JULY 13, 2019
“What we live through, in any age, is the effect on us of mass emotions and of social conditions from which it is almost impossible to detach ourselves. Often the mass emotions are those which seem the noblest, best and most beautiful. And yet, inside a year, five years, a decade, five decades, people will be asking, ‘How could they have believed that?’ because events will have taken place that will have banished the said mass emotions to the dustbin of history.”
–Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (1987)
The epidemic of supposed gender dysphoria among children and adolescents—“transgenderism”—has often been described as a cult. The designation is in some ways apt. Though lacking a charismatic leader usually found in such movements, other expert descriptions of cults certainly apply: “designed to destabilize an individual’s sense of self by undermining his or her basic consciousness, reality awareness, beliefs and worldview, [and] emotional control.” Cults also lead the target to believe that “anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt can be reduced by adopting the concepts put forth by the group.” The promise is a “new identity” that will solve all problems, even as it separates one from family and previous life.
This is especially true in cases of so-called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, in which previously normal teenagers (usually girls) suddenly announce their desire to transition to the opposite sex. It is readily apparent how a teenager struggling with severe or even common adolescent angst could be lured into such a group.
Perhaps transgenderism is better described as a form of “social contagion.” This term refers to “the spread of ideas, feelings and, some think, neuroses through a community or group by suggestion, gossip, imitation, etc.” The explosion of cases of gender dysphoria, previously an exceedingly rare condition, over the last few years has coincided with a meteoric increase in sympathetic attention to the topic in regular and social media—thus suggesting social contagion. Parents whose children “come out” as transgender when their friends do certainly agree with this explanation.
Individuals who have been ensnared in but escaped from the transgender movement describe it as an ideology, with elements of both the political and the religious. The devotion to the ideology is so deep that, as one psychiatrist describes the mindset, “[a]nyone who hesitates in supporting transition and [sex-reassignment surgery] is a dinosaur committed to an outgrown, inherently discriminatory understanding of trans persons and needs to be defeated in court or in the public arena.”
And yet these descriptions—cult, social contagion, ideology—fail to capture the uniqueness and enormity of what is happening with the transgender movement. Past and current cults have seduced their victims into losing all sense of reality and embracing bizarre and dangerous beliefs; social contagions and mass crazes have affected large groups of seemingly intelligent individuals; ideologies have taken hold that have altered societies and cost lives. But now we are facing something different.
Previous cultish or similar social phenomena have generally been limited to some degree by time, space, or eventual return of the senses. But Western civilization is now gripped by a cultural cyclone that is blowing through such limitations with totalitarian force. Transgenderism has shaken the foundations of all we know to be true. Scientific knowledge is rejected and medical practice co-opted in service of a new “reality”—that “gender” is independent of sex, that males and females of any age, even young children, are entitled to their own transgender self-identification based only on their feelings, and that literally every individual and every segment of society must bow to their chosen identity at risk of losing reputation, livelihood, and even freedom itself.
Remarkably, this revolution is happening without any credible scientific evidence to support it. The concept of changing one’s biological sex is, of course, nonsense, as sex is determined by unalterable chromosomes. An individual can change his hormone levels and undergo surgery to better imitate the opposite sex, but a male on the day of his conception will remain a male on the day of his death. And as discussed below, the idea that there is a real personal trait called “gender” that challenges or invalidates the identity significance of biological sex is equally fallacious. But the absence of genuine evidence is simply ignored, and faux “evidence” is created to validate the mania.
So far. But there are signs of cracks in the grand edifice of transgenderism. As Dr. Malcolm warned in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So does reality. At some point it will reassert itself, and we will ask how this ever could have happened.
The Science of Sex and Gender Identity
Before exploring the revolution, it is necessary to outline briefly the science in the area of sex and gender identity. According to guidelines of the National Institutes of Health (which itself is currently funding ethically dubious studies related to the treatment of gender-dysphoric patients), grant applicants for health studies must consider sex as a biological variable “defined by characteristics encoded in DNA, such as reproductive organs and other physiological and functional characteristics.” Human sex “is a binary, biologically determined, and immutable trait from conception forward.”
