Paul McHugh on transsexualism

Paul Rodney McHugh (born 1931) is an American psychiatrist who is a key historical figure in the academic pathologization of sex and gender minorities.

A noted Catholic conservative, McHugh famously shut down the gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins in 1979, based on a follow-up study by Jon Meyer that claimed there was no real benefit to these services.[1] McHugh argues that gender variance is essentially a lifestyle choice or an ideology, and that offering trans health services is effectively collaborating in a patient's delusion. He has described it as akin to giving liposuction to an anorexic person.



Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he is the son of a high school teacher and a housewife. "McHugh describes himself as religiously orthodox, politically liberal (he is a Democrat) and culturally conservative -- a believer in marriage and the Marines, a supporter of institutions and family values." [2]

McHugh received his undergraduate degree from Harvard in 1952 and his medical degree at Harvard Medical School in 1956. He served as head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Oregon Medical School in the early 1970s, at the time when progressive psychiatrist Ira Pauly was also there. In 1975 he was appointed Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

A member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, McHugh is currently co-chairman of the Ethics Committee at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He has also served on the board of The American Scholar until resigning in objection to an article.

In the 1992 article "Psychiatric Misadventures," McHugh outlines his distaste for three "fashions" -- the anti-psychiatry movement, sex-change surgery and the theory of multiple-personality disorder. None, in his view, addresses what really ails patients; the result has been prolonged treatment with dubious results.

McHugh is a proponent of the concept of "autogynephilia," a paraphilia created by Ray Blanchard in 1989:

The "transgender" activists (now often allied with gay liberation movements) still argue that their members are entitled to whatever surgery they want, and they still claim that their sexual dysphoria represents a true conception of their sexual identity. They have made some protests against the diagnosis of autogynephilia as a mechanism to generate demands for sex-change operations, but they have offered little evidence to refute the diagnosis. Psychiatrists are taking better sexual histories from those requesting sex-change surgery and are discovering more examples of this strange male exhibitionist proclivity. [3]

McHugh has been a proponent of the concept of schizophrenia, another controversial diagnosis, since the 1970s. He has been involved in work seeking genetic markers for the behavior. In this work, he has published with Malgorzata Lamacz, a former John Money collaborator on paraphilia at Johns Hopkins.

McHugh attacks anything he dislikes with the zeal of a fanatic. In 2007 he was ordered by Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison to stop making public statements about physician George Tiller's work. McHugh disapproved of Tiller's work providing abortion services. Tiller was later murdered by a fanatic who was influenced by public statements made about Tiller.

McHugh is also known for his work defending Catholic priests against sex abuse charges. He was a founder and board member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, and he was named to a lay panel assembled by the Roman Catholic Church in 2002 to look into sexual abuse by priests, which led to protests from victims' rights groups.

"McHugh, after all, is the man whose report to the court in one case stated that a defendant's harassing phone calls were not obscene -- including the call that detailed a fantasy of a 4-year-old sex slave locked in a dog cage and fed human waste. At least eight men have been convicted of sexually abusing Maryland children while under treatment at the "sex disorders" clinic McHugh runs at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine -- abuse the doctors did not report, citing client confidentiality. When Maryland law was changed to require that doctors report child molestation, the clinic fought it and advised patients on how to get around the law. [4]

McHugh added:

''What did surprise me was the response of the world out there: that they somehow thought Catholics wouldn't be infuriated by this and do their best to stop it,'' he said. ''I mean, I grew up in a little Catholic ghetto up in Massachusetts back in the 30's. If there'd been anything like that there, there would've been broken heads amongst the priests.''

The New York Times adds, "Of course, it did happen in Massachusetts. A growing number of Catholics in that state are calling for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, after disclosures in The Boston Globe that the Archdiocese of Boston had moved a priest, accused of being a child molester, from parish to parish." [5]

It's worth noting that in his defense of obscene phone calls made by American University President Richard Berendzen in 1992, McHugh oversaw recovering memories with the use of sodium amytal, and said that Berendzen suffered from "a kind of post-traumatic disorder," [6] two concepts McHugh has questioned in other cases.


McHugh attacking physician George Tiller in 2007 before McHugh was threatened with legal action by the Kansas Attorney General. Tiller was later murdered.

McHugh has spent his career imposing his religious beliefs on the bodies of others and on the practices of peers. One Tiller patient was a 10-year-old girl, 28 weeks pregnant, who had been raped by an adult relative. McHugh said that while the girl’s case was “terrible,” it did not change his assessment: “She did not have something irreversible that abortion could correct.” [7]

In this section

Paul McHugh's views on trans people: in his own words and reported by others

Paul McHugh bibliography

Paul McHugh's peer-reviewed journal articles


1. Staff report (August 27, 1979). Sexes: Role Reversal. Time.,9171,920579,00.html

2. Goode, Erica (August 5, 2002). Psychiatrist Says He Was Surprised by Furor Over His Role on Abuse Panel. New York Times

3. McHugh, Paul (). The Mind Has Mountains, p. 227.

4. Math, Mara J. (September 20, 2002). Dubious choice for resolving church scandal. San Francisco Chronicle

5. Barry, Dan and Robin Toner (March 24, 2002). U.S. Catholics, Sad and Angry, Still Keeping Faith. New York Times

6. Simon RI, Shuman DW, eds. (2002). Retrospective Assessment of Mental States in Litigation: Predicting the Past . American Psychiatric Pub, ISBN 9781585620012

7. Barstow, David (July 25, 2009). An abortion battle, fought to the death. New York Times