It's science stupid!

by James Stout, San Diego, Ca

We live in an era where the overwhelming logic is one of empiricism, that is to say that proof an evidence is required to make one’s point. The most valuable and complete way to prove one’s truth is to use the scientific method and, as such, we tend to believe things that we say preceded by the phrase “scientists have found” or “studies have shown” . The problem, however, is that “studies have shown” has moved over time from being a signifier of rational and unbiased experimental analysis and into something of a rhetorical device.

21 Apr, 2017

We see pseudo science every day, you only need to walk into a supermarket in the USA to be bombarded with foods which lie to you about your health and supplements which urge you to turn your paycheque into false promises of better sleep or more libido contained in a pill. This same pseudoscience has become a tool in the hands of those who would love to convince themselves that LGBTQ are an aberration and have no claim to human rights. Fortunately, those who whish to force science to comply with their moral agenda misunderstand both science and morality and their claims are easily debunked.

Today the Human Rights Campaign launched a new page,, this page exposes the anti-equality claims of Dr Paul McHugh who has long been the go to person with a doctorate (he ceded the title scientist some time ago) for homophobic legislators all over the USA and the world. Recently, McHugh’s opinions were used in the Supreme Court hearing on Gavin Grimm, who argued that he should be able to use the restroom that fits his gender identity.

What McHugh makes are claims, he does not have findings. LGBTQ health expert Dr. Tonia Poteat explains this on the page. Poteat points out that an absolutely integral part of scientific publishing is the peer review process. In this process a group of one’s academic peers must review one’s publication to check experimental design, calculations, conclusions drawn from evidence etc. This peer review process is the backbone of every single academic journal, I have been through it, it is rigorous, but it also ensures that only the best quality work gets published. McHugh prefers to avoid the scrutiny of real scientific analysis and instead publishes in religious and anti equality magazines. This allows McHugh to not only ignore broad scientific consensus on a range of issues but also to write as if that consensus does not exist.

McHugh has reserved special loathing for transgender people and described them as ‘confused' and ‘mad.' In August 2016, he joined Lawrence Mayer (who was recently paid $400 per hour to defend North Carolina's infamous anti-LGBTQ+ law) on a report on gender and sexual orientation. According to the HRC “McHugh later admitted that the "special report" published in the New Atlantis, a right-wing think tank journal, was merely an "opinion piece"” . In 2010 McHugh submitted a brief to a California court arguing that sexual orientation was a choice. This goes against the overwhelming weight of evidence and opinion in the scientific community. It’s as reprehensible as arguing against gravity, climate change or the spherical nature of the earth.

In March of last year, anti trans rights legislator sin texas cited a study by the American College of Pediatricians, the anti-LGBTQ group that impersonates the American Academy of Pediatrics. McHugh, though not a pediatrician, was one of the statement's three signatories. As such he misrepresented his own qualifications and engaged in extremely immoral impersonation of a professional group.

In a Baltimore Sun op-ed published in September last year, several of McHugh's Johns Hopkins colleagues rebuked his the New Atlantis report, saying it "mischaracterizes the current state of science on sexual orientation and gender" and that "being gay or transgender is perfectly consistent with being healthy and well." In March, Vanderbilt University helped to helm a petition signed by nearly 600 LGBTQ-experienced scholars and clinicians disavowing McHugh's assertions. The document again pointed out that the New Atlantis article did not undergo scientific peer review, was not published in a credible research journal, and “contains misleading statements about the state of science on gender identity and sexual orientation.”

Whilst it remains sad that such “alternative facts” exist on the state of research about gender and sexuality, at least we now have a go to resource for dispelling them. And for that we have the HRC to thank.