Prominent doctor labels transgender a mental disorder, says surgery isn’t the answer


By Mark Ellis

Dr. Paul McHugh
Dr. Paul McHugh

Dr. Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, says transgender is a mental disorder rather than a civil rights issue, and decried attempts for surgical solutions – especially those paid for by taxpayers.

Transgender individuals believe their gender identity differs from their biological, God-given sex.

Recently, those advancing the transgender cause seem to be scoring victories. On May 30, a government review board ruled that Medicare can pay for “reassignment” or sex-change surgeries. And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is “open” to lifting a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

“Policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention,” writes Dr. McHugh in the Wall Street Journal.

McHugh was the Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and the director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Johns Hopkins University. His own research focused on the neuroscientific foundations of motivated behaviors, psychiatric genetics, epidemiology, and neuropsychiatry.

He says transgender is a mental disorder for two reasons. First, the idea of sex misalignment is mistaken because it doesn’t correspond with physical reality. Second, transgender can lead to harmful psychological outcomes, including an alarming rate of suicide following surgeries.

The transgendered harbor false assumptions similar to other disorders familiar to psychiatrists, according to Dr. McHugh. He compares this to anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the sufferer may believe he or she is overweight when they are actually dangerously thin.

Chastity Bono (left), the only child of Sonny and Cher, underwent surgery to become Chaz Bono
Chastity Bono (left), the only child of Sonny and Cher, underwent surgery to become Chaz Bono

Dr. McHugh cites a 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The long-term study—up to 30 years—followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties.

“Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable non-transgender population,” Dr. McHugh notes. “This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

Johns Hopkins University pioneered “sex-reassignment surgery” in the 1960s. But when they launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with those who did not, they were surprised.

The “subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery,” Dr. McHugh notes. Hopkins stopped doing the surgeries in 1979, “since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”

“’Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” Dr. McHugh notes. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

Another study revealed that when children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings as they grew into adulthood.

In the last few years, the transgender cause has moved from seeking tolerance to pursuing affirmation or “transgender equality,” with demands for government payment for medical and surgical treatments, and access to all sex-based public roles and privileges.

“Advocates for the transgendered have persuaded several states—including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts—to pass laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor,” Dr. McHugh observes.

He believes that psychiatrists should challenge the concept that what is in the mind cannot be questioned. “Disorders of consciousness, after all, represent psychiatry’s domain; declaring them off-limits would eliminate the field.”

Dr. McHugh also disagrees with “diversity” counselors in public schools, who may encourage young people to distance themselves from their families and urge them toward surgery.

He is alarmed by a program at Boston’s Children’s Hospital to treat children with gender confusion by administering puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous—even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility.

“Given that close to 80% of such children would abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated, these medical interventions come close to child abuse.”

He suggests a better way to help such children is with devoted parenting.


  1. Wow! Finally some truth about this condition. I grew up with 10 brothers and I can tell you there were times as a child I wanted to be a boy. I liked their games, their toys, and their privileges. There were very subtle differences in the way my parents treated the boys with a certain favoritism in discipline, job assignments, and freedoms. I could not have put it into words at that time, but I realize on hindsight that my desire to be a boy had nothing to do with gender assignment in my psyche but with a very deep seated need to be equally accepted and loved. My feminism was not rewarded in the world in which I lived. All I can say now is thank God in heaven no one messed with my body and prevented me from growing up to be the beautiful woman I became. Even now as my beauty fades in old age, I love who I am: a woman, not a man in a woman’s body.

  2. I can so relate to this article. I had a transgender co-worker who had been raised as a woman by her parents. encouraged to have the sex change operation. The dr who did the surgery and a college talked with her for quite awhile but her family was adamant and she agreed with them. She was told that it was a condition of the mind, not the body and that the operation was irreversible, a mutilation of the body and would not actually change anything. 3 years later she realized she’d made a bad mistake and wished that she had not listened to her parents. Highly resented what they pushed on her and severed all ties. I have known several kids, including my daughter who, when little, insisted they were the opposite sex. Everyone of them, after a couple of years, didn’t even remember that they had wanted to be a different sex. My uncle resented his Mom greatly because she raised him as a girl, until he started school. If it wasn’t for his older brother telling him he’d be made fun of at school and helping him cut off the long curly hair and giving him his smaller pants he knows he would have been in trouble she was not happy about the change but at his insistence, and my dad’s she let it stay. But for years kept saying you should have been a girl and he let her know that he didn’t want to be one. He’d rather chase them.

