Researchers Found Puberty Blockers And Hormones Didn’t Improve Trans Kids’ Mental Health At Their Clinic. Then They Published A Study Claiming The Opposite. (Updated)

Jesse Signal:

An article called “Mental Health Outcomes in Transgender and Nonbinary Youths Receiving Gender-Affirming Care” was published in JAMA Network Open late in February. The authors, listed as Diana M. Tordoff, Jonathon W. Wanta, Arin Collin, Cesalie Stepney, David J. Inwards-Breland, and Kym Ahrens, are mostly based at the University of Washington–Seattle or Seattle Children’s Hospital. 

In their study, the researchers examined a cohort of kids who came through Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic. They simply followed the kids over time as some of them went on puberty blockers and/or hormones, administering self-report surveys tracking their mental health. There were four waves of data collection: when they first arrived at the clinic, three months later, six months later, and 12 months later.

The study was propelled into the national discourse by a big PR push on the part of UW–Seattle. It was successful — Diana Tordoff discussed her and her colleagues’ findings on Science Friday, a very popular weekly public radio science show, not long after the study was published.

All the publicity materials the university released tell a very straightforward, exciting story: The kids in this study who accessed puberty blockers or hormones (henceforth GAM, for “gender-affirming medicine”) had better mental health outcomes at the end of the study than they did at its beginning. 

The headline of the emailed version of the press release, for example, reads, “Gender-affirming care dramatically reduces depression for transgender teens, study finds.” The first sentence reads, “UW Medicine researchers recently found that gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adolescents caused rates of depression to plummet.” All of this is straightforwardly causal language, with “dramatically reduces” and “caused rates… to plummet” clearly communicating improvement over time.