The media doesn’t usually emphasize (or ever even state) the negative findings when it comes to the research of transgender people. The reality is, the findings are striking. Sure, the short-term effects of say, people who follow through with sex-reassignment surgery, are good, but what about the long-term effects? With us again this week is pastor and researcher Paul Dirks to talk about some of these facts. We also talk about how we, as Christians, can better engage with those who share differing beliefs with us.
Who's our guest?
Paul Dirks is the Lead Pastor of New West Community Church. He lives in the neighbourhood of Sapperton with his wife Rachel, and his five children. He came to know Christ at a young age through the godly influence of his parents and thinks that such a conversion is as exciting as any. Paul has a big smile and loud laugh. He enjoys basketball, history, and music. Paul loves preaching and teaching and enjoys books by John Piper, CS Lewis, and GK Chesterton.
With me again today is Pastor Paul Dirks. If you weren’t here last week, you wouldn’t know that Paul is a husband, a father, and a local church pastor in New Westminster, which is close to Vancouver in B.C., Canada. He’s also the founder of Woman Means Something. Anyways, thanks again for being here today, Paul.
Yeah, great to be back with you again, Isaac.
You know, it was made evident by the end of our last conversation that we really hadn’t really, you know, gotten into some of the facts of what you studied regarding transgenderism, which we said we would get into. So … you know, and we also didn’t touch on other few questions that I had hoped to ask you. So that’s what this conversation is all about.
Now, if you’re listening and you didn’t hear last week’s conversation, definitely go check it out. It’s almost a must if you want to understand kind of fully the full picture of where Paul is coming from personally. He kind of shares a bit of his story and what he’s been up to, but also what we are addressing in today’s conversation.
But anyways, before we jump into that, very briefly, for those who don’t know you, Paul, can you just take a minute or so to explain who you are?
Yeah, sure, Isaac. Yeah, I’m a husband and a father as you mentioned, but most importantly, I’m a saint in Christ Jesus who has redeemed me. That’s my ultimate identity. And … but also, somebody who has done a lot of research and reading on sexual issues, gender issues, and so, yeah. Some of your listeners will know that I went to the Senate to present on Bill C-16. But I also do a lot of training on these issues, trying to bring some clarity, not only from a Christian standpoint, but also trying to clarify for people what the literature, you know, the peer-reviewed, secular literature says about some of these topics, because of some of the bias and obfuscation that goes on in the media with not carefully representing what’s in the literature.
Yeah, definitely. No, that’s really important. You know what, I’m just thinking, too, do you mind just sharing with us what Bill C-16 is, for those who don’t know, and how that kind of, like … why you went to the Senate to oppose this bill? I think that would be important for us to know before we jump into this conversation.
Bill C-16 was passed last year in Ottawa, a piece of legislation that put gender identity and gender expression into the Human Rights Code as well as an aggravating circumstance under the Criminal Code. I had some concerns about the bill because of how the words gender and sex necessarily collide legally. And so, I … you know, even though I do a lot research on kind of the medical side of things, I went to the Senate. The major piece that I was kind of speaking on was privacy protections for women. When you all of a sudden protect gender identity, what you end up doing is women end up losing their privacy rights, their bodily privacy rights, whether it’s in changing rooms or showers or bathrooms.
And so, trying to bring some clarity, both from a legal standpoint, but also from a … yeah, from a sexual offenses standpoint, in trying to point out the different offenses that have resulted, in some cases, very clearly because of gender identity policies and trying to … yeah, trying to speak on those things.
But of course, some of this now is being worked out in, you know, whether it’s in the schools … the ramifications are pretty significant.
Yeah, definitely, for sure. Now, Paul, you’ve spent a lot of time researching, obviously. You read these reports and articles that, you know, for many of us, it’s not just, you know, sit down on a Friday night and just read this thing. And in light of all you’ve learned, I really do want to spend some time today on this conversation, that you would just share a few pieces of information you think would be best to share with us.
