A new transgender study heralded as “the first of its kind” is deeply flawed, critics argue, due to key factors in its methodology. The study, conducted by Northwestern Medicine, claims to demonstrate that “Top surgery significantly improves quality of life in transmasculine and nonbinary teens and young adults.”
Top surgery refers to a mastectomy, in which a breast is surgically removed from the body of a female. A double mastectomy removes both breasts.
The study compared female patients between the ages of 14–24 who underwent a mastectomy with patients who did not. The latter, considered the control group, still received “gender-affirming care” – they just didn’t get the surgery. The researchers notably did not include a control group of patients who did not receive any kind of gender affirming care.
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh pointed this out in a series of tweets on the study, writing: “They did not include a group of females who received counseling to actually overcome their gender dysphoria and help them embrace and love their female bodies. This would be a true control group, but the ‘researchers’ excluded that option entirely from their study.”
Three months after their breasts were removed, the young women suffering from gender dysphoria reportedly showed “statistically significant improvement in chest dysphoria, gender congruence,” compared to those who didn’t receive the surgery.
Chest dysphoria has been defined as “discomfort and distress from unwanted breast development.” Females who are suffering from confusion over their gender and consequently feel uncomfortable with their distinct female body parts might be inclined to have them surgically removed as a means of alleviating their distress.
WHAT DO THE RESULTS SAY?
This study indicates that a significant amount of the young women and teenage girls who had worked up the resolve to have their breasts removed felt better about not having them shortly after they healed from the surgery. The surgery has lifelong consequences, and the feelings of these women are subject to change in the future.
If their feelings do change, and they come to regret the decision, would it still be fair to say that the surgery “improved their quality of life?” The study fails to answer that question, because researchers apparently did not include responses from patients who had their breasts removed more than three months ago.
Here’s what the researchers wrote as an explanation: “The 3-month time frame was chosen as a period beyond immediate postsurgical pain and euphoria, while remaining in proximity to the study intervention.”
Walsh believes the researchers deliberately chose the three-month period to achieve their desired outcome, writing: “We need only focus on the fact that the study surveyed 36 double mastectomy patients THREE MONTHS after surgery. As they well know however, surgery regret and detransitioning takes a year or two or longer to set in. So they made sure not to cut the study off before that point.”
The three-month time period was curiously absent in the press release announcing the study.
Northwestern declined to answer The Florida Standard’s questions about the study or provide comment.
WHAT ABOUT DETRANSITIONERS?
Online, stories abound of “detransitioners,” men and women attempting to stop or reverse the effects of gender affirming care such as hormone or puberty blocking drugs and surgical procedures like those that remove the uterus, penis or breasts.
A study of 100 detransitioners published last October found that over 72 percent of them said they were motivated to transition because they felt it was “my only option to feel better.” Study author Lisa Littman went on to note: “Some were harmed by transition and detransitioned because they concluded that their gender dysphoria was caused by trauma, a mental health condition, internalized homophobia, or misogyny—conditions that are not likely to be resolved with transition.”
In response to the study, journalist Ian Miles Cheong tweeted: “They claimed just days ago that Libs of TikTok and Matt Walsh were lying about these surgeries. Now they’re celebrating these unnecessary surgeries as being good for teenage girls.”
Northwestern Medicine is home to the Gender Pathways Program, which is “committed to providing gender-affirming care.” This summer, Northwestern celebrated the launch of the university’s Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies, the first journal with an entirely trans editorial board.