Saturday, 28 February 2015

Poor science journalism and a bias against the current scientific consensus on transsexualism

Heya everybody,

This week I came across an article on the news website Ozy, called A Case Against Sex-Change Surgeries. The article was announced as Immodest proposal and sub-titled Why You Should Care: Sex-change surgery might offer only a physical fix for complex psychological problems.

I don’t think Ozy has a large impact, but it seems partnered with some serious news media outlets that had linked to this article. The article itself is poorly mixed-together old news, starting with transphobe Walt Heyer and continuing with a selective, out-of-context citation of a Swedish study, and then linking to a 2004 (!) article by Paul McHugh, full of sexism, autogynephilia and outdated views. Most of the issues have been discussed already at my news blog, and it’s not particularly interesting to me to rehash them again.

The article annoyed me, of course. Initially, it was also sub-titled as a provocative view, but this claim seems to have been deleted. After all, it’s not really provocative to dig out conservative, sexist, patriarchal, transphobic stuff that was mainstream 50 years ago, and to use it to attack one of the most discriminated-against minorities on the planet. What amazed me, though, were the comments. Pretty much every comment was knowledgeable, quoting evidence, tolerant and empathic. Author Melissa Pandika got a well-deserved bashing. This really gives me hope! Go and read the comments, if you have the time. Here’s one example pointing out the problem:

Dear ‘journalists’ like Ms. Pandika: stop. Just stop. Stop spewing nonsense about topics you know absolutely nothing about, backing up the conclusions you've already come to with half an hour of googling. […] Your tone, Ms. Pandika, sounds so reasonable. But articles like this are dangerous. Opinions like yours directly contribute to violence against, to the suicide of, and to the discrimination against trans people. So please, please, please do further research. Please talk to some actual trans people. Real journalists have real sources, after all.