Two weeks ago the board of the Minnesota State High School League voted to approve a new policy for “transgendered” students that would allow boys (who claim they are girls) to play on girls teams and to allow girls (who claim they are boys) to play on boys teams.
Since then, fortunately, many people have been pointing out that this is ludicrous. Some have pointed out that this is clearly unfair to other students in the locker room. Others have observed that boys (including those who see themselves as girls) do build muscle mass more easily than girls and that forcing high school girls to compete athletically with boys may unfairly deprive girls of more than trophies and bragging rights. There is also scholarship money on the line here and, of course, the physical safety of all participants.
But the most egregious problem with MSHSL’s decision is, unfortunately, the one that has been least discussed. This new policy will harm, not help, the students this policy is meant to accommodate.
As Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at John Hopkins Hospital, wrote last summer in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed:
“Policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.”
The transgendered suffer a disorder of “assumption” like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one’s maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight.”
I take the board of the MSHSL at their word that they have the best of intentions to make students feel “accepted.” But it does no good to tell a dangerously thin individual suffering from bulimia “you’re right, you could healthily still lose a few pounds.” It does no good to anyone suffering an episode of mania grandiosity to tell them “you’re right, you could increase your chances of winning the lottery if you used every cent you have to buy tickets.” Why would we think it would help a young man denying the biological reality of his own body to say “you’re right, you’re probably a girl.” Each of these responses will be greeted with approval from the person suffering the disorder. They would feel like they were “understood” and “accepted.” But ultimately accepting a disorder does nothing to help the person who is suffering from it.
In fact the regret and misery caused by this condition is predictable, scientifically verified, and widely documented. This regret and misery can be avoided, or at least minimized, when the confusion that causes it is acknowledged and treated with understanding. What the MSHSL has done instead is, as Dr McHugh put it, “to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”