Staff at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital gender clinic, which is currently under investigation after explosive whistleblower accusations of malpractice and abuse, has been revealed to have advised teachers to affirm the transgender identities of an entire group of grade five girls.
Emails obtained by Parents Defending Education and released to the Daily Mail show that staff at The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital were giving out advice to a concerned teacher in the region who was witnessing what many experts believe is a social contagion aspect of gender dysphoria in young people.
In October 2021, an elementary school teacher in the Parkway Schools District contacted the clinic for help after a group of fifth-grade girls all came out as transgender at the same time.
"I wondered if I can ask you a quick question about a situation we’re experiencing at one of our elementary schools," begins the email. "The short story is that one of the students in the 5th-grade class is coming out as Trans."
"She has told several of her friends and now several of them are also saying they are Trans."
"We do not want to discourage them if this is the case, but we’re also suspecting there could be other reasons they are doing this than that this is actually the case," the teacher continued.
"Is this common? Are there resources for handling this type of situation? Again, we do not want to discourage kids if this is actually the case, but we also do not want to diminish the actual experience of trans folks."
A staff member at the gender clinic who has not been identified replied by first calling the social contagion theory not affirming and "invalid," before going on to advise "as much support and discussion as possible" about the gender exploration of this group of girls.
"There are schools of thought that have 'documented' this as an issue of significance, in that a student coming out as transgender, becomes a 'contagion,'" wrote the gender clinic employee. "This language isn’t affirming and the few studies on the phenomenon are, in my personal and professional opinion, invalid."
"The other end of the spectrum is that this is normal in that when one person realizes who they are and share it, others realize they are similar," the email continued.
However, the staff member added that there is "a middle ground where we allow for some nuance," acknowledging that some people, especially "younger folks," can latch onto a new idea or concept and make it their own. Giving examples of fad diets, workout types, and even mental health diagnoses such as ADHD, the employee still went on to recommend support and exploration of the group’s gender exploration.
"In general, I’d recommend as much support and discussion as possible around their gender exploration," concludes the email.
The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital found itself in the midst of a scandal earlier this month after whistleblower Jamie Reed, a former social worker at the gender clinic, wrote a devastating article describing how staff were failing to address the complex mental health needs of youth presenting with gender dysphoria and instead simply ushering them onto the medical sex change pathway, with sometimes horrifying outcomes.
This sparked two investigations being launched, one by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and the other by Senator Josh Hawley. Hawley also introduced legislation that would allow minors harmed by so-called gender-affirming care to bring legal action against the healthcare providers responsible for performing the interventions.
This is not the first time St Louis Children’s gender clinic has hit the news regarding advice given to school staff. Last month it was revealed that Dr. Sarah Garwood, co-director of the center, advised a Missouri school district to withhold information about students using dangerous chest-compression devices from parents.
Garwood’s name crops up in this latest exchange, in a follow-up email from the gender clinic employee.
"I spoke to Dr. Garwood, our Adolescent Medicine Specialist, and she wanted me to add just one thing, that I will expand on further: In general, kids explore parts of their identities in different ways: dress, hair, likes, interests, sexuality, and gender. For some, this is a temporary state, for others it is a longer path to something else," the staff member wrote.
"The best we can do is affirm, validate and allow for the exploration, if in a few weeks or months, a student wants to go by their legal name and pronouns that match their sex assigned at birth, no harm was really done in affirming them before," the teacher is advised.
Nicki Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education, the group that obtained the emails via a Freedom of Information request, told the Daily Mail that the "utter lack of curiosity about the underlying causes of such a trend among ten-year-old children by medical professionals is immoral at best and an abdication of professional responsibility at worst."
"These children and their families have been let down, both by the school and the hospital - so it's little wonder that trust in these institutions have declined precipitously over the past few years," Neily added.
While so-called "gender-affirming care" providers have steadfastly denied the social contagion theory first put forward by Lisa Littman in 2018, even the president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has spoken out recently to admit that social influence is likely a factor driving the surge in young people suddenly identifying as transgender.
Garwood’s claim that there is no harm in affirming the transgender identity of young people is also being questioned by leading experts in the field of gender medicine who argue that social transition, i.e. a change of name and pronouns, is a powerful psychotherapeutic intervention that can drastically alter the course of a young person’s life. This was the conclusion reached by Dr. Hilary Cass, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics, in her independent review of England’s soon-to-be-closed Tavistock gender clinic.
Dr. Erica Anderson echoed this opinion in a recent affidavit submitted in support of the Wisconsin parents suing their daughter’s school district for allowing her to adopt a male name and pronouns without their knowledge or consent.
The St. Louis Children’s whistleblower, Jamie Reed, called for a moratorium on child sex changes after witnessing young people, many of whom with serious psychiatric comorbidities, experiencing devastating side effects and regret following the experimental medical interventions they underwent at the gender clinic.
"The doctors I worked alongside at the Transgender Center said frequently about the treatment of our patients: ‘We are building the plane while we are flying it’," wrote Reed. "No child should be a passenger on that kind of aircraft."
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