I couldn’t help but notice in the comments on BuzzFeed’s LGBTQ+ rights strategy in the United States that the mythical trans rapist trope came up yet again, citing what I’m starting to call That Fucking Swedish Study. The ire is not directed at the study itself, but dear dog is it ever misapprehended with reckless abandon by trans-antagonistic lobbies.
The 2011 study in question was lead by a Cecilia Dhejne and it found two points of revelation oft-repeated in these misrepresentations: The first being that gender affirmative healthcare did not reduce the rates of suicide among trans women to that of the general population; the second being that trans women exhibited a “male pattern of criminality” in one of the cohorts studied. The misinterpretation ensuing has been so widespread that Dhejne has been in a protracted campaign to challenge the many outlets that have distorted her study, to the point of having to give an interview telling these people to fuck off.
And still, 5 years later, these distortions persist despite the fact that the article has been cited by trans-antagonists so many times.
Error #1: The study found that gender affirmation increased/didn’t reduce rates of suicide, therefore gender affirmation is ineffective/harmful.
The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9).
“For controls of the same birth sex” ought to be printed on a giant neon billboard, as that unfathomably important comparison is lost in this error.
In other words, this only supports that trans people, even if they access gender affirmative care, are a higher risk of suicide than cisgender controls. Indeed, the study itself points out that it is not a comparison between trans folk who have and haven’t received affirmation care:
It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexual persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment. As an analogy, similar studies have found increased somatic morbidity, suicide rate, and overall mortality for patients treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This is important information, but it does not follow that mood stabilizing treatment or antipsychotic treatment is the culprit.
IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE STUDY. AND PEOPLE STILL THINK THIS STUDY SUPPORTS THEIR CONCLUSION THAT GENDER AFFIRMATION IS HARMFUL OR INEFFECTIVE. A;RKEHAEKTH;ALJET;LJ
That’s it. There isn’t some elaborate maze to guide you through, a slog of logical fallacies to hack apart as if their argument were the untamed wilds of an inner Brazilian jungle. They. Literally. Didn’t. Finish. Reading. The. Paper.
Error #2: Trans women exhibit “male patterns of criminality,” which means they’re at least as likely as cis men to commit sexual assault.
Second, regarding any crime, male-to-females had a significantly increased risk for crime compared to female controls (aHR 6.6; 95% CI 4.1–10.8) but not compared to males (aHR 0.8; 95% CI 0.5–1.2). This indicates that they retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime. By contrast, female-to-males had higher crime rates than female controls (aHR 4.1; 95% CI 2.5–6.9) but did not differ from male controls. This indicates a shift to a male pattern regarding criminality and that sex reassignment is coupled to increased crime rate in female-to-males. The same was true regarding violent crime.
Dhejne clarifies in her interview with TransAdvocate:
As to the criminality metric itself, we were measuring and comparing the total number of convictions, not conviction type. We were not saying that cisgender males are convicted of crimes associated with marginalization and poverty. We didn’t control for that and we were certainly not saying that we found that trans women were a rape risk. What we were saying was that for the 1973 to 1988 cohort group and the cisgender male group, both experienced similar rates of convictions. As I said, this pattern is not observed in the 1989 to 2003 cohort group.
This is harder to fit on a billboard, as every word is important. At the very least, Dhejne didn’t anticipate this particular bit of fuckery, so it wasn’t included in the original study.
What the study found was merely that trans women were as likely as cis men to be charged and prosecuted for crime, in general. The study never at any point compared the types of crimes for which the two groups were arrested, meaning being arrested for prostitution contributes to the statistic in the same way that an arrest for sexual assault would. And on top of that, this is only true of the older cohort–1973 to 1988–and that this pattern disappeared in the later cohort, corresponding with better healthcare as well as improved legal and social climates.
The mythical trans rapist trope is unlikely to budge any time soon, but basic fact checking about That Fucking Swedish Study has been circulated for over a year now. Please link people to the TA interview and this post when you see them pulling this shit again.