Mike Penner committed suicide in late 2009. Sadly, it did not need to be that way.
Mike, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times for 25 years, announced he was a female transsexual and began living as Christine Daniels in April 2007.
The warning signs of suicide are often difficult to see, and for transsexuals, the high rate of suicide has been underreported. An article in Metabolism says that the suicide rate among transsexuals was five times greater than was expected when compared to a similar group.
The number of deaths and morbidity cases in 425 transsexual patients treated with cross-gender hormones were evaluated retrospectively and compared with the expected number in a similar reference group of the population. The number of deaths in male-to-female transsexuals was five times the number expected, due to increased numbers of suicide and death of unknown cause. (reference below)
The currently acceptable treatment for gender disorders is to help the patient change gender. The doctor who originated the treatment in the 1960s, John Money, became best known for his fraudulent research, pedophilia activism and a long-held belief that gender was a learned behavior and not innate at birth.
I want to challenge the status quo of that accepted “treatment.” How can such a questionable and controversial treatment procedure, i.e., changing genders, continue to be considered the “standard of care” without the support of research studies that objectively investigate its medical and psychological effectiveness?
Dr. John Money became highly controversial among his medical colleagues when he started changing men into women at the Johns Hopkins Gender Clinic in 1966. Ten years later, a follow-up study published by Dr. Jon Meyer, chairman of the Gender Clinic, evaluated 50 transsexuals who had been patients at the Gender Clinic. The findings were a warning sign about the treatment. The report concluded that no improvement was noted in the patients’ psychological functioning as a result of Money’s gender change treatment. The clinic at Hopkins was closed.
This one medical doctor, John Money, set in motion an inexhaustible controversy that continues today between activist groups for gender change as a treatment and psychologists who prefer to have more “objective” medical findings that gender change treatment is beneficial and psychologically effective. I did speak to Dr. John Money in the early 1990’s regarding my concerns for the gender changing treatment; nothing he said resolved my concerns.
It should be noted, no conclusive “objective” research at any time in the last 40 years has demonstrated changing genders is an effective treatment for all gender disorders and suicide among this population remains a problem.
The accepted standards of care for most ailments are scrutinized and tested. Extensive studies are published in the medical literature over a long period of time to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. But in the case of gender change, the standards of care were developed, adopted and promoted quickly, pushed by people like John Money.
John Money’s follow-up study in the 1960s was shown to be questionable, fraudulent and/or misleading. In the forty years since, the effectiveness of changing gender as a treatment for gender issues has not been thoroughly questioned by the medical community through scientific study. No clear coherent knowledge or understanding of how changing genders can be an “effective treatment” in helping the good people with GID exists.
In this rare case the acceptable standard was developed and used quickly by one single man without the benefit and credible broad support of his medical colleagues at Johns Hopkins; in fact it was quite the opposite.
The accepted standard treatment of GID is controversial, its effectiveness is unsubstantiated, and it has no basis in science. Is it any wonder the controversy continues without any real progress in the treatment and outcomes?
My heart goes out the entire Penner family and his colleagues at the Los Angeles Times.
Returned successfully to my male gender now for over 15 years.
Asscheman, H., L. J. Gooren, and P. L. Eklund. "Mortality and Morbidity in Transsexual Patients with Cross-Gender Hormone Treatment." Metabolism 38, No. 9 (1989): 869–73.