Although certain rare congenital disorders of sexual development (“intersex” disorders) can result in ambiguity about biological sex, there is no “spectrum” of sex along which human beings can be found. Biological sex is binary. According to University of California–Santa Barbara evolutionary biologist Dr. Colin Wright, “The claim that classifying people’s sex upon anatomy and genetics ‘has no basis in science’ has itself no basis in reality, as any method exhibiting a predictive accuracy of over 99.98 percent would place it among the most precise methods in all the life sciences.”
By contrast, “gender identity” is a psychological phenomenon, not an immutable characteristic, and not found anywhere in the body, brain, or DNA. There is no medical test that can detect it. Because twin studies show the infrequency of both genetically identical twins’ suffering gender dysphoria, the condition clearly is not genetic. Nor is there any evidence to support the common claim that a patient has a “girl’s brain in a boy’s body,” or vice versa, as repeated in media sensations such as I Am Jazz. To the contrary, every cell of a male’s brain has a Y chromosome and every cell of a female’s brain has two X chromosomes, which is true regardless of whether the individual “feels like” the opposite sex. Any “evidence” of an innate gender identity is utterly fictitious; to the contrary, there is much unrefuted evidence that various psychological and environmental factors are determinative.
Not only can the feeling change, research shows that it does so in a great majority of cases (at least for child patients). For example, children with gender dysphoria who are allowed to experience natural puberty will come to accept their sex by adulthood in 61 to 98 percent of cases. By contrast, children who are subjected to transitioning treatments such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones (discussed below) almost always go on to live as transgender adults. Data on the persistence rate of adult patients is unreliable, primarily because so many patients are lost to follow up. But many of those patients are increasingly seeking medical help to reverse the procedures.
There is no evidence that so-called gender-affirming treatment (GAT) has any positive effect on the long-term psychological well-being of individuals who suffer gender dysphoria. Such people do, in fact, have high rates of suicide before treatment (with the rate of suicide attempts nine times the rate of the general population). But a study from Sweden, a highly “affirming” country for citizens who consider themselves transgender, shows that undergoing GAT does not reduce the suicide rate for these patients. In fact, their rate of completed suicide was found to be 19 times the rate for the general population.
The History of “Gender Identity”
In light of the dearth of credible scientific support, where did the concepts of gender identity and transgenderism come from? Origins rest in a group of “sexologists” of the 1950s, prominent among them German-born endocrinologist Dr. Harry Benjamin and PhD psychologist Dr. John Money.
Until that time, the psychoanalytic professions considered the desire to be a member of the opposite sex as a (rare) disorder to be treated with psychotherapy. Benjamin, however, theorized that this desire indicated “a unique illness distinct from transvestism and homosexuality . . . and not amenable to psychotherapy.” He called this condition “transsexualism” and urged its treatment with “sex reassignment” surgery (a longstanding interest of his, dating back to his early-career fascination with efforts to change surgically the sex of guinea pigs). Perhaps related to his own unsatisfactory personal experience with psychotherapy, “Benjamin forever after deplored psychoanalysis as unscientific.” He thus ignored (according to his own case-history write-ups) blatant signs of psychopathology in the patients whom he treated medically for confusion about their sex.
Like Benjamin, Dr. Money of Johns Hopkins University designated transsexualism a condition to be treated medically rather than psychologically. Money changed the terminology used, co-opting the term “gender” from the realm of grammar (i.e., the classification of nouns by which they are designated masculine, feminine, or neuter, in certain languages), to now mean “the social performance indicative of an internal sexed identity.” In other words, Money decreed that an individual could have a “gender” that differed from his or her biological sex. “Transsexual” thus became “transgender.”
The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) describes the linguistic innovation as follows:
From a purely scientific standpoint, human beings possess a biologically determined sex and innate sex differences. No sexologist could actually change a person’s genes through hormones and surgery. Sex change is objectively impossible. [Sexologists’] solution was to hijack the word gender and infuse it with a new meaning that applied to persons.
There is not and never has been any scientific basis for Money’s dichotomy between gender and sex, interpreted as the idea that a person can be born into the “wrong” body. (As pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Quentin Van Meter puts it, “There is zero point zero zero” science behind the concept.) Yet Money’s social–political construct now dominates medicine, psychiatry, academia, and the culture at large.
