The show is strikingly selective in its skepticism
This is just so frustrating. If someone says to you in conversation, "Well, there are just so many studies showing that puberty blockers and hormones are helpful for trans kids who would kill themselves otherwise," and you respond, "None of those studies actually show that, everyone is lying about their findings on this," you sound like a tinfoil hat maniac, but it's true! The dishonesty on this topic is just mind-blowing.
Thanks for the hard work, Jesse.
This is the dogged reporting and detail-oriented scientific literacy that I'm subscribing for! Jesse has provided us with THE model of rigor for evaluating claims made by media outlets, advocates, and policymakers citing academic studies to support their proposals. I would like to see this replicated with every research claim made by journalists, pundits, and politicians. Also, it's important to make the distinction, and I think Jesse does a great job of this, between empirical research claims that are overstated (by the researchers) versus claims about research findings that are exaggerated and/or completely inaccurate. There is a tendency, especially on the left, to advocate for preferred policies by citing academic research. However, too many pundits and elected officials fail to understand the research they cite, or blatantly misinterpret it because it supports their worldview. Among academic researchers there is at least peer-review and the potential for replication, revision, and retraction. However, there needs to be better fact checking of claims made about research to serve political objectives. (See: anything written about "long Covid," UBI, Housing First, etc. citing academic research). More of this, please! And thank you Jesse!
My son, a trans man, did not begin his medical transition until he turned 21. he is very happy with the slow and steady progression of his medical transition (he is 23 now, and is preparing for his top surgery).
My son came out officially at age 13 (unofficially between ages 4 thru 8). I told him then that I felt medical transition before age 18 was too dangerous, and might cause him long term health issues (the medical transition for adults is terrifying enough, I can't imagine doing this to kids).
My son agreed. He is a bit of a science nerd, and has been very proactive in researching medical transition himself. He has proceeded slowly and carefully.
I know a very loving family who allowed their son (a trans man) to medically transition in high school.
Cruelly, horribly, inexplicably, their son committed suicide at age 18.
Medical transition is never a magic bullet.
My son is a bit neurodiverse, and I believe (zero proof) that there is a neurological basis to sex dysphoria. To me, this means that trans kids need far more than transition to feel comfortable in the world.
My son has gone through therapy, been evaluated for depression and anxiety by a psychiatrist, and has attended support groups throughout his journey.
Medical transition is only one small part of helping a person with sex dysphoria, and it may not even be the most important part.
My fear is that parents are being told that simply "affirming" a trans kid's gender will solve all of their child's problems.
It will not.
Sex dysphoria is often accompanied by other mental health and neurological issues.
Sex dysphoria is a complex disorder, and there is no simple fix.
If clinicians genuinely care about preventing suicides in the trans community, they will acknowledge the seriousness and complexity of sex dysphoria and stop treating it as if it's no different from a gay or lesbian person "coming out".
It is not.
It is serious, and treating it like something "fun" and "liberating" is probably harming more people than helping them.
"Science Vs deserves credit for its transparency — it releases show transcripts that feature many endnotes ostensibly backing up its specific claims, which is something a lot of outlets don’t do."
This is very charitable of you Jesse. I think they do this knowing most people won't click the links but that having a plethora of links makes them look like they've done the work that you're doing.
I remember a few years back, at the time when the Intellectual Dark Web was first becoming a thing, the Eric Weinsteins of the world were talking a lot about "sense-making"; how our expert class and our once-esteemed institutions were falling prey to leftist ideology, and failing at the necessary work of interpreting a complex reality for a bewildered public.
Many of these IDW people went on to make very little sense themselves. Some were gifted editorialists but offered little of substance. Some went on to peddle deranged conspiracy theories.
The task that they proposed is what Jesse is actually doing. It's the patient, nerdy, obsessive, often tedious work of reading and interpreting studies, looking at how those studies are filtered through ideology and misrepresented to the public, and then exposing that delta - between the murky truth and the simplistic narrative - in the hopes of improving our state of knowledge and advancing the public understanding.
This work requires deep knowledge of a specific subject. It requires reaching out to academics and journalists. It requires admitting uncertainty, and qualifying most of your statements with "we really need more data." It's not as glamorous as galaxy-brained jeremiads about The State of Western Civilization, but it actually moves us toward solving the problems which the IDW identified. I'm happy to be contributing my money to this effort - keep it up.
I'm reminded of the Senate Select Committee report about intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq War. The intelligence community had a few flawed pieces of information, but as analysts started citing them and then getting cited by other analysts and then those analysts getting cited. Suddenly, you have a consensus that there's an abundance of iron-clad information just from the mass circle of citations.
Welcome to Brandolini's Law. You just spent a disproportionate amount of time refuting bullshit compared to the time spent creating the source bullshit in the first place.
If you logged the hours spent on this piece, I suspect it was a 10:1 on the effort you put in reading and understanding the evidence presented compared to the time "Science Vs" put in.