  3. I had a classmate, a girl who insisted she was a boy. She had two older brothers and no sisters. She said for years that she was a boy. She eventually stopped that, and is now a gorgeous woman who is married to a man and has a few children. We lived in Massachusetts. Thanks to pro-transgender activists, Massachusetts has now banned experts from trying to get children to identify with their birth-genders and must now go along with any child’s feelings of transgender. It is a shame. If it was now, instead of 1988, the poor girl would be subjected to experts and probably her parents insisting on giving her a boy’s name, getting her to use the boy’s restroom, etc. It would have made her more confused.

  4. I think the doctors performing these transgender surgeries should be ashamed of themselves!! If doctors didn’t advocate and perform these idiotic money making surgeries there wouldn’t be an issue. It doesn’t matter if you cut off body parts, add body parts and take synthetic hormones you will never be a man or woman if you weren’t born one. A person born as a woman has a period and gives birth, if you’ve never had a period you will NOT know what it is to be a woman. If a person was born a man there are things such as erection and ejaculation that can never be accomplished if you weren’t born with a mans plumbing. It’s all a scam and people are just jumping on a bandwagon that leads to no where. Why can’t people just love who they are without all this crazy talk about “I’m a man in a woman’s body or I’m a woman in a man’s body.” How would a person really know that? The only way you know is if you have experienced both and since that is impossible then the people saying this don’t really know what they are talking about! I’m tired of hearing about this subject!

  5. I feel especially sorry for poor Bruce Jenner. If only he could have realized that he was more than ok just the way he was. Someone in his family must have made him feel terribly unaccepted and unwanted. He does have 2 sisters and his only brother was killed in an automobile accident. I personally feel that his mother should be ashamed of herself for not speaking out against Bruce’s plans to become Caitlyn Jenner. This must have mentally crushed him when she said she approved of what he was going to do when he decided to change his gender. If anything, she should have been trying to talk him out of it and trying to convince him to take hormones that would make him feel more like a man so that he could stay the wonderful man that he was. It is both an act of hatred on a parent’s part and an act of self hatred on the individual’s part to allow something like this to happen. Doctors are all about making money and the doctor(s) that operated on Bruce Jenner and turned him into a so-called “woman” cashed in and made a fortune off of him. One can only hope that suicide is not his next idea.

  6. I`m glad I didn`t have a sex change when I was a teenager. I wanted a sex change because therapy didn`t make me straight and my Catholic mother was 100 percent opposed to homosexuality. That was forty years ago. If I got my wish and had the sex change, today I would have been a mutilated man, not a woman. Back then people didn`t want to be gay but also they wanted a big ocean to choose a partner from instead of a small pool. I knew gay men back then who found crooked psychiatrists to approve the sex change without the prerequisite year of psychiatric counseling & evaluation.

  7. I’m so glad I found this article! It has answered many long needed questions for me about what Transgender really is and what it means for someone to be Transgendering. I agree 110% with Dr. McHugh’s assessment. His analysis has helped me put into words, what I’ve felt for a very long time. It also puts me at ease with my personal belief that we are living in a society where little-by-little we are almost being forced, through social conditioning, to accept what really shouldn’t be acceptable. I live in NYC and it’s been somewhat exhausting for me, because I’ve never known how to broach the subject with anyone who is Transgender (even though I come into contact with Transgender people frequently). I knew one politically incorrect comment in an effort to create an opportunity for an open dialogue would have been disastrous; so I’ve just been mired in confusion for a very long time. The knowledge and resulting sense of peace I’ve acquired from this article will free up my much needed mental energy for better things (laugh). I’ll no longer be compelled to ruminate over this 2 or 3 times a week, like I’ve done in the past after meeting or interacting with someone who is Transgender. Thank you Dr. McHugh, for your brilliant and multi-faceted analysis of this condition and to the people who shared their personal experiences and insights.

  8. the Dr. McHugh is correct it is mentally diseased , and if you get out your King James bible and read Chapter 0ne of the Book of Romans. starting at verse 18 -32 if people who feel they are not happy with the God assignment of our birth. Need to meditate on this.

  9. we need to be happy and just enjoy being who You are! We are not God the creator of the Universe. we are imperfect , we miss the mark of perfection because the 1st man and woman caused us to fall into. as Romans 5:12

Comments are closed.