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Harriet Hall

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Hall at the Australian Skeptics National Convention in 2016
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Harriet A. Hall (also known as The SkepDoc) (1945–2023) was a retired American family physician, blogger, and skeptic. She wrote for Science-Based Medicine, Skeptical Inquirer, Quackwatch, and Skeptic magazine (US). Hall also published two books titled Women Aren't Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and There's No Such Thing as the Tooth Fairy!, the latter of which was a children's book promoting skepticism.[1][2]

Unfortunately, she has been criticized by fellow bloggers as well as pro-trans activists for spreading misinformation about the recommended medical care for transgender people, elevating transphobic voices while minimizing or ignoring relevant experts, and using an anecdote as data.[3][4][5] One of her articles, for instance, gives cover for the garbage transphobic pseudoscience of autogynephilia, which is alarmingly tied to the TERF movement, under the pretense of not shooting the messenger.[6]

Hall died at age 77 in January 2023 following long-endured health issues, particularly heart problems. Online anti-vaccination activists reacted typically: purporting that her death must be evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.[7]

Irreversible Damage: Hall's reputation[edit]

On June 15th 2021, Hall published an uncritical book review of Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters to Science-Based Medicine, which has been criticized for spreading misinformation about the recommended medical care for transgender people.[8] On June 17th, that review, along with racking up criticism for glaring inaccuracies (such as the notion that in California, people can just get top surgery at their own whims and rarely get turned away), was redacted by Steven Novella and David Gorski because "there were too many issues with the treatment of the relevant science, and leaving the article up would not be appropriate given the standards of SBM."[9] The review was subsequently reposted in full on, with editor Michael Shermer, who, we remind you, has let hereditarianism proponent Frank MieleWikipedia pollute his website, citing Science-Based Medicine's "far-left progressive political bias that has compromised their otherwise stellar reputation as a trustworthy source" as a reason to keep it publicly viewable,[10] though that passage has been removed. The redaction has also attracted claims of "censorship", and Dr. Gorski himself has been accused of banking for "Big Trans", which is a new one after all the pharma shill accusations he gets.[11]

But no, Harriet Hall isn't a transphobe. She said so herself, so it must be true. And especially not after she's said these things:

The incidence of teen gender dysphoria is rising and seems to be linked to internet influences and social peer groups. The number of people identifying as lesbians is dropping. Therapists are accepting patients’ self-diagnoses unquestioningly, and irreversible treatments are being offered without therapist involvement. We know at least some of these patients will desist and detransition, and we have no way to predict which ones. Children are being instructed in how to lie to parents and doctors to coerce them into providing the treatments they want. Families are being destroyed.

Scaremongering about "destroying families" (even though chilling children to not express how they feel has actual damage) and the dropping amount of lesbians? The first part can be explained by "people meet with like minds through the Internet to get support from each other because the families are often not safe places to discuss such things". Wow, how terrible! Also, maybe people realize more identities exist and they more accurately describe how they are. How horrible.

Girls who previously would have been classified as tomboys or lesbians are now classified as transgender; sometimes the idea of transgender is first suggested by a therapist. In one school where 15 students had come out as transgender, there wasn’t a single lesbian. Shrier looked for instances where a counsellor suggested to a patient that they might be lesbian rather than transgender; she couldn’t find a single example. In the last decade, lesbians have seen the disappearance of lesbian bars and publications. Lesbians have been denigrated as transgender males who won’t admit they are supposed to be boys.

This whole obsession about lesbian numbers is the same rhetoric espoused by the staunch TERF lesbian "protectionists". Hall's language is also very indicative. A section called "mantra of trans influencers" and the "gurus" (again note the scaremongery wording; their advice is deemed a "mantra" and "influencing" as if they're brainwashing and misleading children) appears to misrepresent what the trans support communities aim to do. It's hard to tell since there's zero citations. A therapist suggesting a gender identity is also seen as a Bad Thing when therapists, being, well, therapists, simply encourage people to explore themselves. Therapists have also suggested that a patient might have ADHD, autism, be asexual, and more, so why is this bad to suggest being trans? Finally, there's this assumption that being a lesbian and being trans are two mutually exclusive concepts, and that trans people are "erasing" lesbians by existing. It's the same vein as suggesting that LGBT+ labels are erasing hetero people as people that originally thought were hetero but "wrong" now adopt a new label for themselves.

