. Look at yourself so hard it hurts.  Give violence, self mutilation and suicide a try. You have no choice; you were born to it.

Portland is often considered the poster child of the progressive movement. If that’s so, then best not follow our example. We seem to be dying of progress.