Psychiatric Organization Rebuts Fox Doctor's Attacks On Chaz Bono, Dancing With The Stars
Research ››› ››› DAVID SHERE
Fox News "Medical A-Team" expert Dr. Keith Ablow has repeatedly used his Fox platform to launch unscientific and prejudicial attacks on Chaz Bono and his appearance on Dancing With the Stars. The president of the American Psychiatric Association and one of its specialists in gender identity have rebutted Ablow's attacks, calling them "opinions, scare tactics and inflammatory language."
Ablow Has Said Bono Suffers From A "Psychotic Delusion" And Repeatedly Portrayed His Dancing Appearance As Dangerous
Ablow: Bono's "Contention That She Is A Male Is A Psychotic Delusion -- A Fixed And False Belief." From Ablow's May 17 FoxNews.com column -- which was pulled after it was posted -- as archived by ThinkProgress:
First, Chaz Bono is not a man. She is a woman who has undergone radical surgeries and is taking male hormones in order to look like a man. That isn't a political position, it's a biological reality. Chaz Bono wants to be thought of as male, but she is not male.
You may disagree with me on philosophical grounds, arguing that behaving like a man and feeling like a man is tantamount to being a man, but that argument does nothing to change the biological reality.
Second, while Chaz Bono may now feel that her journey toward self-acceptance has ended, I am not convinced. I say this because, absent the gender politics involved, I was taught to consider Chaz Bono's contention that she is male as a psychotic delusion -- a fixed and false belief.
Psychosis is not a predictor of long-term emotional well-being or stability.
Mind you, I am not judging Ms. Bono. But there is nothing substantially different from a woman believing she is a man than there is about a woman believing she is a CIA agent being followed by the KGB (when in reality, she is, say, a salesperson at J. Crew). [ThinkProgress.org, 5/18/11]
Ablow: "Gender Dysphoria" Can Be "Kindled By Celebrating Those Who Have Undergone Sexual Reassignment Surgery." From Ablow's September 2 FoxNews.com column, headlined "Don't Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On 'Dancing With the Stars'":
It is a toxic and unnecessary byproduct of the tragic celebration of transgender surgery that millions of young people who do watch "Dancing with the Stars" will have to ponder this question: Maybe my problems really stem from the fact that I'm a girl inside a boy's body (or a boy inside a girls body). Maybe I'm not a tomboy; I'm just a boy! Maybe I'm not just being bullied because I'm a sensitive, reflective young man interested in flowers, not football. Maybe I'm not just uncertain about my sexuality. Maybe I'm a girl! Maybe all this angst and suffering I'm feeling as I emerge into puberty and pass through it isn't just because I'm changing, but because I should change completely -- and have my breasts removed or my penis amputated!
It would be wrong to think that gender dysphoria cannot be kindled by celebrating those who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery. Human beings do model one another -- in terms of emotion, thought and behavior. By broadcasting, applauding and mainstreaming the journey of a very disordered person who endured, and likely will continue to endure, real suffering based on extraordinarily deep psychological problems, we suggest that that journey is a smart -- even heroic -- one to take. [FoxNews.com, 9/2/11]
Ablow Compares Bono's Participation In Dancing With The Stars To The Participation Of A Person Who Intentionally Cut Off His Legs. From the September 6 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
DAVID ASMAN (host): Dr. Keith Ablow, writing a piece that has created a huge firestorm, "Don't Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono On 'Dancing with the Stars.' " So, Doctor, why will watching hurt kids?
ABLOW: Here's why: Because this tour, this fame tour of Chaz Bono promoting transgenderism as though it's a civil right -- there are a lot of kids who will be watching.
Look, kids go through phases, adolescence. There may be tomboys watching who are girls. They don't really need to be encouraged to say, "Hey, wait. Wait a second. Maybe I'm not just of a tomboy, maybe I'm boy. Chaz -- look at them applauding him with a standing ovation."
No, look. This is a guy who's had a terrible run of things, an incredibly tortuous path, and it's not over. So I don't like the idea that you'd suggest to adolescents and young people a surgical remedy at the plastic surgeon's office for a psychiatric condition.