Yeah. Thank you. So, I think probably one of the first places to start is around how some of these issues are playing out in society, especially with youth and young people, you know, in our school system. And that a lot of people are not aware that the literature is unequivocal concerning the finding that gender dysphoria goes away for children after adolescence. So just as an example, Steensma, in 2011, who was one of the leaders on these things, he says, “Although the persistence rates differ between the various studies between 2 and 27%, the results unequivocally show the gender dysphoria remitted …” in other words, it went away, “… after puberty in the vast majority of children.”
So, we see, you know, a generalization … and I’ve done some YouTube videos on this, a good and defensible generalization would be that gender dysphoria goes away in 80 to 90% of children after adolescence. And so, for instance, one of the leading studies was actually done by a Canadian by the name of Devita Singh in 2012. And, you know, she measured those who had the full diagnostic criteria for a gender identity disorder, and that 86.4% of them, of those who met the full criteria, were no longer gender dysphoric after the study. So … or at study end.
So, this is … I mean, this is a very robust finding across the literature. There’s not a single study anywhere ever been done on the topic that has found anything less than a majority, really quite a significant majority, you know, with it not going away. Such a robust finding across the literature.
So, you know, this has tremendous implications for parents that may discover their child, you know, has some troubles in regards to their gender, how they feel, how to represent their gender. But, you know, one of the safest things you can do for your child is simply to wait, that this is by and large a developmental issue. And it’s sad just how things get skewed in the media. People not aware of just the ubiquity of this finding. So yeah, it’s one of those things that is not clearly represented in the media.
I guess … just to punch in here for a second, Paul, like, I … you know, I hear that fact … this might sound kind of like a silly question, but why is that important? Why do we need to know that?
Yeah, no, it’s a really good question, actually. And it’s because the treatment for those who persist in gender dysphoria currently is very severe. It’s, you know, some authors will recognize that, and … like Blanchard, and say things like, “It’s a palliative option,” he actually uses that language. But there’s a recognition that this is really, really severe, that you are putting a block on the normal pubertal process, these people that are, you know, that do … become transsexuals, they go through a full medical transition, they’ll take cross-sex hormones for the rest of their lives. That’s something that’s largely experimental. We don’t know what it looks like for a body to be on decades worth of cross-sex hormones.
And then, of course, leading to surgeries, right? Where you have double mastectomies, you have genital reconstruction, and then, you know, along with these things, there’s sterilization, as well. There is the odd report where people stop taking cross-sex hormones, they’re able to have a child, but fertility is damaged, and as long as people are on the cross-sex hormones, they will not be able to bear children.
And so, the repercussions for going through with treatment are very significant. And so, when we see that 80 to 90% of these kids, that this problem will just go away, and they avoid, you know, lifelong medicalization, sterilization, removal of healthy body parts. This is … I mean, this is really key, it’s really important.
Absolutely. Now, for those that go through with, say, you know, a sex-change and different things like that, I mean, from your studies, have you looked at their future, like what happens after that?
Yeah. And, you know, it’s interesting, that there’s quite a disparity in the literature between short-term outcomes for those who go, you know, on cross-sex hormones, or have the full gender reassignment surgery, or both, the short-term outcomes are very different than the long-term outcomes. And it is often, sadly, the short-term outcomes that tend to get a lot of press in the media. But the long-term studies really should be the ones that we’re interested in, and it’s, you know, they show vastly worse outcomes.
Let me throw a few things here at your listeners. There’s three studies that have been done that are registry-based studies. And what that means is that they’re able to use registry-based national data in the countries where these studies were done to be able to overcome what is a significant problem in the literature on treatment outcomes, which is that there’s tremendous loss to follow-up after a couple of years. And obviously, this is a problem that isn’t just in this field, but is I think probably particularly in this field.
So, to get around that, you’ve got Simonsen 2016 in Demark, who takes a look at the registry data and finds that the psychological outcomes of those who have gone through sex reassignment surgery is not significantly better than those … you know, that when they started. So, they’re able to do a kind of a pre- and post-treatment comparison, and there’s no statistical significant difference between those.