Money’s enthusiasm for administering irreversible medical treatments to transgender patients led Johns Hopkins to establish one of the earliest programs for that purpose, enlisting psychiatrists, psychologists, endocrinologists, and surgeons. Under their ministrations, patients underwent hormone treatments and surgery to amputate healthy organs and create faux new ones. Despite ethical objections from psychoanalysts and many surgeons (“it is one thing to remove diseased tissue and quite another to amputate healthy organs because emotionally disturbed patients request it”), Johns Hopkins forged ahead with the experimental practice.
Not until 1979 was Johns Hopkins Chief of Psychiatry Paul McHugh―a physician who recognizes the psychological basis of gender dysphoria and who characterizes the possibility of sex change as “starkly, nakedly false”―able to shut down the program. But McHugh is no longer the chief of psychiatry, and the zeitgeist barrels ahead; so “in solidarity with the LGBT community” (note the political language), the program has recently been revived.
Other surgeons and hospitals lacked the scruples of Dr. McHugh. By the early 1970s, so-called sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) was becoming routine, leading the director of the gender-identity clinic at UCLA to declare that “the critical question is no longer whether sex reassignment for adults should be performed, but rather for whom?” Medical institutions have scrambled to add to the proliferation of gender clinics in response to, as admitted by a Dallas endocrinologist, “patient demand” rather than medical necessity.
With respect to what used to be classified as “gender identity disorder” (GID), medical associations have bent to the prevailing political winds. In 2013 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed the DSM-5 to replace GID with “gender dysphoria,” a term that now focuses not on the psychological basis for a patient’s rejection of his sex but rather on the distress produced by that rejection. If there is no distress, reasons the APA, there is no problem—it is perfectly normal, and certainly not a “disorder,” for a person to refuse to acknowledge the significance of his or her body. The “stigma” supposedly disappears.
(The APA has so far resisted the demands of some transgender activists to “de-pathologize” the condition completely. The absence of a recognized diagnosis means the absence of insurance coverage. So in the professional literature, transgenderism occupies an uneasy limbo between a psychiatric condition and a normal state of human identity. Someone has to pay for these expensive “re-assignment” procedures.)
The American Psychological Association’s guidelines acknowledge that not all clinicians believe in affirming the beliefs of gender-confused patients (at least when those patients are children), but they largely adopt the agenda of the transgender radicals. The organization states flatly that “gender is a nonbinary construct that allows for a range of gender identities, and that a person’s gender identity may not align with sex assigned at birth.” Having adopted this manifestly unscientific foundation, they go on to build their house of cards around a political rather than medical scaffold.
The political reclassification of gender dysphoria has gone global, with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) May 2019 decision to remove the condition from the list of mental disorders and refer to it as “gender incongruence.” WHO explained this move as necessary to remove discrimination against dysphoric individuals and declared that their right to GAT should be guaranteed.
Transgender orthodoxy (or ideology or theology) has thus seized Western society with absolutely no basis in fact. It is difficult to identify any comparable cultural phenomenon at any point in history. Nations have been engulfed by political movements such as National Socialism, based on fabricated science about racial identities, but those movements were different in kind from the transgender revolution. Even totalitarian political systems are built less on broad citizen acceptance than on the naked power of the armed State. By contrast, transgenderism is defeating reality without firing a shot.
At various points in history, the field of medicine has embraced evidence-free practices, such as lobotomies in the early twentieth century, as has the field of psychotherapy (phrenology, for example). But in none of these cases did the professions as a whole demand absolute acceptance of, and perhaps participation in, the groundless doctrines. Instead, the practices were confined to a narrower group of experimenters who had limited and only temporary success against the reality of science and common sense.
This is not the case with transgenderism. Supposedly sophisticated and highly trained medical professionals across the spectrum now not only ignore the absence of evidence, they deny even facts that have been obvious to every sane human being since creation.