ABLOW: Yes, indeed. Human beings have their behavior kindled. They model their behavior on others. And listen, if we had somebody who couldn't walk on Dancing With the Stars, I'd applaud, unless you told me, "Hey, by the way, do you know he cut off his own legs?" Then I'm not applauding. [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 9/6/11]
Ablow: If Bono "Wants Me And The Rest Of The Nation And All Of Our Kids To Agree That He Is A Man, That's Reality Bending. It's Destructive." From Sirius XM's The Howard Stern Show:
ABLOW: First of all, let me say this: Were anyone to throw a rock at Chaz Bono, I'd step in front of him and take it for him. That's not the issue here. Nobody should be in any way discriminating against this person. But here's what I object to. When somebody has taken a really tortuous path, literally having breasts removed, injecting oneself with hormones, and is midstream in that process and wants me and the rest of the nation and all of our kids to agree that he is a man, that's reality bending. It's destructive. He's not a man, Howard. [Sirius XM, The Howard Stern Show, 9/8/11]
Ablow Has Used Fox News Platform To Misinform, Stoke Fears About Gender And Sexuality
Ablow Falsely Suggests Gender Identity Is A Choice
Ablow Parallels Dangers Of Enabling Pedophilia With "The Celebration Of Transgender Surgeries." From Ablow's August 11 FoxNews.com column:
As a psychiatrist who has helped adolescents and adults make sense of their sexuality, I am convinced that, for many people, environment and social influences do indeed impact sexual desires and sexual behavior.
Here's a concrete example: I treated a man who was attracted to adult women, but also attracted to little girls. He was so convinced that his pedophilia was socially unacceptable and morally reprehensible that he stayed home most of the summer, rather than work as a handyman. He was petrified he would encounter little girls in bathing suits and be unable to control his impulses. He let me prescribe him two medications to increase his impulse control.
Now, I just don't see any reason why we would want to lead such a man to believe that his pedophilia isn't morally reprehensible by having him happen upon a mainstream magazine that dresses a 10-year-old girl like a 25-year-old woman and positions her as though she is hoping to have sex.
The same can be said for the celebration of transgender surgeries. When those who resort to major surgery to "become" female or male are applauded on talk shows, rather than being empathized with because they are on tortuous, tragic paths through confused identity issues, that can encourage people to think that their own very understandable ambivalence about some aspects of masculinity or femininity could mean, instead, that they are trapped inside the wrong body. It can actually kindle gender dysphoria that was not consciously present and would never have been psychologically debilitating. [FoxNews.com, 8/11/11]
Think Progress: Ablow "Confuse[s] Readers About Sexual Orientation, Sexual Disorders, And Gender Identity In A Post Devoid Of Any Valid Conclusions." From ThinkProgress.org:
First it was pink toenails. Then it was Chaz Bono (until Fox News pulled the article). Now, Fox News Medical A-Team contributor Dr. Keith Ablow is back to confuse readers about sexual orientation, sexual disorders, and gender identity in a post devoid of any valid conclusions. The premise of his article is to defend his previous claim that Vogue's sexual images of minors "can actually 'create' pedophiles." Here are some of the fanciful ideas Ablow squeezes into his pieceunder that pretense:
- Pedophilia is a "sexual orientation." (It's not, it's a psychiatric disorder.)
- Sexual orientation can be shaped by one's environment. (He is correct that "desires" and "behavior" can be influenced by environment, but neglects to draw any distinction between contextual responses and an enduring orientation.)
- Prison normalizes homosexuality. (Besides reinforcing a stereotype, Ablow again conflates behavior with orientation. Men who have sex with men in prison don't become gay.)
- Parental relationships with parents influence sexuality. (This is a junk science ex-gay talking point that folks like Rich Wyler and Richard Cohen use to substantiate their bogus "touch therapy.")
- People who are transgender "are on tortuous, tragic paths through confused identity issues." (Any psychologist with an ounce of merit would appreciate that transitioning gender is all about affirming the individual's identity, and while the journey may be challenging, there is nothing "tortuous," "tragic," or "confusing" about it.)
- Gender dysphoria can be "kindled" and shaped by one's environment. (What Ablow is insinuating is that, like sexual orientation, gender identity is also a choice -- or at least something that can be controlled. On both counts, he is wrong.) [ThinkProgress.org, 8/11/11]
Ablow Attacked J. Crew Ad For Showing Mother Painting Her Son's Toenails
Ablow On Ad: "Encouraging The Choosing Of Gender Identity" Can "Throw Our Species Into Real Psychological Turmoil." From Ablow's April 11 FoxNews.com column:
A recent feature in J. Crew's online catalogue portrays designer Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett's toe nails hot pink. The quote accompanying the image reads, "Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."
Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid -- and maybe a little for others who'll be affected by your "innocent" pleasure.
If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?
Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil -- not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians?
Maybe we'll all have shiny, colored lips, though, and pierced ears and perfect eyebrows and mommies who get applause from their J. Crew friends at the park for parading their sons through the streets in costume.
Jenna Lyons and J. Crew seem to know exactly what they're up to. That's why the photograph of Jenna's son so prominently displays his hot pink, neon toe nails. These folks are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race. They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any creative Force in the universe. [FoxNews.com, 4/11/11]
Ablow: Ad Is "A Message" Lyons "Meant To Send, An Attack On Masculinity." From the April 12 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
ASMAN: It's time for Buy, Sell, or Hold. We take the names and stories in the news, we treat them as if they're stocks. Would you buy them, sell them, or hold them?
Well, J. Crew. J. Crew has an ad that shows a woman painting her son's toenails pink, and it has some folks seeing red. The woman is J. Crew president and creative director Jenna Lyons, the boy is her son Beckett. So does that ad cross a line? The J. Crew ad. And doctor, I know you've written about this. What do you think?
ABLOW: You bet it crosses a line. Gender distinctions have a place in society. If this woman wants to paint her son's toenails pink, I guess we should have no objection to someone who is male modeling a sundress in their catalog. I think it's a message she meant to send. It's an attack on masculinity.
ASMAN: One big Sell. What do you say, Alan?
ALAN COLMES (Fox Radio host): You gotta be secure enough in your masculinity to be secure in stuff like that. It's a Buy because we're talking about them. We're talking about J. Crew because of it. It's a Buy.
ABLOW: Oh, Alan.
ASMAN: I don't know. One Buy.
MONICA CROWLEY (Fox News contributor): I'm with Dr. Ablow on this. He is the medical professional here, and I agree with his opinion. It's blurring the gender lines at an age where you probably shouldn't.
ASMAN: All right. I say it's a Sell as well. It just doesn't make me want to buy anything that J. Crew has. And it's a Sell. [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 4/12/11, via Equality Matters]
Experts From The American Psychiatric Association Have Rebutted Ablow's Statements
APA's Drescher: "Wouldn't It Be More Helpful To Offer Scientific Data Rather Than Sensationalized, Detailed Descriptions Of Sex Reassignment Surgery?" From a post by Dr. Jack Drescher, "a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the DSM-5 Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders," responding to Ablow's September 2 column. It was originally posted on the Human Rights Campaign's Back Story blog and cross-posted on FoxNews.com:
Dr. Ablow apparently believes that watching a transman dance with a woman might cause somebody's confused child to become trans. I suppose some people still believe watching "Will and Grace" made kids gay.
Although this "monkey see, monkey do" warning might come across as common sense advice, this is another instance where "common sense" does not square with science. While science has yet to explain what causes gender dysphoria, as my colleague, APA President, Dr. John Oldham affirms, "There is no evidence that viewing a television game show with a transgender contestant would induce Gender Identity Disorder in young people."
Yet without much scientific evidence, Dr. Ablow asserts, "It would be wrong to think that gender dysphoria cannot be kindled by celebrating those who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery ... By broadcasting, applauding and mainstreaming the journey of a very disordered person who endured, and likely will continue to endure, real suffering based on extraordinarily deep psychological problems, we suggest that that journey is a smart -- even heroic -- one to take."
Wouldn't it be more helpful to offer scientific data rather than sensationalized, detailed descriptions of sex reassignment surgery or metaphors about double amputees to support the views Dr. Ablow "believes to be true?" [FoxNews.com, 9/13/11]
APA's Drescher: Ablow's "Views On Gender Confusion Mix Apples With Oranges And Have Little Basis In Current Clinical Practices." From Drescher's post:
Contrary to his claims, most people establish a gender identity at a very early age. There are exceptions but they are not very common. When gender dysphoria does appear before adolescence, most psychiatrists call this Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood (GIDC). This diagnosis applies to children, in some cases, as young as three, who tell their astonished parents they are not the boys or girls the parents believe them to be.
