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SCOP brings controversial panelists to campus to discuss transgender medicine

and | Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) hosted two panelists on campus Thursday for a lecture titled “Transgender Medicine and Children: What are the facts?”

The event’s panelists included two medical doctors — Paul Hruz, a professor of pediatrics and endocrinology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Michelle Cretella, a general pediatrician and the executive director of the American College of Pediatricians.


Serena Zacharias | The Observer
Panelists Paul Hruz and Michelle Cretella define gender dysphoria. The panel explored topics pertaining to the medical treatment of transgender youths.


While Cretella has not been a practicing physician since 2012, she is now the executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, a group that has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a “fringe anti-LGBT hate group that masquerades as the premier U.S. association of pediatricians to push anti-LGBT junk science.”

During the panel, both Hruz and Cretella advocated against the use of puberty blockers and hormone treatments in individuals under the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria “involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.” While individuals with gender dysphoria may want to socially transition, cross-dress or medically transition with sex-change surgery and/or hormone treatment, gender dysphoria is distinct from being transgender.

The American Psychiatric Association defines transgender as an umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the sex or gender to which they were assigned at birth. Experts have determined that not all transgender people have gender dysphoria.

Before the lecture, junior Ellie Gardey, the co-president of SCOP, said she submitted an Observer letter to the editor because she knew the panelists would address “an admittedly controversial topic.”

“We have no intention of inflicting any anxiety on any member of the Notre Dame community,” Gardey said. “We believe it’s an important topic to have so that we can have policies that are in the best interest of children.”

Gardey said she didn’t agree with the SPLC’s classification of the American College of Pediatricians.

“We believe they do not hate people,” she said. “The SPLC has expressed hatred towards certain groups in the past, but the American College of Pediatricians has not.”

The Observer interviewed both parties — protesters who attended the panel and Gardey — and researched the two panelists. 

In a previous interview, Cretella referred to transgender children as “mentally ill,” asserting that “no one is born in the wrong body.” She said she believed transgender ideology is “cognitive and psychological abuse” on children. 

Gardey acknowledged Cretella’s past claims that puberty blockers and hormones used to treat gender dysphoria for children can be considered “child abuse.

“We’ve brought in Dr. Cretella for her world-renowned expertise on pediatric gender-affirming therapy,” Gardey said. “Dr. Cretella says it is child abuse, and we believe that people have the best interest at heart when they give children these gender-affirming therapies, so they’re not trying to hurt the child. But we believe that they inadvertently are hurting the child.”

When the Gender Studies Triota Honors Society read about SCOP’s event in the [email protected] email, the group’s students applied for a permit to set up an information table in the library with their own “Transgender Medicine and Children: What ARE the facts?” pamphlet among other printed peer-reviewed research articles.

Pamela Butler, associate director and director of undergraduate studies in the Gender Studies Program, said she was disappointed with the limited representation on the panel.

“It was disappointing to me that their perspectives would be brought here and elevated as if they speak with scientific authority,” Butler said. “When really they’ve been discredited and debunked widely by every legitimate medical organization that’s ever responded to their claims. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a representative of mainstream evidence based medical treatment or a clinician who actually works with transgender youth representative on this panel.”

During her portion of the panel, Cretella cited a number of psychological conditions that may predispose children to gender dysphoria including attachment disorders, severe depression, ADD/ADHD, PTSD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as discussing environmental influences.

“[There’s] the issue of social contagion. We are seeing whole peer groups in schools around the nation that are coming out,” Cretella said.

While Cretella focused on the causes of gender dysphoria, Hruz urged the audience to consider the scientific evidence he presented to empirically determine the best way to treat individuals with gender dysphoria.

“These are real difficulties that these individuals experience, and they’re crying out for help,” Hruz said. “The question that we need to ask ourselves this evening is if the help that we’re offering to these individuals is truly in their best interest to help them.”

When asked whether they had any experience treating patients with gender dysphoria or if they had conducted any peer-reviewed research on the subject, Hruz said he just published a paper in the Linacre Quarterly, the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association. Cretella said she had never treated an adolescent with gender dysphoria.  

SCOP picked the two panelists after consulting with professors in science, technology, engineering and math at Notre Dame, Gardey said. Gardey declined to name the professors the group contacted.

Members of the Gender Relations Center asked SCOP to include a transgender specialist, but Gardey said since they asked only a week prior to the event, they were unable to accomodate their request. When asked if they looked into panelists with opposing viewpoints to Cretella and Hruz or a panelist with experience treating transgender patients, Gardey said SCOP believed the speakers on the panel were the correct choices for this event.

“Our purpose is to educate the public about this issue,” Gardey said. “And this particular panel is what we believe is best for the current moment, but we will be open to a debate in the future.”

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About Mariah Rush

Mariah is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is from the great city of South Bend, and was the Managing Editor of The Observer for the 2020-2021 school year. You can find her always on Twitter at @mariahfrush.

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About Serena Zacharias

Serena is a member of the class of 2021 majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She hails from the great cheese state of Wisconsin and is a former ND News Editor for The Observer.

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