ABC News contributor and nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham has established herself as one of the most stridently transphobic conservative media figures, repeatedly assailing parents who offer support and affirmation for their transgender children. But medical and child health experts condemn Ingraham's transphobic smears as "dangerous" and "ignorant."
During the August 6 edition of her radio show, Ingraham delivered a screed against parents who affirm and accommodate their transgender children, calling it "child abuse" to provide transgender youth with hormone therapy:
Her comments were roundly condemned, but they were just the latest in Ingraham's campaign against trans-supportive families. Ingraham has asserted that putting trans youth on hormone blockers could have "long term effects" that children will come to "regret." She's also claimed that medical caring supporting trans youth "push[es] kids into a box" and prevents them from potentially realizing that they aren't transgender.
But a number of experts in transgender and child health care deride Ingraham's comments as "dangerous," "ignorant," and wholly divorced from reality.
"When one speaks from ignorance, there is a good chance that they will say ignorant things. This could be no more true than for Laura Ingraham," said Diane Ehrensaft, a clinical psychologist and head of the University of California-San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Gender Center, in a statement to Equality Matters:
If we do nothing for these children, just let them be children, as Ingraham suggests, we are actually doing something, and that something is not good: we put them at risk for anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and later--drug abuse, self-harm, sexual acting out, suicidal thoughts, attempts, or completions... Ingraham repeats what so many in my own field, mental health, have done to significantly harm gender-nonconforming youth: dismiss what they are trying to tell us, blame the parents who are trying to support them, and deny them adequate care in one fell swoop... We might even consider the denial of the service a form of child abuse--there's a life jacket right there, we're watching, and we're letting the child drown.
Psychiatrist Jack Drescher, a member of the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, echoed Ehrensaft's concern, stating that Ingraham is "staking out an opinion, but she's not talking about the actual situations that exist. The way she speaks is appealing to prejudice."
"She said it's child abuse to give children hormone therapy?" Drescher noted. "It's child abuse to withhold treatment from a child who might require it."
As psychotherapist Jean Malpas, director of the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, pointed out, professional guidelines call for medically appropriate treatment for children whose gender identity issues have been thoroughly assessed by medical professionals:
[R]esearch shows that family acceptance improves drastically the lives of gender nonconforming and transgender youth. Therefore, discouraging a young person from discovering themselves and apply pressure to conform to socially stereotypical norms of gender is now considered not only unethical but potentially harmful for our youngsters and for their family... Withholding access to reversible interventions such as hormone blockers for the these young people would be cruel and clinically unfounded.
Ingraham's consistent misrepresentation of health care for transgender youth could constitute journalistic malpractice, according to communications professional and former GLAAD news media director Cathy Renna, who has worked with transgender youth and their families.
"From a journalistic perspective, her comments are sensationalized and irresponsible," Renna said. "There are much better ways to go about this conversation than through this kind of misinformation."
"Ignorance ... is far from bliss, and in this case in fact, is quite dangerous," Dr. Robert Garofalo, associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and head of Lurie Children's Hospital's gender identity clinic, told Equality Matters in a statement:
Ms. Ingraham very clearly has little idea what she is talking about... Many of her comments are misleading or entirely false... She should keep her misguided and inaccurate thoughts regarding transgender children to herself. What these children and families need is healthcare that is supportive and based in science. The ranting of a political pundit on the health care needs of these children is entirely unethical, irresponsible and unnecessary.
When ABC News announced in April that Ingraham was joining the network as a contributor, the move came under fire from critics who cited her sordid history of inflammatory rhetoric. Her screeds against affirming transgender youth raise further questions about the commentator's journalistic scruples.