We’ll Tell You What “60 Minutes+” Won’t About How Transgender Movement Endangers Kids

COMMENTARY Gender

We’ll Tell You What “60 Minutes+” Won’t About How Transgender Movement Endangers Kids

Jun 30th, 2021 9 min read
COMMENTARY BY

Former Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center

Emilie Kao was director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
The ability to give informed consent is premised on one’s capacity to understand the potential consequences of a treatment, including both benefits and risks. Johner Images / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

“60 Minutes+” ignored the perspectives of those who caution against the “transing” of kids, because of the long-term harm to their mental and physical health.

A growing number of actual doctors in the U.S. and overseas are questioning why there is such a sudden rise in the number of children who “identify” as transgender.

When children and parents can’t find counselors and doctors to treat gender distress through talk therapy, all they are left with is “gender-affirming care.”

One of the hallmarks of investigative journalism is the examination of multiple perspectives. That’s what CBS’ “60 Minutes” is famous for and why its viewers rely upon it.

To its credit, “60 Minutes+” (the new spinoff that runs on the Paramount+ streaming service) did approach The Heritage Foundation to seek our perspective on the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, an Arkansas bill that bans the sterilization of gender-dysphoric children through experimental use of hormones and surgeries.

But, in its coverage surrounding treatment of children with gender dysphoria, “60 Minutes+” only interviewed parents on one side of the transgender debate, those who affirm transgender ideology and the model of “gender-affirming care.” 

“60 Minutes+” ignored the perspectives of those who caution against the “transing” of kids, because of the long-term harm to their mental and physical health.

In my hourlong interview with them, I recommended that these alternative perspectives be included and gave the show’s producers contact information of people who were willing to speak on camera. 

>>> New Documentary Highlights the Harm of “Gender Affirming” Health Care Model on Children

Here’s what (and who) “60 Minutes+” didn’t show you: 

1. Kids who “detransitioned” and desisted because their underlying distress was not relieved by hormones and surgeries. 

Much of the piece focused on the story of Dylan, a 15-year-old girl who “identifies” as a boy, takes testosterone, and finds it helpful. During the interview, I told “60 Minutes+” correspondent Seth Doane that the United Kingdom had banned hormones to treat children under 16 for gender dysphoria based on the finding that they are not capable of giving informed consent.

The moral and legal premise of informed consent is that a patient has the right to make decisions about his or her own health. The ability to give informed consent is premised on one’s capacity to understand the potential consequences of a treatment, including both benefits and risks.

Because children and adolescents have not developed the full emotional and intellectual capacity of adults, Britain found that its national gender clinic (like the more than 60 that have sprung up in America) violated that ethical principle when administering puberty blockers to Keira Bell at the age of 16 because she was too young to understand the consequences. 

Bell also had a double mastectomy at age 20 and now regrets transitioning. She was left with “no breasts, a deep voice, body hair, a beard, [and] affected sexual function” and worries she may be infertile as a side effect of the drugs.

Bell sued the clinic. “I look back with a lot of sadness. There was nothing wrong with my body. I was just lost and without proper support,” she said. “Transition gave me the facility to hide from myself even more than before. It was a temporary fix, if that.” 

Because of the U.K.’s finding, the Finnish government has recognized that children should go through a period of “watchful waiting,” rather than being rushed into treatments with irreversible side effects. Sweden’s leading hospital has followed suit.

When the reporter described the number of “detransitioners” as minuscule, I told him that Walt Heyer, a man who lived as a woman for eight years, has collected the stories of detransitioners around the world and estimates that 20% experience “sex-change regret,” but they chose not to include that data.

Shortly before the “60 Minutes+” interview, the traditional Sunday night version of “60 Minutes” ran a story in which correspondent Lesley Stahl interviewed 30 “detransitioners,” including one who said he became suicidal for the first time after surgery on his genitals.

There was intense backlash from the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT activists against “60 Minutes” for including the voices of those who have become skeptical about “gender affirmation.”

2. Parents who don’t want their children to be transitioned, but are ignored by counselors and doctors.  

The “60 Minutes+” piece featured two mothers of transgender-identifying kids who want their children to continue receiving experimental hormones. Although we gave the producers contact information for parents who want their children to accept their bodies, they declined to interview them.

You can see their stories in the new documentary film “TransMission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender?”

As one mom in the movie named Brynne recounts, “The pediatrician said if I didn’t affirm my daughter’s identity, and I didn’t get her the help that she needed, and she killed herself, I was going to feel awfully guilty—right in front of my daughter.”

Other parents of gender-dysphoric children are rallying together in groups such as Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria Kids and Fourth Wave Now. They try to stop counselors, school officials, and doctors from pushing their kids into extreme treatments that will rob them of their physical and emotional health and leave them unable to have families of their own. 

Their stories are also told in Abigail Shrier’s book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” which we gave to the producers of the show. The mainstream media have largely shut out the voices of these parents, because they don’t fit the narrative that hormones are miracle drugs for kids who are uncomfortable with their bodies.

3. Doctors who question the efficacy of the transgender movement’s recommendations and warn of the long-term dangers to children.  

The “60 Minutes+” report highlighted the recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health that children receive hormones and, in some cases, surgeries. Yet the World Professional Association for Transgender Health is not an association of medical professionals. It’s an association of professionals in fields, including anthropology and sexology, that seeks to influence standards of care in medicine.