Two studies from 2011 show also poor outcomes. Asscheman in 2011 found that mortality rates, and particularly for suicide and death by AIDS, for male to female transsexuals, which was the bulk of their study, have found highly elevated rates. So, for instance, the rate of suicide, death by suicide, was 5.7 times higher. Death on account of AIDS was 30 times higher than for the population. So, you know, again, you’ve got poor outcomes.
Dhejne 2011 is one of the more interesting and actually better-known studies … and partly because Dhejne says, about her study … I’ve actually had some conversation with Dhejne over email. But she says that you can’t use her study to show poor outcomes, because there’s no comparison … there’s no pre- and post-comparison. However, the problem with that, which I think is kind of a biased interpretation of her study, is that her death by suicide findings compared to her controls of this group that had gone through medical transition was 19 times higher. 19 times higher death by suicide than population controls. And the issue here is that there are no studies (and I’ve read the literature quite extensively) there’s no study that shows 19 times higher levels of suicide anywhere, whether it’s pre- or post- anything.
And so, you’ve got kind of this baseline where Dhejne is saying, “Well, it could’ve been worse than that if they hadn’t have been treated.” I just look in the literature, and I say to myself, “I’m not seeing that. I’m not seeing any place where it is worse than that.”
Now, a couple of interesting pieces that kind of bolster that claim is Adams in 2017, who is completely a, you know, pro-transition advocate. And yet, at times, of course, you know, they have to say what they’re actually finding, even if they don’t want to. And in one place, Adams says this, that “It seems counterintuitive that suicide attempts are lower before transition than over most other periods.” You know, here he’s actually doing a meta-analysis of all the different studies where we have numbers on suicidality levels, whether it’s ideation or actual attempts. And what he finds is that, you know, things are worse or not much better post-transition than even just the last year for transgender people.
So it’s, you know, again, you start comparing long-term to either before treatment or short-term, and you get significant disparities. I’ll mention one other study, and that is that Lindquist in 2017 did the only longitudinal study of any length that we have, where she assessed at, I believe, one year, three year, and five years. And it’s interesting that if you look across the measurements, you see very robust finding where all of the measures of mental health and emotional stability, they all … most of them go up a little bit at the beginning, and then all of them go down after that.
Now, interestingly, because, again, you do have a little bit of a loss to follow-up, once you get five years, you no longer have statistical significance. So, you know, that’s a limitation there. But when you take a look at the tables, you really are seeing what you find in a lot of these other studies, which is that, you know, long term, the outcomes are not anywhere near as good as short term. And in fact, they … I would characterize the long-term outcomes as being exceptionally poor with the highly elevated levels of suicidality, suicide attempts, and low psychological health.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s interesting as you say all that, I mean, it’s so important to hear the facts, like the unbiased facts, because I feel like so often in the media, we only hear sort of the philosophy of the, you know, the LGBTQ culture just in this positive light. So I think it’s really important that we actually hear these facts.
And I would say to listeners as well, Paul’s mentioned a couple times just a few YouTube videos that he has online, kind of going through some of these reports, and I’ve actually watched some of one. And it’s very detailed. And he has the report up there. It’s awesome. It’s very good. So I’m going to … I’ll put the links to those, if you’re listening and you’re interested in those, I’ll put those on the episode podcast page.
But anyways, Paul, with the remaining time that we have, I want to transition into a few other questions that I have, just about, you know, us being Christians in our engagement with those that either are transgender or are full, you know, full-heartedly in this sort of transgender philosophy. So in terms of those who are there, just, almost in a simple sense, what are the best ways that we can engage them in hopes of bridging this, you know, being good neighbours to them and hopefully seeing them come to Christ eventually?
Yeah, I mean, I think we need to start by … let me just affirm for your listeners that I love LGBT people, I love transgender people. And I have a number of friends, you know, that are transgender. And so, I think we start with the fact that, you know, our, whether it’s our sexual or even gender identity, these things do not constitute our full range of human experience or identity. And so, there’s all sorts of avenues for building bridges with, you know, anybody, no matter what are the areas that we disagree with, and to explore those areas.