Actual physicians now declare under oath that there is no physical basis for determining whether a human being is male or female. Dr. Deanna Adkins, a professor at Duke University School of Medicine and the director of a new Duke-affiliated gender clinic, testified in a North Carolina court, “From a medical perspective, the appropriate determinant of sex is gender identity. . . . It is counter to medical science to use chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics to override gender identity for purposes of classifying someone as male or female.” This would come as a surprise to the millions of doctors and billions of other normal people who have been classifying individuals that way since the beginning of time.
This politically based insistence that black is white has enshrined treatments that are extraordinarily damaging to patient health, both physical and mental. Pediatricians refer dysphoric children to complicit endocrinologists, who administer hormones with harmful and often irreversible consequences, who then refer the children to complicit surgeons, who wield the scalpel to remove healthy organs and create pathetic, non-functioning replicas of others. Psychiatrists or psychologists may be involved, but often only to rubber-stamp the patient’s supposed need for the radical treatments. Gender clinics spring up like mushrooms after a shower of acid rain.
Professional medical societies cower before these activists and create guidelines based not on science but on politics. Dissenting physicians are bullied into silence, leading the outside world to believe the lie that the medical profession as a whole supports the “affirmation” of gender identity as incongruent with biological sex. Medical ethicists muse that physicians’ participation in these schemes should be required as a condition of licensure.
Claiming a place among actual medical societies, and presenting itself as the gold standard in transgender treatment, is the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). WPATH purports to be the voice of medical experts on this issue but operates more as a political-advocacy organization―no professional degree of any kind is required for membership. Despite the “all comers” approach to membership, WPATH’s guidelines for treatment are considered gospel in some parts of the medical profession.
A noteworthy aspect of WPATH’s 2011 revision of its Standards of Care was its encouragement of a new paradigm for obtaining informed consent from patients. As described by Dr. Stephen Levine, a psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine:
[The new model] asserted that patients know best what they need to be happy, generally meaning that patient autonomy is the singular ethical consideration for informed consent. . . . This includes children and adolescents. The mental health professionals’ roles in recognition and treatment of the highly prevalent psychiatric co-morbidities and decisions about readiness were de-emphasized, particularly by the pronouncement that there is nothing pathological about any state of gender expression.
According to WPATH, then, doctors are to sublimate their ethical concerns about treatment of dysphoric patients to the current desires of those patients.
WPATH has spawned USPATH, which openly proclaimed the political mission of its 2017 conference: to “stand as a strong statement of support for continuing the rapid developments in trans health in America, and for the community of health providers, researchers, and advocates who are advancing that care.” At that conference, organizers bowed to threats of violence from transgender radicals and cancelled the appearance of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist who takes the apparently loathsome position that patients will generally be happier if they can be reconciled with their biological sex. The only concern among these supposedly objective professionals about how to silence Zucker’s lone skeptical voice was how to do it without getting sued.
Transgender activists in the medical profession go a step further: They even support legislative prohibitions on what they call “conversion therapy.” This means psychiatrists and other psychotherapists are banned from even exploring with a patient the underlying psychological basis for the dysphoria. To paraphrase Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul McHugh, referring a gender-dysphoric patient for “affirming” therapy is similar to referring an anorexic patient for liposuction. But doctors in the new gender industry collude with the political gender radicals to ban the very psychiatric treatment that could spare a patient a lifetime of warring with his own body.
Just as history offers no parallel for the moral and professional rot in the medical field, it contains nothing comparable in the wider culture:
• The transgender revolution has captured all categories of government, with legislative, executive, and judicial branches rushing to impose policies preferred by the activists.
• It has captured the media, which dutifully present the radical ideology as the new normal and paint opponents with a hostile tinge. Social-media giants such as Twitter routinely censor any content deemed insensitive to dysphoric people, even a simple statement of truth such as “men aren’t women.”
• It has taken over public and some private schools, from preschool through higher education. If a student claims he’s transgender, he is, and all students and personnel must treat him as a member of his newly chosen sex.
• It has taken over American business, with requirements (sometimes self-imposed, and frequently in response to well-funded bullying) for public pledges of allegiance to the new orthodoxy. Corporations are now urged not only to support the concept but to apply pressure in the public square against dissenters.