The influence of money and politics that led to the reclassification of gender dysphoria in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” is documented in the book “Sexual Minorities and Politics” by pro-LGBT author Jason Pierceson. 

The manual previously described the condition as “gender-identity disorder,” then renamed it “gender dysphoria,” and now only categorizes the anxiety associated with the condition as a mental disorder. 

A growing number of actual doctors in the U.S. and overseas are questioning why there is such a sudden rise in the number of children who “identify” as transgender.

The recent surge in the number of children expressing gender dysphoria even caused the doctors who created the “Dutch Protocol” of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries to question its use on young patients with gender dysphoria.

Patients who are treated with puberty blockers for “precocious puberty” (the premature onset of puberty) have reported side effects that include degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia.

But gender dysphoria is not a physiological issue. The premise of “gender-affirming care” is that changing the cosmetic appearance of a child’s body to resemble the opposite sex will alleviate his or her underlying mental and emotional distress.

But not a single study has demonstrated any mental health benefits.

One of the most comprehensive studies on long-term effects of transitioning, performed in Sweden, showed that after surgery, transgender-identifying people were more likely to commit suicide, at a rate 19 times higher than the average population. 

The “60 Minutes+” report cited the Obama-era Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finding that 35% of transgender-identifying youth attempted suicide, but failed to report that it declined to endorse the transgender community’s medical recommendations because of the Swedish study.

4. The pharmaceutical companies that are making millions from “transgender medicine.” 

Cross-sex hormones cost upward of $2,400 for injectable estrogen and up to $4,200 for testosterone patches—per year. 

If a 15-year-old girl starts on puberty blockers, which she will need to take over the course of her entire lifetime, the cost will be more than $100,000. In addition, the cost of surgical transition—including removal of breasts and genitalia, shaping the genitalia to look like that of the opposite sex, and facial masculinization or feminization surgery—is estimated to be more than $100,000.

Many interested parties—including medical doctors, insurers, and pharmaceuticals manufacturers—stand to make significant profits from the “gender-affirming” care model.

“60 Minutes+” interviewed Dr. Michele Hutchison, who testified against the SAFE Act and joined the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit to block the law from going into effect. She says that “watchful waiting” is dangerous for children—even though 88% of girls and 98% of boys accept their bodies after puberty, according to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” 

Hutchison’s gender clinic profits from her patients receiving hormones and surgeries. The failure to disclose her financial stake in the game ;is like asking a cigarette manufacturer about age limits on smoking and bans on advertising cigarettes to kids.

5. The lawmakers who are banning counseling that would help children accept their own bodies.  

Parents who find their sons and daughters struggling with their own bodies want to find counselors who will diagnose underlying conditions related to gender dysphoria, such as autism, trauma, anxiety, and stress. Yet in 24 states, this counseling is banned. 

I told “60 Minutes+” that transgender activists seek to silence dissenting viewpoints. They did not interview any of the lawmakers who enacted the counseling bans, and although they interviewed the ACLU, which supports these bans, they didn’t raise that question. 

As Crystal, the mother of a gender-dysphoric son, writes, “The only speech New Jersey allows is promoting ‘sex transition’ to children and youth … . Transitioning to the opposite sex is biologically impossible … . Children and youth struggling with their gender identity should be allowed to discuss ‘why’ they feel uncomfortable in their bodies.”  

Lawmakers who silence counselors that affirm the body also silence the voices of children and youth who want to feel comfortable with their bodies, but struggle to do so.

When children and parents can’t find counselors and doctors to treat gender distress through talk therapy, all they are left with is “gender-affirming care.”

That censorship is something that journalists should be especially concerned about, but was a side of the story that “60 Minutes+” didn’t include. 

Throughout the hourlong interview with “60 Minutes+,” the reporter denied the fact that gender dysphoria is the underlying mental health issue that children struggle with, which leads them and their parents to accept the recommendations of gender-affirming counselors and doctors.  

>>> Don’t Be Fooled: Gender Identity Policies Don’t Follow the Science

Young people such as Dylan are given prescriptions for testosterone because they have received a gender-dysphoria diagnosis. Some transgender-identifying people don’t experience gender dysphoria. But gender dysphoria is well-understood to be the underlying condition that leads most children, youth, and adults to identify as transgender. 

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People” recommends that youths with gender dysphoria be treated with hormones and surgeries. It doesn’t recommend that for those who identify as transgender. 

“60 Minutes+” also included a segment with Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender advocate who is an assistant secretary at the federal Department of Health and Human Services. 

At Levine’s Senate committee confirmation hearing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asked why “gender-affirming care” should be allowed on American children since genital mutilation is universally condemned as a human rights abuse.

Levine contended the comparison between genital mutilation and “gender-affirming care” is “entirely incorrect,” claiming that the latter is based upon literature, the advice of professional groups, and evidence. In other words, trust the experts without examining what’s really involved in these surgeries.  

Paul is right to raise these questions about the dangers of “gender-affirming care.” The administration of puberty blockers almost invariably leads to cross-sex hormones and surgery that results in permanent sterilization. 

Since at least one country’s highest court has ruled that children are unable to give informed consent to those procedures, and other medical organizations in both the U.S. and abroad are raising similar concerns, America should have an open and honest debate about these grave matters.  

Unfortunately, “60 Minutes+” showed only one side of these debates. For the sake of children, Americans need to see and hear both sides of the debates to judge for themselves. 

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal.