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Transgender community needs compassion and support, not critique

A sign on the campus of the University of Rhode Island, in South Kingstown, R.I. The school community has been reacting to an essay by a women's studies professor espousing perspectives viewed as anti-transgender.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Re “URI students say essay caused shock, hurt: Professor compares ‘gender identity movement’ to QAnon conspiracy” (Metro, March 26): Regarding the outcry at the University of Rhode Island in response to the essay by professor Donna Hughes, which called into question the legitimacy of tenets of the gender identity movement, it is critical that open and respectful debate be maintained regarding transgender issues. Among the reasons for tolerance is the need to more effectively address the significant mental health difficulties of transgender individuals.

Many youth and young adults who are transgender struggle with severe symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as profound feelings of shame, humiliation, and rejection. They are among the most stigmatized minorities in society. Of particular concern are the dramatically elevated rates of recurrent and chronic suicidality and the frequent need for emergency mental health care among young people with issues surrounding gender identity.


Despite the disagreements and spectrum of opinion about the meaning and significance of gender dysphoria, there should be a consistent and unified message of compassion and support to bolster efforts to develop more effective harm reduction interventions for these at-risk individuals.

Jerrold Pollak

Portsmouth, N.H.

The writer is a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist and an emergency services clinician.