• It has corrupted religion, especially mainline Protestantism, by replacing Scriptural teachings with the dogma of narcissistic choice and entitlement.
• It has corrupted athletics, with biological males now allowed to compete against smaller, slower, less muscular women and girls to the inevitable detriment of the female athletes.
• It has corrupted the law, with statutes that were enacted without any thought of gender identity now being interpreted to elevate the “rights” of the dysphoric over those of other citizens. Even the federal statute that was enacted to protect girls’ access to meaningful participation in sports (Title IX) has now been inverted to protect the male invaders of girls’ teams.
• It has corrupted research, with the federal government now funding unethical and unprofessional research projects that are designed to support a particular outcome rather than arrive at scientific truth. Further, it has ginned up outrage at any research that reaches conclusions contrary to transgender dogma.
• It has corrupted language, with demands for false and fabricated pronouns to refer to transgender individuals, and with enforced redefinition of basic terms such as “man,” “woman,” “father,” and “mother.” What even radicals referred to ten years ago as “physical sex” or “biological sex” is now routinely deemed “sex assigned at birth,” as though the attending obstetrician recorded whichever sex first came to mind.
• It has trampled religious freedom, including the rights of couples who wish to adopt or foster children and the organizations that help them. Unless these individuals and organizations agree to speak and act in accordance with transgender mandates—to deny their most fundamental beliefs—they will be forced out of these critical childcare and family-formation programs.
Perhaps most seriously, it has bulldozed the ancient, fundamental rights of parents to protect and guide their children. The Obama administration issued guidance recommending that school officials not notify parents whose child is experiencing gender confusion; and though that guidance is no longer in effect, keeping parents in the dark remains the rule in some states. Parents who do know of the problem but reject the notion that their child is trapped in the wrong body are subjected to emotional blackmail directed by the “experts,” who, of course, profit from this new industry. Warned that without hormones and surgery their child will commit suicide, parents are told bluntly that their choice is between a “live daughter and a dead son,” or vice versa. If they still refuse to consent to what they know will harm their child, the government may strip them of custody. When the medical and governmental establishment excludes the natural protector of a child—the person who knows and loves him more than anyone else on earth—from decisions that can literally ruin the child’s life, civilization itself is undermined.
During the decades after the widely publicized “sex change” of Christine (né George William) Jorgensen in 1952, medical experimentation in this realm was largely confined to adult patients. There was no serious attempt to medicalize children confused about their sex (to the extent there were such children—statistics from 2011 estimated that only 0.2 to 0.3 percent of the adult population suffered gender dysphoria, so presumably the percentage of children was even smaller). But a particularly disturbing feature of the current transgender mania is the insistence that even very young children can “know” they are of the opposite sex, with the resulting conclusion that they are entitled to medical assistance in permanently transforming their bodies to match their feelings.
The modern treatment regimen for gender-dysphoric children originated with Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist who founded the nation’s first gender clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. The process includes potentially four steps: “social transition,” in which the confused child is referred to by a new name and new pronouns and is allowed to dress and otherwise act as a member of the opposite sex; suppression of natural puberty by administering puberty-blockers called GnRH agonists, which supposedly will give the child more time to decide on further transitioning steps before his or her body can develop naturally into sexual maturity; “hormonal transition,” the administration of powerful physiology-manipulating, cross-sex hormones; and then “surgical transition.”
The undisputed physical effects of this GAT are shocking. According to massive research compiled by the American College of Pediatricians, administering cross-sex hormones and puberty-blockers carries enormous risks: heart disease, blood clots, strokes, arrested bone growth, osteoporosis, cancer, crippling joint pain, depression, and suicidal ideation. Interference with normal puberty and sexual maturation, which results from both puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones, will also cause sterility and permanent sexual dysfunction. These are merely the known effects; because this type of treatment is so new, long-term consequences are unknown. GnRH agonists are not FDA-approved to inhibit normal puberty and are used off-label for this purpose.
