In a “study” that arrived to much media fanfare last week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers affiliated with Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital purported to offer convincing proof that “conversion therapy” predicts longstanding toxic outcomes among Americans who self-identify as transgender, including greater recent suicidality and more severe psychological distress in the past month. Its results, the authors state, “support the policy positions” of such medical professional organizations as the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.
I am agnostic on the topic of “conversion,” though I suspect the subject is more diverse and complicated than political soundbites let on. But I’m not agnostic about the new JAMA Psychiatry study. There are at least four good reasons for being leery of the results appearing therein.
First, the study fails to define or better distinguish what it means by GICE—that is, gender identity conversion efforts—its key variable and a term the authors appear to have invented. It comes from a solitary question that respondents were asked:
“Did any professional (such as a psychologist, counselor, or religious advisor) try to make you identify only with your sex assigned at birth (in other words, try to stop you being trans)?” ….