The Immeasurable Harm of Legislative Ignorance

As the Arkansas legislature passes a bill to deny medical care to transgender individuals, the spotlight once again shines down on this state as the home of vastly destructive ignorance. One of the bill’s Republican sponsors, state Rep. Robin Lundstrum, compared gender-affirming treatments to surgical and chemical “mutilation,” and said children should not be allowed to make such decisions before they turn 18.

“This is about protecting minors,” she said. “Many of you, I would hazard to guess, did things under 18 that you probably shouldn’t have done … why would we ever even consider allowing a sex change for a minor?”[1]

This statement reveals the abysmal ignorance of Lundstrum and other sponsors who not only failed to research the science behind transgender needs, but also ignored testimony from parents and medical professionals who pointed out that once treated with appropriate therapies, transgender incidents of extreme depression and suicide drop off significantly.

Lundstrum and colleagues fail utterly to grasp that the crisis point for most trans individuals is adolescence, when the body they expect and hope to live inside starts to change away from that expected form.

According to the American Psychological Association, gender dysphoria is defined as persistent distress related to the feeling that one’s body is not congruent with their perceived gender.  Simply put, gender dysphoria occurs when the way a person looks on the outside doesn’t match the gender they feel on the inside.  Gender dysphoria is actually a relatively new diagnosis.  It replaced “gender identity disorder” in 2013, in a move intended to underscore the fact that being transgender is not an illness or a disorder—only individuals who experience distress related to their gender status require mental health treatment.  Research suggests that a number of factors can help to reduce the levels of distress and psychological dysfunction related to being transgender.  In addition to psychotherapy with an empathetic provider who is well-versed in transgender issues, interventions that increase family, peer, and community acceptance can go a long way towards improving outcomes and quality of life for transgender men and women.”[2]

Not surprisingly, among Arkansas legislators whose primary source of information is an ancient religious text, this new legal restriction reflects zero awareness of the increasingly startling body of evidence that shows how modern chemicals play a role in our sexuality.

“Exposure to hormone-altering chemicals called phthalates — which are found in many plastics, foods and personal care products — early in pregnancy is associated with a disruption in an essential pregnancy hormone and adversely affects the masculinization of male genitals in the baby, according to new research. The findings focus on the role of the placenta in responding to these chemicals and altering levels of a key pregnancy hormone.[3]

One need not delve deeply into scientific literature to discover the impact of prenatal exposures upon our sexuality. An extensive entry in the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia offers two important points:

1 – “An endocrinology study by Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab postulated that ‘In humans, the main mechanism responsible of [sic] sexual identity and orientation involves a direct effect of testosterone on the developing brain.’ Further, their study puts forward that intrauterine exposure to hormones is largely determinative. Sketching the argument briefly here, the authors say that sexual organs are differentiated first, and then the brain is sexually differentiated ‘under the influence, mainly, of sex hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone on the developing brain cells and under the presence of different genes as well … The changes brought about in this stage are permanent. … Sexual differentiation of the brain is not caused by hormones alone, even though they are very important for gender identity and sexual orientation.’”

2 – “Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that, at certain doses, can interfere with the endocrine system in mammals. Work on possible neurotoxic effects of endocrine disruptors, and their possible effects on sexual orientation when a fetus is exposed to them, is in its infancy: ‘we mostly know about the relationship between EDC exposure and neurobehavioral function through an examination of outcomes within a limited sphere of questions.’ While studies have found that xenoestrogens and xenoandrogens can alter the brain’s sexual differentiation in a number of species used as animal models, from the data in hand to date, it is ‘misleading …to expect EDCs to produce profiles of effects, such as sexually dimorphic behaviors, as literal copies of those produced by native hormones. Such agents are not hormones. They should not be expected to act precisely as hormones.’”[4]

Endocrine disruptors aren’t some rare trace element. They’re present in the lives of all of us. What are some common endocrine disruptors?

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) — used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, which are found in many plastic products including food storage containers
  • Dioxins — produced as a byproduct in herbicide production and paper bleaching, they are also released into the environment during waste burning and wildfires
  • Perchlorate — a by-product of aerospace, weapon, and pharmaceutical industries found in drinking water and fireworks
  • Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) — used widely in industrial applications, such as firefighting foams and non-stick pan, paper, and textile coatings
  • Phthalates — used to make plastics more flexible, they are also found in some food packaging, cosmetics, children’s toys, and medical devices
  • Phytoestrogens — naturally-occurring substances in plants that have hormone-like activity, such as genistein and daidzein that are in soy products, like tofu or soy milk
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) — used to make flame retardants for household products such as furniture foam and carpets
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) — used to make electrical equipment like transformers, and in hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, lubricants, and plasticizers
  • Triclosan — may be found in some anti-microbial and personal care products, like liquid body wash[5]

In 2016, the Obama Administration pushed legislation that required the Environmental Protection Agency to begin testing the over 80,000 unregulated chemicals currently on the market in everything from food packaging to shampoo.

“The new law requires EPA to test tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals currently on the market, and the roughly 2,000 new chemicals introduced each year, but quite slowly. The EPA will review a minimum of 20 chemicals at a time, and each has a seven-year deadline. Industry may then have five years to comply after a new rule is made. At that pace it could take centuries for the agency to finish its review.”[6]

Chemicals are not the only factor potentially involved in transgender cases. Even the most vigilant pregnant woman cannot avoid times of extreme stress or hormonal fluctuation triggered by a variety of situations. Yet no one escapes the silent chemical flood surrounding us every day in every way. Even more shocking, micro-plastics are now appearing in placentas.

“The health impact of microplastics in the body is as yet unknown. But the scientists said they could carry chemicals that could cause long-term damage or upset the foetus’s developing immune system. The particles are likely to have been consumed or breathed in by the mothers.

“The particles were found in the placentas from four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births. Microplastics were detected on both the foetal and maternal sides of the placenta and in the membrane within which the foetus develops.

“A dozen plastic particles were found. Only about 4% of each placenta was analysed, however, suggesting the total number of microplastics was much higher. All the particles analysed were plastics that had been dyed blue, red, orange or pink and may have originally come from packaging, paints or cosmetics and personal care products.

“It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities,” said Antonio Ragusa, director of obstetrics and gynaecology at the San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome, and who led the study.”[7]

Despite years of awareness that plastics and other chemicals were exerting unwelcome changes in human existence, the production and consumption of these synthetics continue unabated. A 2019 study by the World Health Organization concluded: “In 2015, humans produced around 407 million tons of plastic. A recent review collated 50 studies wherein scientists found microplastics in fresh water, drinking water, or waste water. Some of these studies counted thousands of microplastic particles in every liter of drinking water.”[8]

In a society—indeed a world—deeply dependent on plastics and other chemical products in everyday life, Arkansas legislators are not alone in failing utterly to provide the kind of informed compassionate leadership the American people deserve. Similar legislation pushed by religious groups at home and abroad attempt to cram a square peg into a round hole—withholding medical care, threatening prosecution for providing medical care, and enforcing blatant discrimination against anyone who doesn’t fit the round hole. Without understanding anything of the scientific facts behind growing anomalies like transgenderism, this effort to force binary sexuality onto a modern population creates crushing harm to those impacted and will do nothing to address the underlying cause.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/03/29/arkansas-passes-bill-restricting-access-medical-treatments-transgender-children/

[2] https://thetranscenter.com/clinical-research/

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150305125409.htm

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prenatal_hormones_and_sexual_orientation

[5] https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm

[6] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/it-could-take-centuries-for-epa-to-test-all-the-unregulated-chemicals-under-a-new-landmark-bill

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/22/microplastics-revealed-in-placentas-unborn-babies

[8] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326144

3 Comments

  1. I’ve got a lot to discuss with you on this one, but in no mood nor have the time now to write it. Will try and talk (on a phone!) next week. F

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    Reply

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