The surgery (SRS) is gruesome. Female patients may be given hysterectomies, vaginectomies, and double mastectomies—all of the removed organs, of course, perfectly healthy—and some surgeons are stripping skin from girls’ forearms to create non-functioning replicas of penises. Sex organs (penis, testicles, scrotum) of a male patient are removed, and a faux vagina is created that must be kept openwith a dilator to prevent the wound from collapsing on itself and healing.
In other words, these “affirming” doctors battle against normal systems of the human body, which retaliates by fighting off the intrusions. Patients will be engaged in this war for the rest of their lives.
An objective observer would assume that doctors who participate in GAT are pushing or overstepping the boundaries of acceptable medical practice, risking discipline from the governing authorities. In the current political environment, not so. In 2017 the Endocrine Society issued guidelines that allow treatment of dysphoric children and adolescents with puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones despite the known and as yet unknown health risks.
Though the guidelines are replete with admonitions to “monitor” various aspects of the patient’s health during GAT and to involve mental-health professionals in largely unspecified ways, the only thing they advise an endocrinologist not to do is administer puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones to pre-pubertal children. Otherwise, all bets are off. Even age limits for receiving irreversible cross-sex hormones are flexible, since there may be “compelling reasons” to do this to teenagers younger than sixteen. As long as there is a “multi-disciplinary team” in place to “monitor” the increase in heart attacks and strokes and bone deterioration and malignancies and crippling depression, all should be well.
One of the more disturbing aspects of the Endocrine Society’s subordination of sound medical practice to political demands is its treatment of the permanent sterility that will result if the GAT is fully implemented. The guidelines take a casual approach: “Clinicians should inform pubertal children, adolescents, and adults seeking gender-confirming treatment of their options for fertility preservation.” Nothing about serious counseling to explain the enormity of this decision. No recognition that children and adolescents cannot be expected to grasp it anyway. No, just tell the kids—for whom having children of their own is at this point beyond their imaginations—about “options for fertility preservation.”
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has not issued ethical guidelines about participating in GAT, but the worldview of this professional organization is evident from its description of these surgical procedures as “gender confirmation” surgery. The Society’s website advertises facial “feminization” or “masculinization” surgery as well as “transfeminization” and “transmasculine” “top” and “bottom” surgery.
As suggested by the Endocrine Society’s guidelines, until recently puberty-blockers were not used before the patient reached age 11, cross-sex hormones before age 16, and surgery before late adolescence or adulthood. But the industry is lowering the ages of administration regardless of what any guidelines recommend. Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, a California pediatrician gaining notoriety for pushing the envelope in this area, altered the protocol for a federal study she is performing to allow administration of cross-sex hormones to children as young as age 8. Double mastectomies are being performed on girls as young as age 13. Stanford University pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Tandy Aye is urging legislative changes to allow adolescent minors to undergo sterilizing surgery, even though the idea that a minor can fully understand the ramifications of sterility is, to say the least, inconsistent with what is known about adolescent brain development. Some surgeons are already performing mutilating surgery on minor boys, arguing that “age is arbitrary” and that teens are better off having the grotesque and painful procedures while they are still at home where their parents can supervise post-operative care. These surgeons claim to perform these permanent, life-altering procedures only on “mature” adolescents. Maturity, of course, is determined by the ideologically driven doctor, and apparently with little or no recognition of the obvious emotional problems of a boy who wants to be castrated.
Presumably medical guidelines will be modified to accommodate the experiments these pioneering practitioners want to perform. As it is, elite transgender doctors such as Olson-Kennedy simply flout the guidelines at will and do whatever they want. One could conclude that the guidelines that do exist are there for appearances only—to help direct inexperienced physicians how to handle these patients in politically correct ways, and to present a veneer of sober reflection to ward off intervention by some professional or governmental body that might actually shut down some of the horrors.
The insistence that children’s feelings be honored, even unto inflicting irreversible treatments and surgeries, is alarming and unprecedented. For good reason children are not allowed to drink, smoke, gamble, vote, drive a car, sign a contract, or access certain entertainment. Nor are they allowed to obtain other medical treatments without parental consent. But powerful adults are arguing that the feelings of children who are too young to buy cough syrup should override all contrary considerations.
