Psychiatrist Paul McHugh launched a transgender program about four decades ago. Today, McHugh’s institution is back to the starting point, with the resurgence of gender-reassignment surgeries.
McHugh was the chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1975 to 2001. He believes that transgender is generally a psychological circumstance and continues to exert tremendous influence in certain circles. McHugh earned the title of the University Distinguished Service Professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine and is quoted frequently on gender issues in the conservative media.
“I’m not against transgender people,” he said recently, stressing that he is “anxious they get the help they need.” But such help should be psychiatric rather than surgical, he maintains.
Moving past McHugh, Johns Hopkins will officially open a transgender health service and restart a surgical program after a 38-year break. In 1966, Hopkins became the country’s first “change-of-sex operations” facility, but halted those surgeries in 1979 after a study by Jon Meyer was published. Meyer operated the hospital Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at the hospital. The study suggested that “sex-change” surgery was “subjectively satisfying” for the small number of participants surveyed. However, Meyer concluded that the operations provided “no objective advantage in terms of social rehabilitation.”
“With these facts in hand,” McHugh later wrote, “I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness.”
Hopkins shut its gender-identity clinic down two months later. Other academic hospitals followed suit, quoting Meyer’s research, when they discontinued their transgender surgical programs.
Johns Hopkins unveiled to its plan to relaunch its transgender program in July and reiterated it on the health system’s website. The program will provide gender-diverse people of all ages with related education and preparation services for gender confirmation surgeries.
McHugh lobbied for over 30 years to keep gender confirmation surgery from becoming a Medicaid benefit. However, he does support the surgery for those born with an intersex condition, where there is discrepancy between the internal and external genitals.