In California, students can opt out from sexual health education instruction but cannot opt out of gender identity and sexual identification instruction. Gender stereotypes are taught in kindergarten. Children are taught that they might have a girl brain in a boy body or vice versa; never mind that that is biologically nonsensical. Teens are asked to imagine what it would be like to be the other gender. When a child comes out as trans, schools frequently adopt their preferred new name and pronouns without informing the parents (ostensibly to protect the child’s privacy). The achievements of gender-nonconforming women are downplayed because they don’t count as true women.

This is in a section titled " The Schools are Not Helping", thus implying there's a problem. The "opting out" part additionally implies that students are "forced" into such instruction. The real issue is that why students can opt out of sex ed in the first place (well, we know, it's an unfounded compromise between providing vital health education and pandering to social conservatives imposing their beliefs on others). In addition, this section straight-up lies about the contents of California's curriculum, claiming it promotes gender stereotypes when the curriculum explicitly states it does the opposite[12].

One of the tasks of adolescence is establishing an identity. Adolescents are still trying to figure out who they are and which sex they are attracted to. Many of the adolescent girls who adopt a transgender identity have never had a single sexual or romantic experience and have never been kissed.

This one is stupid and feels irrelevant except maybe to talk down on trans people? This "many" number isn't even quantified. How many is "many"? Additionally, Hall is again confusing sexual preference with gender identity. "Many" cis girls, even have never had a single sexual or romantic experience either. The existence of a-spec girls (aromantic asexual identity for instance), which this passage also makes it appear there's something wrong with them, easily counter this, but "many" allosexual girls do have anecdotes of never having these experiences until even college.

Throughout the article, Hall uses some very questionable language: being trans as not a simple adjective for someone but implies some sort of choice or ideology. Being trans is "gender ideology", a "self-diagnosis", that therapists must accept. Adolescent trans girls are called "adolescent girls who adopt a transgender identity." Trans "influencers" "facilitate the discovery of a trans identity". "Clusters of adolescents are discovering transgender identities together and are clamoring for hormones and surgery."

Totally not transphobic though. Or, again, she's just quoting the crappy book (hopefully, but we have major doubts given her prior record of promoting medical misinformation about transgender people's healthcare[5]). It's hard to tell.

On June 30th, Steven Novella and David Gorski published part one in a series of posts to rebut Hall and Shrier's claims.[13] It points out Shrier used outdated definitions, equivocates between pre-pubescent and adolescent children, presents misinformation about the standard of care, dramatically inflates the number of transgender people who regret transitioning, points out both good evidence against Shrier's thesis of social contagion as well as that she has no evidence in favour of it, and that contrary to Dr. Hall's claims "denying gender-affirming care is likely the riskiest option" among those available. They ultimately conclude "Abigail Shrier’s narrative and, unfortunately, Dr. Hall’s review grossly misrepresent the science and the standard of care."

Nonetheless, both editors defend Dr. Hall.

Further, we wish to make it clear that Dr. Hall still remains an editor of SBM in good standing. She has worked tirelessly to promote SBM and its principles, contributing over 700 articles to SBM since 2008, all without any compensation or possibility of reward beyond public service. However, at SBM quality matters first, and so we have to remain open to correction when necessary.

It is also worth pointing that Shrier's book whitewashes the reputations of two disgraced researchers, while simultaneously using blurbs from both to help promote the book.[14] Shrier and Hall claim that the scientific record makes no mention of AFAB girls developing gender dysphoria before 2012, which a simple web search reveals is false.[15] Both invoke one study that they claim states shows gender-affirmative care leads to an increase in suicide rate, when in reality it demonstrates no such link. [16]

One wonders what it takes to become an editor in poor standing at Science-Based Medicine. Perhaps plagiarism would be enough? Several sentences from Shrier's book wind up in Hall's review, with no indication they were originally written by Shrier. That combined with the matching flow of ideas suggests Hall wrote portions of the review by copy-pasting notable sentences from Shrier's book into another document, then rephrasing those sentences to disguise their original source.[17].

