HRC Launches Website Debunking the Junk Science of Anti-LGBTQ Extremists’ Favorite Fake 'Expert'

by Sarah McBride

Paul McHugh’s dangerous faux-scientific writings being peddled as basis for attacks on LGBTQ people.

Today, the HRC Foundation launched McHugh Exposed, a website that pulls back the curtain on the anti-LGBTQ myths and junk science being peddled by Dr. Paul McHugh, the go-to ‘expert’ for anti-equality extremists. The resource includes a detailed timeline of how McHugh’s hateful and damaging essays have been used to target and attack LGBTQ people and a new video featuring renowned LGBTQ health expert, Dr. Tonia Poteat. It can be found at

McHugh’s false, non-scientific assertions have been used by anti-equality activists in state legislatures and courtrooms to defend discrimination against LGBTQ people. Recently, McHugh’s opinions were featured in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States opposing the rights of transgender students like Gavin Grimm, a Virginia teenager who filed suit against his school board alleging it violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom. The case was recently sent back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a new hearing.

Additionally, anti-equality activists continue to reference McHugh’s specious claims in Congressional hearings and legislative debates -- even making their way into the media.

“Paul McHugh’s writings continue to dangerously undermine the safety, security and wellbeing of LGBTQ people, and particularly transgender youth, across the country,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Vice President for Research, Training, and Programs. “McHugh’s junk science is still being referenced in legislative and legal battles despite the fact that Paul McHugh has no academic expertise in either gender or sexual orientation, and actively avoids publishing any of his anti-LGBTQ pieces in peer-reviewed journals. Policy makers, informed citizens and parents deserve to know that this is junk science and personal opinion - not at all in the mainstream of current medical and academic research and not endorsed by Johns Hopkins regardless of how McHugh uses his title to suggest credibility or expertise.”

The extensive new website includes a video that features acclaimed LGBTQ health expert Dr. Tonia Poteat, who debunks key myths about gender identity and sexual orientation, explains the central role of peer review in the scientific process, and outlines McHugh’s failure to engage in this vital aspect of rigorous scientific research. McHugh’s writings have been published by religious magazines and political think tanks, not credible scientific journals, allowing him to circumvent the vital review and evaluation of the broader scientific community. highlights how LGBTQ health experts and other scientists have pushed back against these tactics, making clear that McHugh ignores broad scientific consensus on a range of issues.

In August of 2016, McHugh and biostatistician Lawrence Mayer published a 116-page “special report” on gender and sexual orientation in The New Atlantis, a conservative bioethics magazine. The report made a number of claims that have long been rejected by gender and sexuality researchers. While the report’s falsehoods attack the entire LGBTQ community, McHugh’s history reflects particular animus toward transgender people, including collaborating with an organization designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and penning opinion articles mocking people who transition as “caricatures,” “counterfeits,” “impersonators,” “confused” and “mad.”

The personal ideology McHugh is pushing runs contrary to the overwhelming medical consensus endorsed by leading medical organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. In March, researchers at Vanderbilt University released a joint letter with nearly 600 LGBTQ health experts, scholars, and medical providers denouncing McHugh’s positions. HRC recently deducted 25 points from Johns Hopkins Hospital, the healthcare facility associated with McHugh’s home institution, Johns Hopkins University, for its failure to make clear that the hospital disagrees with McHugh’s hateful work and to explicitly affirm Hopkin’s commitment to abide by the medical consensus and established standards of care when it comes to the treatment of transgender patients.

To learn about Paul McHugh and anti-LGBTQ junk science, visit