GIDC is relatively rare, and children whose gender dysphoria persists into adulthood even rarer. Existing research indicates that children with GIDC grow out of gender dysphoria, do not grow up to be transgender, and most of them grow up to be gay! Again, no one knows why.
For children whose gender dysphoria persists into adolescence, transition to the other sex when they reach adulthood is often the medical treatment of choice. Doing so is rarely a decision made lightly and these individuals may become suicidal if refused transition.
The adolescents and their families who elect to go this route are not the ones Dr. Ablow describes: "tomboyish girls and sensitive, less stereotypically 'masculine' boys" or children who recently lost a parent and are "wondering who they are absent their deceased mothers or fathers." His views on gender confusion mix apples with oranges and have little basis in current clinical practices. [FoxNews.com, 9/13/11]
APA's Drescher: "As A Psychiatrist Speaking In A Public Forum," Ablow's "Audience Is Entitled To Accurate Scientific Knowledge" Instead Of "Opinions, Scare Tactics And Inflammatory Language." From Drescher's post:
Dr. Ablow is within his rights to express personal opinions about transgender people. However, as a psychiatrist speaking in a public forum, his audience is entitled to accurate scientific knowledge of a complex subject rather than opinions, scare tactics and inflammatory language.
Dr. Ablow, seeing Chaz Bono's life as a tragedy, wants others to agree and his "prescription" is scaring people away from tuning in and seeing for themselves. Yet parents should not be afraid to learn something new. Tuning out uncomfortable information and maintaining silence only makes children (who cannot be shielded from this information in the modern age) more anxious. Children sensing parental anxiety become anxious as well. [FoxNews.com, 9/13/11]
APA President Oldham: "There Is No Evidence That Viewing A Television Game Show With A Transgender Contestant Would Induce Gender Identity Disorder In Young People." From TMZ.com:
Chaz Bono dancing the Cha Cha on TV ... in front of your kids ... will NOT make them want to have a sex change -- at least according to the American Psychiatric Association.
In a recent article, psychiatrist and former talk show host Dr. Keith Ablow suggested kids could develop Gender Identity Disorder (GID) just from watching Chaz on "Dancing With the Stars."
John M. Oldham, M.D. -- the APA President -- acknowledges GID is a psychiatric disorder ... but also told TMZ, "There is no evidence that viewing a television game show with a transgender contestant would induce Gender Identity Disorder in young people." [TMZ.com, 9/12/11]
Ablow's Fox Colleague Megyn Kelly Admonished Him For "Adding To The Hate"
Kelly Cited APA Criticism, Told Ablow, "There's So Much Hate Out There" For LGBT People, And "You Seem To Be Adding To The Hate." From the September 14 edition of Fox News' America Live, which Kelly hosts:
KELLY: Do you really believe that children are going to turn transgender from watching Chaz Bono?
ABLOW: I really believe, Megyn, and there's plenty of data, that we kindle behavior in one another. There's data even that if a friend of yours should get divorced and say how happy she is that you are more likely, percentage-wise, to consider divorce yourself. We don't know, frankly.
KELLY: Is that the same as this? Is that the same as convincing you that you are a boy when in fact you're a girl?
ABLOW: We really don't know how these behaviors influence people when they are mainstreamed and celebrated. But I would say during the very vulnerable times when kids are forming their identities, as well as their sexual identities, yes, it's possible that if someone is celebrated and lifted to heroic proportions like that of a civil rights leader that someone who is somewhat uncomfortable with his or her gender might say, "You know what? I'm going down that road." And that is a very tortuous road that we know very little about. And it's still the subject of tremendous debate.
KELLY: I don't know if allowing Chaz Bono to dance is lifting him to heroic, civil rights leader status. But listen --
ABLOW: You should check out the Web, you should check out the Web. He's being touted as the second coming of Gandhi.
KELLY: OK. Let me ask you this. The American Psychiatric Association president, John Oldman, came out and said, and I quote, "There is no evidence that viewing a television game show with a transgender contestant would induce gender identity disorder in young people."