No doubt by the time you finished this single critique, another 10 less rigorous claims affirming the desired hypothesis could be conjured up. Then you suffer Brandolini's big brother, the nefarious "Gish Gallop".
This is precisely how the mask craze took hold of us for a few years - extremely weak evidence gets compounded, stacked up, and presented as rigorous evidence.  The people you assume are gatekeepers of knowledge, aren't actually checking this stuff out. They are too concerned with their own constant need to always be publishing to maintain their careers, and certainly Imposter Syndrome keeps many would be critics from voicing skepticism - straight out of Hans Christian Anderson they are all assuming that everyone else that sees the thing must really see it so they keep quiet out fear they are the lone person noticing the emperor is naked.
This is a huge problem in the Social Sciences, which was understood even by the left  only a few years ago.
The progress we started to make in confronting the Replication Crisis was completely overwhelmed by the mass hysteria of Covid, which somehow convinced the world being a skeptic is a bad thing and not the crucial other half of science (curiosity being the other half).
Stuart Ritchie in "Science Fictions" I think laid out a good start to addressing and examining the problem, but we probably need a worldwide reading of Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" to get out of this age of darkness.
Best of luck to you Jesse - I fear without fixing the root cause allowing an endless stream of bullshit to be passed off as "science", we will all be swimming against the current.
Daily Dose of Sagan:
"Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which best fit the facts. It urges on us a delicate balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything-new ideas and established wisdom….. When we are self-indulgent and uncritical, when we confuse hope and facts, we slide into pseudoscience and superstition."
 Metaverse archaeologists in the future will likely cite this as one of the origins of the strange "mask craze" of the 20's https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=202002698114314&id=101805971467321
Note that the Twitter source commits the logical fallacy of "counting your hits and forgetting your misses" - only positive studies are included, even the Meta studies in this list have the individual studies included as a repeat - but only the ones from the Meta that backed masks. It was really fascinating to watch how easily pseudoscience could spread (I've always been curious how the "stupid" people of the past could fall for bloodletting, witches, electroshock, plague masks, etc - now I got to see first hand).
I read these studies and wonder why everyone seems to have forgotten what the placebo effect is and why you should blind the patient group to what treatment they are receiving to control for it - something that is impossible to do with GAM. It is totally possible that the weak evidence for improvement is reflecting a placebo effect. The assumption among those who believe in gender identity ideology is that ‘wrong’ hormones automatically cause distress, so that a ‘cis’ kid mistakenly treated would suffer from worse mental health. But there’s no actual evidence for that because no-one can ethically carry out that experiment! So there’s absolutely a cycle of confirmation bias going on with how the results of GAM are interpreted.
An absolutely great (and maddening) piece, as always!
I just don't get how people can't see that all of the current trans-nonsense will hurt *actual* trans people in the long run. It's probably only a few years until there are tens of thousands of detransitioners suing clinics and psychologists and schools. At that point, doctors will probably be wary of providing hormones and surgeries to anyone, even people who actually need them.
When did we go from "trans people are a tiny, tiny minority, who deserve medical help and should be treated with respect" to "your daughter is trans because she's wearing pants, and btw lesbians must suck my lady dick unless they want to be called TERFs"?
(On a lighter note: "citational mischief" is an awesome expression!)
Sadly, I fear that Helen Joyce is right when she says that it's going to take a few decades for this social contagion to run its course. Her latest newsletter, https://www.thehelenjoyce.com/joyce-activated-issue-8/, goes into her views on childhood transition. I am glad to not be alone in raising the alarm, and look forward to the day when it's over. I wonder what all the TWAW/terf-haters will say then.
I see “Science Vs” as part of a broader trend in how people speak about science these days. They revere “The Science” if it agrees with them, but they don’t seem to understand how the scientific process should work. Hypotheses are supposed to be challenged and adapted. Uncertainty should be accepted on topics that we don’t have a lot of evidence on yet. But when it comes to youth transition —and I’ve seen the same thing on some Covid-related issues like the efficacy of masks — people have their conclusions already and will declare that The Science supports it based on a couple of studies. Headlines will make grand declarations like “Science says X” or “Y has been debunked” with small amounts of evidence. It’s just really bad.
... and during Pride
Jesse, I know the data is scarce but can you look into preschool transition at some point? Where I live (west coast US) it is becoming quite common for kids to transition at 3 or 4 or 5 years old (I know of at least 4 kids at our elementary school who have done so). This isn't distressed middle schoolers. I know old research suggested 6 to 20% of preschoolers were gender nonconforming, that kids didn't realize understand that it was bodies that determined you were a boy or girl til 5 or 6, etc. Would love a thoughtful look at that research and the concept of a 4 year old knowing their true gender.
Keep up the amazing work, Jesse!
Excellent work. It’s the reason I subscribe.
This is so good. Essays like this make me miss the rigor in (some of) my college psych classes. I’m so glad someone like you has the inclination and resources to do such a deep dive on this topic.