• Johns Hopkins University
    Johns Hopkins University
  • Anti-LGBT
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Dr. Paul McHugh has had a successful career as a psychiatrist spanning decades, but has also held profound beliefs and objections to sex reassignment surgery, and is widely considered to be “transphobic.” In his capacity as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins in 1979, McHugh ended gender reassignment surgery at the institution. McHugh has described his interactions with post-gender reassignment males, for example, as “caricatures of women.”[1]

Commenting on a couple’s decision in 2011 to accommodate their 11 year-old son’s desire to transition to a woman, and give him hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty, McHugh claimed that “this is child abuse. It’s like performing liposuction on an anorexic child.” He went on to argue that “it is a disorder of the mind. Not a disorder of the body.”[2] In an op-ed for the Wall Street journal, McHugh argued that “the transgendered suffer a disorder of ‘assumption’” and that “drastic physical change doesn’t address underlying psycho-social troubles,” that form the base of their issues.[3]

In September 2017, McHugh issued a statement in conjunction with the American College of Pediatricians, which is a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, arguing that “gender ideology harms children.”[4] It urged physicians, educators and legislators to “reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.”[5]

Following McHugh’s 2016 publication of a report on sexuality and gender, he was publicly disavowed by Johns Hopkins faculty members who wrote an open letter criticizing McHugh’s positions, opinions and faulty scholarship. In their authors’ opinions, “the report’s findings could further stigmatize and harm the health of LGBTQ communities, and the report is already being widely touted by organizations opposed to LGBTQ rights.”[6]

Now, nearly four decades after McHugh halted a pioneering transgender program at Johns Hopkins, arguing that he “concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with mental illness,” it is once again resuming sex reassignment surgeries.[7]





[1] McHugh, P.R. (Nov. 2004). Surgical Sex. Firth Things. Retrieved from https://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/11/surgical-sex

[2] Chiaramonte, P. (Oct. 17, 2011). Controversial Therapy for Pre-Teen Transgender Patient Raises Questions. Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/17/controversial-therapy-for-young-transgender-patients-raises-questions.html

[3] McHugh, P. (May 13, 2016). Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120

[4] Tannehill, B. (Mar. 20, 2016). John Hopkins Professor Endangers the Lives of Transgender Youth. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/johns-hopkins-professor-e_b_9510808.html

[5] American College of Pediatricians. (Sept. 2017). Gender Ideology Harms Children. Retrieved from http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children

[6] Beyrer, C., Blum, R.W., Poteat, T.C. (Sept. 28, 2016). Hopkins faculty disavow ‘troubling’ report on gender and sexuality. The Baltimore Sun. retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-lgbtq-hopkins-20160928-story.html

[7] Nutt, A.E., (April 5, 2017). Long shadow cast by psychiatrist on transgender issues finally recedes at Johns Hopkins. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/long-shadow-cast-by-psychiatrist-on-transgender-issues-finally-recedes-at-johns-hopkins/2017/04/05/e851e56e-0d85-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html?utm_term=.9311e28c6967

Associated Organizations:

National Academy of Medicine; The President’s Council on Bioethics; Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing (Program Director)

Social Profiles

Departmental Contact

James B. Potash, Director of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department


  • The Perspectives of Psychiatry (1998)
  • The Mind Has Mountains: Reflections on Society and Psychiatry (2006)
  • Try to Remember: Psychiatry’s Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind

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