The long article by Novella and Gorski pledged to bring in some experts on transgender people's health to write their own reviews Shrier's book. Three have been published by two authors, Rose Lovell and AJ Eckert.[18][19][20]. Jesse Singal claimed both authors promoted misinformation, and made grave errors like paraphrasing Shrier instead of quoting her directly, failing to acknowledge the sheer number of footnotes in Shrier's book, and refusing to accept that sex is binary.[21][22] Novella and Gorski allowed both authors to return to defend themselves, where they and the editors (presumably Novella or Gorski) point out his "weaponization of pedantry" [23] and call him out for recycling long-debunked myths about the health of transgender people.[24]

External links[edit]


  1. Harriet A. Hall, Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon]. iUniverse, 24 March 2008, ISBN 0595499589
  2. Steven Novella (January 15, 2023). "In Memoriam – Dr. Harriet Hall". Science-Based Medicine.
  3. Gender Dysphoria in Children Science-Based Medicine 11 September 2018
  4. Rapid-onset Gender Dysphoria and Squelching Controversial Evidence Science-Based Medicine 18 September 2018
  5. 5.0 5.1 Don't Do This, Skeptics Reprobate Spreadsheet 12 September 2018
  6. Harriet Hall, Shooting the Messenger: Activists Persecute Scientists Whose Findings They Don’t Like. Science-Based Medicine, 28 July 2020.
  7. David Gorski (January 16, 2023). "When antivax 'died suddenly' conspiracy mongering vultures target a friend and colleague". Science-Based Medicine.
  8. Amazon refuses to remove book claiming transitioning is an 'epidemic' among girls NBC News 5 May 2021
  9. Book Review: Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by Abigail Shrier Science-Based Medicine, 17 June 2021
  10. Hall, H. (18 June 2021) Trans Science: A review of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters Accessed June 19, 2021.
  11. @gorskon. (June 18, 2021). [1]. Twitter. Accessed June 19, 2021.
  12. Revised Draft Health Education Framework (May 2019 Revision), Chapter 3 California Department of Education. Accessed July 1st, 2021
  13. Novella, S. and Gorski, D. (30 June 2021) The Science of Transgender Treatment Science-Based Medicine. Accessed July 1st, 2021.
  14. Lies, Damn Lies, and Harriet Hall Reprobate Spreadsheet. Accessed July 1st, 2021
  15. Google Scholar: "girls gender dysphoria," before 2011 Google Scholar. Accessed July 1st, 2021
  16. Fact check: study shows transition makes trans people suicidal TransAdvocate. Accessed July 1st, 2021
  17. hjhornbeck Harriet Hall is no Skeptic Reprobate Spreadsheet. Accessed September 10th, 2021
  18. Lovell, R. Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: A Wealth of Irreversible Misinformation Science-Based Medicine. Accessed July 8th, 2021
  19. Eckert, AJ. Irreversible Damage to the Trans Community: A Critical Review of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage (Part One) Science-Based Medicine. Accessed July 8th, 2021
  20. Eckert, AJ. Irreversible Damage to the Trans Community: A Critical Review of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (Part Two) Science-Based Medicine. Accessed September 10th, 2021
  21. How Science-Based Medicine Botched Its Coverage Of The Youth Gender Medicine Debate Jesse Singal. Accessed September 10th, 2021
  22. Science-Based Medicine's Coverage Of "Irreversible Damage" Included About 19 Errors, False Claims About Three Sex Researchers, Made-Up Quotes, And Endless Misinformation Jesse Singal. Accessed September 10th, 2021
  23. Lovell, R. About those “19 errors,” part one Science-Based Medicine. Accessed September 10th, 2021
  24. Eckert, AJ About those “19 Errors,” Part Two Science-Based Medicine. Accessed September 10th, 2021