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Avi Ring vs. transgender people

Avi Ring was a Scandinavian physiologist and anti-transgender activist.

Ring founded Gender Identity Challenge (GENID) and was involved with anti-trans organizations Genspect and Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine (SEGM). Ring was a major proponent of the disputed disease “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.”

Background

Ring earned a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Ring then taught there as an associate professor and worked in cellular electrophysiology. At the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), Ring was a chief scientist, working on countermeasures to chemical warfare.

Ring and spouse Eva lived in the Lofthus borough of Oslo and had a transgender child named Jennifer (1985–2017). The family had a complicated relationship with Jennifer.

Anti-transgender activism

Ring’s child Jennifer transitioned at age 28. Jennifer dealt with a number of problems in living beyond trans issues, and committed suicide four years after transition, in 2017.

At the same time, Filter magazine profiled the case of Jennifer Ring, a 32-year-old trans woman who hanged herself four years after her surgery. An expert on psychosis who was shown her medical journal by her father, Avi Ring, was quoted as saying that she had shown clear signs of psychosis at the time she first sought treatment for gender dysphoria.

Indeed, the first clinic she approached refused to treat her, citing signs of schizotypal symptoms and lack of a history of gender dysphoria. But the team at Karolinska went ahead. “Karolinska don’t stop anyone; virtually 100% get sex reassignment,” says Ring.

Orange (2020)

Ring founded GENID: Gender Identity Challenge and began connecting with other parents skeptical of trans healthcare:

Gender Identity Challenge Scandinavia (GICS) are behind the push to change the public debate. Set up by retired neurophysiologist Ring, toxicologist Karin Svens and Norwegian teacher Marit Rønstad, they label themselves as a group of concerned parents. Other actors are psychiatrist Christopher Gillberg whose article in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet decried hormone treatment and surgery for young people. An investigative TV programme also attacked a hospital providing gender-affirming care. The campaign against securing access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans people along with media transphobia led to the Swedish government halting plans to change the age for young people to access gender-affirming care. In February 2022, the National Board of Health and Welfare issued new guidelines preventing young trans people accessing puberty blockers, arguing incorrectly that ‘costs outweigh the benefits’ and in disagreement with guidance from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health. This was in response to seeing a rise in people assigned female at birth accessing services.

Anti-trans actors tend to verge on social media, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They place themselves outside the pro-feminist and pro-LGBTI+ rights discourse in Sweden, which they see as undermining the state’s ability to protect people during the pandemic.

It is argued that this approach is not yet having the same impact as ‘gender critical’ groups in the UK or Spain because feminism is a less politically charged idea in Sweden than other European countries. Barring one, all political parties include feminism in their policies. However, this appears to be shifting and concerningly, the HOPE not Hate Charitable Trust found the Swedish general public expressed more anti-feminist sentiment than Poland (30%), the UK (28%), France (26%), Hungary (22%), Germany (19%) and the Netherlands (15%).

Rowlands (2023)

Ring served on a panel with the Norwegian Directory of Health during development of new trans treatment guidelines and lectured at both the Norwegian and Swedish Parliament seminars.

In 2020 Ring and William Malone published a letter criticizing a 2019 study by Richard Bränström and John E. Pachankis. In the first total population study of transgender people, Bränström and Pachankis found that for the 2,679 trans people on Sweden’s national patient register diagnosed with gender incongruence, “the longitudinal association between gender-affirming surgery and reduced likelihood of mental health treatment lends support to the decision to provide gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals who seek them.”

On September 25, 2023, anti-trans group Genspect announced Ring’s death. This was confirmed in a posthumous piece Ring wrote for Subjekt. Ring asked relatives to publish a piece arguing against banning conversion therapy in Norway under paragraph 270.

References

Madelene Pollnow, Mattias Göransson, Oskar Sonn Lindell (November, 18 2019). [Speed-blind] Fartblinda. Filter https://magasinetfilter.se/granskning/fartblinda/

Orange, Richard (February 22, 2020). Teenage transgender row splits Sweden as dysphoria diagnoses soar by 1,500%. The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/feb/22/ssweden-teenage-transgender-row-dysphoria-diagnoses-soar

Bränström R, Pachankis JE: Reduction in mental health treatment utilization among transgender individuals after gender-affirming surgeries: a total population study. Am J Psychiatry 2020; 177:727–734 https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19111169

Ring A, Malone WJ (2020). Letter: Confounding Effects on Mental Health Observations After Sex Reassignment Surgery. Am J Psychiatry 177:8, August 2020 https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19111169

Ring, Avi (October 14, 2023) [The Storting should not approve the ban on conversion therapy.] Stortinget bør ikke godkjenne forbudet mot konverteringsterapi. Subjekt https://subjekt.no/2023/10/14/stortinget-bor-ikke-godkjenne-forbudet-mot-konverteringsterapi/

Rowlands, Sebastian (2023) Landscape analysis: What we know on anti-gender movement measures and actors targeting trans people across Europe and Central Asia. TGEU https://tgeu.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/tgeu-agm-landscape-analysis-2023.pdf

Resources

Trans Data Library (transdatalibrary.org)

Twitter (twitter.com)

GENID Gender Identity Challenge Skandinavia (genderchallenge.no)

GENID Gender Identity Challenge Sweden (genid.se)