Fact check: Harvard course teaches infant sex development, not gender identity

The claim: Harvard is teaching medical students to treat transgender infants

A Jan. 12 Facebook post (direct link, archived link) by conservative commentator Charlie Kirk shows screenshots of an article posted on his website.

“Harvard Training Medical Students To Treat ‘Trans Infants,’” reads the headline of a blog post.

“In case no one told you, they’re after your kids,” the caption, written by Kirk, reads.

The post was shared more than 180 times within two weeks. Another version of the claim, citing a different conservative blog, was shared more than 30,000 times on TikTok.

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Our rating: False

The claim is false. Harvard Medical School said its course does not talk about gender identity or sexual orientation regarding infants. Instead, it teaches students about variations in sex development among infants.

Course in question teaches about sex development in infants, not gender identity

Kirk’s blog post, which has since been updated to include a correction, refers to a Harvard Medical School course titled, “Caring for Patients with Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities, and Sex Development.”

But contrary to the article's original claim, Harvard Medical School officials told USA TODAY in an email that the course does not discuss gender identity or sexual orientation in regards to infants.

“The course component pertaining to infants involves learning specifically about variations in sex development that can develop in utero and that children are born with,” the school said. “This includes best practices for supporting parents and families whose young child has variations in sex development, grounded in research evidence as well as principles of medical ethics.”

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A press release from the school explains these variations in infant sex development include "chromosomal, gonadal and anatomical variations, all of which are relevant to medical care and treatment to ensure healthy development."

Though these variations in sex development may affect different parts of the body, they all pertain to the reproductive system, said Dr. Susan Stred, professor emeritus of pediatric endocrinology at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

In this May 6, 2019, photo, Amie Schofield, rear, does her daughter Victory hair at their home in Ogden, Utah. Victory has XXY chromosomes. Amie and her husband decided to raise Victory without pushing either gender. There would be no surgery. At 18 months, Victory began gravitating toward dresses and bows, and loudly insisting on wearing her hair long.

One common variation in sex development, Stred said, is Klinefelter syndrome. Males born with this syndrome have an extra X chromosome and can experience sterility and low sex drive, according to the National Health Service.

Another variation infants can be born with is hypospadias, Stred said. This is when the urethra is not located at the tip of the penis and instead is found “anywhere from just below the end of the penis to the scrotum,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An updated version of Kirk's blog post is now headlined, "CORRECTION: Harvard Is Not Training Medical Students To Treat ‘Trans Infants,’" but his Facebook post with a screenshot of the original, false headline remains online.

USA TODAY reached out to Kirk for comment. The Twitter user provided no evidence to support the claim. The TikTok user could not be reached.

The Associated Press and PolitiFact also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Harvard teaching sex development, not baby gender identity