But, you know, if I had to get into a little bit more detail, you know, there are some interesting aspects of the gender identity, you could say, philosophy that would prove very interesting areas for discussion. And one of those would just be an exploration, kind of asking, you know, “What do you feel is valuable about manhood or womanhood?” Or even to ask a transgender person, “What was it about, you know, the gender identity that you now claim that drew you to that?” And to just be able to start talking through what constitutes the value or the inherent nature of maleness or femaleness.
And one of the things that I have seen is that … at least in quite a few portrayals of transgenderism … I think a rather unhealthy sex stereotype that people are taking on. And this might not be the case for all, but, you know, when you see portrayals of transgender people in the media, you know, you have, for instance, males looking quite highly sexualized in their portrayal of themselves as feminine. And I would just want to ask people, “Is that really what being a woman is about?” Why, when these transitions happen, does it go what seems like a really stereotyped, unhealthy stereotyped, or even sexualized version of the real thing?
No, that’s awesome. That’s really good. And I think it’s important to kind of ask those questions, obviously in a very respectful way to people that you’re talking to, and just sort of hear their answers, and just ask them honestly and lovingly, because you actually do want to know.
And this next question is sort of tagged onto the last one. And I ask it for a reason, because I think so often … so the Church and Christianity … I’ll be careful when I say this, but we sort of put this massive chasm between those that are, you know, activists for the LGBT community and transgenders, and then there’s us over here. And I’m just wondering, is there anything that we, as Christians, can be, you know, “for” with the transgender activist rather than just always being against them and always, you know, that kind of thing? And, is there any belief that we can find mutual ground on, because I’m sure that they … for instance, I would think maybe the dignity of human life, maybe. I don’t know, like, is there anything that we can be “for” with them to have a beneficial conversation with them?
Yeah, I think one of the challenges on that is that the transgender philosophy, it posits some interesting logical incoherencies that, you know … So, for instance, the example that I just gave of asking somebody, you know, why you decided to claim this certain identity. You know, I think I may have mentioned last time that the transgender philosophy posits at once that male and female, you know, can be switched or swapped out. But at the same time, there are radical differences such that you would do that.
So, you know, depending on where somebody’s at in their own expression or identity, you know, I think you could latch on either one of those, and actually have quite a fruitful conversation where you’re able to uphold some key aspects of human experience.
So, you know, for instance, I remember hearing from a transgender person once that the person always felt he was a male, and he always felt that he was more comfortable with females. Well, you know, I think that that would be a very fruitful avenue of discussion, and to actually talk about the fact that I think a lot of men actually do feel very comfortable with women, because of the nature of women’s … I would say their open spirits, you know?
But you’d want to know which way, how people are presenting their gender identity or expression to be able to build some of those bridges, and that’s maybe some of the challenge, is just the national incoherency of the narrative. But that doesn’t mean that … you know, a certain person could be quite consistent in their own narrative, and be able to then use that as an opportunity to build really important bridges as far as, you know, valuing them, but then also valuing how God has created us as male or female.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s so good. Thank you so much, Paul. And I just want to, you know, thank you again for these last two weeks for talking to us about this sensitive subject, and I hope, if you’re listening, that that has interested you. If you do want to learn more, again, I would suggest you go to womanmeanssomething.com where you can read articles and different things that Paul and others have put out on some of the facts, sort of the unbiased facts of these issues. And as well, like I said earlier in the conversation, I will post some links to the YouTube videos that Paul has done.
And again, last week’s information, last week’s podcast, Paul and I did sort of touch on how the Gospel affects the transgender issue and things like that. So, I definitely encourage you to go back there as well and listen to that. But again, I want to thank you so much, Paul, and I’m sure that we’ll talk about maybe end times on our next conversation, which I think would be lots of fun.
Nice. Thank you, Isaac.
Yeah, talk to you later.
All right, take care.