The Swedish study claimed specifically that mental health problems declined after a period of ten years post-surgery.
That claim was picked up in the press as possible support for gender affirmation. "When transgender people undergo sex-reassignment surgery, the beneficial effect on their mental health is still evident - and increasing - years later, a Swedish study suggests," Reuters reported earlier this month.
But the sample size in the Swedish study was extremely small, Professor Mark Regnerus, sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a senior fellow at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, subsequently wrote in the online journal The Public Discourse.
The Swedish study collected data of more than 9.7 million people. Only 2,679 were diagnosed with "gender incongruence," and of these, 1,018 people had undergone sex-reassignment surgery, he noted.
Out of this population of just over 1,000, only 19 people had gone more than 10 years after having surgery. Thus, the study was basing this claim upon a national sample of 19 people.
Regnerus, in his Public Discourse piece, put the numbers in perspective: "if a mere three additional cases among these 19 had sought mental health treatment in 2015, there would appear to be no discernible overall effect of surgery on subsequent mental health."
"It's important to keep some perspective here-how national debates and discourses are being driven by quite small shares of the population," Regnerus said in a written statement to CNA.
And it is these types of studies that are fueling the rise of gender-affirmation of children-despite a lack of deep knowledge about the effects of these surgeries ten years down the road, Kearns said.
"Again, it's important to note that the studies related to children are very, very new," Kearns said. Children, especially those supportive of gender affirmation, may answer that they feel great after surgery.
Yet in 2016, Paul R. McHugh, M.D., the former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D., then a scholar in residence in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's psychiatry department, reviewed hundreds of scientific articles on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
"Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes," they concluded.
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And as to their condition ten years later, "nobody has a crystal ball," Kearns said. And with the adult population, there is only "very ambiguous research."
Many serious medical studies include a "control group" for comparison's sake. However, some studies used to tout the positive effects of gender affirmation "completely disregard that," she said. "They don't really tell you anything except for the foregone conclusions of the ideologues running them and funding them."
The push to use limited or unsound research in favor of gender affirmation should concern everyone, she said.
"This should not be a partisan issue. This is an issue of scientific integrity," Kearns said. "This is not secular versus religious, this is not Democrat versus Republican."
"And I really do think that we are living through this tremendous medical scandal which our children's children will hang their heads in shame about."