So, you say we don't now, but this guy, who is president of the American Psychiatric Association, says there is no evidence of this. So aren't you being irresponsible by suggesting to parents out there that if they let their little children watch this show, they're going to turn transgender?
ABLOW: No, what I'm doing is I'm protecting their children. And I have a call in to John because I'd like to clarify that there's also no evidence that watching will not cause some problems for your kids in terms of their sexual identities, along with the whole brew-ha-ha around this that suggests that this is a proper course.
Listen, we're not very far from when Paul McHugh, who was chairman of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, and likened transgender surgery, in the year 2007, to providing liposuction for anorexic people. You don't have to collaborate in people's psychopathology in order to be their doctors. Sometimes, you could say, "We could look deeper."
KELLY: It is a recognized -- but it is a recognized disorder, gender dysphoria. And somebody who has actual expertise in this particular area of psychiatry -- with respect, unlike yourself -- a guy named -- let me get it -- Dr. Drescher, Dr. Jack Drescher, who is not only a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association but also a member of the DSM-V's workgroup on sexual and gender identity disorders -- has taken real issue with your piece, Doctor, and has said that you are really irresponsible here and saying that "the audience is entitled to accurate scientific knowledge of this complex subject, rather than" -- and I quote -- "opinions, scare tactics, and inflammatory language." Is that what you are doing?
ABLOW: Listen, here's the thing, Megyn -- and I like being with the home team on this one so you'll give me some time to explain. The DSM-V, the working group. You have to understand, organized psychiatry has presided over the decimation of psychotherapy. That book that he's involved with, our diagnostic manual, has spliced and diced the range of human experience into such sterile categories that they've yielded to political pressure throughout the years completely. Do you know --
KELLY: Are you saying this guy doesn't understand this disorder better than you do?
ABLOW: I don't know which one of us understands more about these disorders, but I can tell you this --
KELLY: I mean, he specializes in it. He specializes in it.
ABLOW: Megyn, it's too simplistic to suggest that the American Psychiatric Association, which embraced lobotomies for a time, has to be right about this issue.
KELLY: All right, but here's what's not simplistic. I think the viewers get this. I think they get that our children are no more likely to turn transgendered from watching Chaz Bono --
ABLOW: I don't think that's true.
KELLY: -- than they are turn gay from watching Will and Grace. You either are or you're not.
ABLOW: No, I don't think that's true.
KELLY: Really? Really? How many kids turn gay from watching Will and Grace?
ABLOW: Well, first of all, I have no idea what the statistics would show, nor am I proposing that they do become homosexual from watching Will and Grace. However, I will tell you that the idea that you would suggest to a child who may come to have questions about his or her gender that a very defensible path and one that has been celebrated in the media and in which people have given standing ovations to the folks who have undergone these transformations, is gender reassignment surgery, I think is really irresponsible. And as for the APA, don't forget --
KELLY: Isn't it just tolerant? Isn't it just tolerant?
ABLOW: What's that?
KELLY: I mean, there's so much --
ABLOW: No, it's not.
KELLY: Here's the -- there's so much hate. There's so much hate out there. There's so much hate for gays and lesbians and transgendered people.
ABLOW: [The APA] tolerated frontal lobotomies too, but I would have spoken out against them.
KELLY: Well, the thing is, Doc, you seem to be adding to the hate. Because, you know, you went out there, you compared Chaz Bono to somebody who thinks they're a zebra and a farm animal. How does that -- this person struggled mightily with a disorder that a lot of people have, and here you make those remarks, it just sounds cruel.
ABLOW: Megyn, you've got to review the transcript. I was on Howard Stern, and I said to him, "Listen, if you tattooed yourself like a zebra, I'm not going to throw a rock at you, I'd take a rock for you, if someone threw it at you. But if you ask me, 'Are you a zebra,' I going to say no. And I'd say to Chaz Bono if he asked me, 'Am I a man?' I'd say, 'No, brother, you're not.' "
KELLY: We'll leave it at that. Dr. Ablow, thanks for coming on. We appreciate it.
ABLOW: My pleasure. I'll see you again.
KELLY: All right. All the best. [Fox News, America Live, 9/14/11, via Media Matters]