Dissent is not tolerated. Anyone—whether parent, physician, teacher, classmate, or other—who questions their decisions is labeled a transphobe, a bigot, and must be silenced.
Why is this happening? Why has a fog of lies descended on entire societies such that even children are being sacrificed to this voracious leviathan?
Volumes will be written about the underpinnings of the mass transgender hysteria. A few considerations:
• The transgender mania naturally results from the relentless march of the sexual revolution. The denial of human nature began with the birth-control pill’s decoupling of sex from reproduction. That led to the separation of sex from marriage, which dissolved restraints on non-marital sexual activity and non-marital childbearing. A family of mother and father was no longer considered necessary for creating children, which meant there was nothing special about the maleness and femaleness of romantic partners. Enter Obergefell, which by discovering homosexual marriage as a constitutional right obliterated even physical, biological distinctions between the sexes. And if there is no meaningful distinction, a human being should not be confined to one sex but rather should be inherently capable of moving between the sexes or stopping somewhere in the middle.
• The mania results from the elevation of the narcissistic autonomous Self, which is entitled to whatever choice it deems desirable at the moment—even a choice that violates physical reality.
• The mania results from the developing concept that patient desire should be the primary if not sole determinant of medical treatment. The WPATH guidelines make clear that the demands of the patient trump the ethical concerns of the physician. Carrying this concept to its logical conclusion, one dysphoric man argued in a chilling essay in The New York Timesthat a doctor should be obligated to provide the mutilating surgery the patient wants to better resemble a woman—even if the patient knows and admits that the surgery will cause great physical harm and will fail to relieve, and perhaps will even increase, his emotional distress. Under such a standard, the physician ceases to be a healer and becomes merely a tool for fulfilling the fevered desires of a troubled patient. And unlike a healer, a tool has no right of conscience, no legitimate basis for refusing to participate in the requested procedures.
• The mania results from the cult of experts. Parents whose every instinct screams that their children need psychotherapy, not GAT, yield to professionals who claim to know better. If the expert says the appropriate treatment is X, then every non-expert is expected to submit without question—even if the folly of the recommended course is a flashing red light.
• The mania results from hubris. One GAT physician describes the heady adulation from desperate patients and families: “Every single encounter is so rewarding. They tell us, ‘You are my hero. You are saving my kid’s life. We don’t know what we would do without you.’” According to researchers who interviewed surgeons involved in the early phases of SRS, the surgery appealed to some physicians’ desire “to prove to themselves that there was nothing they were surgically incapable of performing.” Change a man into a woman or a woman into a man, and ye shall be as gods.
• The mania ultimately results from the decline of religious faith. None of the cultural evolution described above could have happened in a society that still recognized the reality of God, and of biblical and natural law. And to paraphrase Chesterton, the person who does not believe in God believes not in nothing, but rather in anything.
Of course, one should never dismiss the lure of one of the oldest temptations known to humanity: greed. Some professionals in this expanding area of practice no doubt desire to ease the suffering of confused patients. But the health care professionals who have uncritically accepted the quackery of the unholy Money–Benjamin alliance, as well as the pharmaceutical industry that will churn out drugs and hormones which hapless patients must take for a lifetime, will reap the benefits that are projected to hit almost $1 billion by 2024. This kind of reward can go a long way toward easing the twinges of conscience.
Cracks in the Edifice
This bleak picture suggests that humanity has been infected by a monstrous virus that so far has resisted all remedies. But scientific and moral truths can be buried for only so long, and there are signs of their revival.
One encouraging development is the increasing number of physicians publicly proclaiming the nakedness of the transgender emperor. Indeed, that analogy first came from Dr. Paul McHugh writing here in Public Discourse, who has been outspoken against the fallacies and the harm of the transgender revolution.
Other physicians have joined his chorus. From the American College of Pediatricians (established in reaction to the increasingly politicized American Academy of Pediatricians) to individual physicians who speak the truth at no small risk to their careers—see two events hosted by Ryan Anderson at The Heritage Foundation here and here—resistance is growing.
An example is a letter written by five physicians (Drs. Michael Laidlaw, Quentin Van Meter, Paul Hruz, Andre Van Mol, and William Malone) and published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. These physicians challenged the emerging orthodoxy among providers that gender-dsyphoric young patients should be administered GAT, presenting undisputed evidence of our inability to scientifically diagnose the condition, the manifest medical risks of puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones, and the scientific research supporting alternative treatments. The fact that the Journal was even willing to publish the letter suggests that medical sanity has retreated but not surrendered.
Professionals who are challenging the transgender narrative span the political spectrum. A group called Youth Trans Critical Professionals defines itself as “psychologists, social workers, doctors, medical ethicists, and academics” who “tend to be left-leaning, open-minded, and pro-gay rights.” However, they declare, “we are concerned about the current trend to quickly diagnose and affirm young people as transgender, often setting them down a path toward medical transition.”
Some mental-health professionals are also challenging the legal restrictions on their ability to provide the best care for dysphoric patients. An Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist relies on the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion in his lawsuit to overturn New York’s ban on “conversion therapy.” In Tampa, Florida, a federal magistrate ruled in favor of a similar suit filed by two psychotherapists. Such legal challenges are an encouraging sign that some professionals are willing to do the right thing for patients regardless of the potential harm to their careers.
The credibility of these physicians and other mental-health professionals is bolstered by the witness of doctors who do not necessarily reject the transgender concept outright, but who are troubled by the prevailing ethic that evidence should be replaced by feelings. Physicians such as Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Levine think medical treatment may be helpful in some situations but resist the more radical claims of the gender industry and its allied activists.
Another promising development is the advent of networking groups for parents who have seen the gender madness harm their own children and families. These parents are unwilling to have “experts” tell them things about their children they know are untrue, and rush the kids into medical interventions they know will ruin their children’s lives. Groups such as Transgender Trend, 4thWaveNow, and the Kelsey Coalition (named for the FDA pharmacologist who refused to authorize thalidomide for the market) have organized to help parents resist and defeat the abuse that is being perpetrated on their children. You can read the stories of five such parents here at Public Discourse.
Many of these parents are reacting to the most cult-like aspect of the mania—so-called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, which has gripped their adolescent girls. The parents tell sadly similar stories: The daughter, perhaps struggling with depression or another mental problem, is exposed to transgender ideology through either other individuals or the Internet; she spends hours watching Internet videos about transgenderism and the magical power of GAT to sweep away anxiety; she suddenly decides, perhaps along with friends, that she is transgender; she insists on being evaluated by a “gender specialist,” who agrees with her self-diagnosis and quickly starts her on either puberty-blockers or cross-sex hormones; the specialist ignores information from the parents about other aspects of their daughter’s experience that may be contributing to her delusion; and both the daughter and the specialist warn the parents that she will kill herself if they stand in her way.
But the new networking organizations have enabled parents to understand the scam in its full malevolence and to realize they have allies in their resistance. Like the professionals mentioned above, many of them are not politically conservative. What they all have in common is a recognition of truth, a rejection of lies even when offered by experts, and a fierce determination to protect their kids.
Some government entities have begun to question the skyrocketing numbers of children denying their natal sex. In Great Britain, the Minister for Women and Equalities recently ordered an investigation into why the number of children requesting gender transition increased 4,000 percent in eight years. Even laypeople—even bureaucrats—understand that such a startling surge in dysphoria cannot be occurring naturally. The willingness to examine the issue is another welcome sign that the mania may in some ways be releasing its grip.
In the United States, many government entities have embraced the transgender movement without serious study. But there is at least some sign of a correction there as well. For example, the Trump administration has taken several steps to restore the rule of law in this arena.
One was the February 2017 rescission of the Obama administration’s school “guidance” that expanded the interpretation of “sex” in Title IX to include gender identity. A related development was the Justice Department’s October 2017 announcement that Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, would not be interpreted to apply to actions based on gender identity. Since Congress clearly intended the 1972 (Title IX) and 1964 (Title VII) statutes to cover only biological sex, these steps demonstrated a welcome return to the norms of self-governance.
In May 2019, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) moved toward a scientific definition of “sex” in federally funded health programs. While the Obama administration had decreed that statutorily prohibited discrimination on the basis of “sex” should encompass discrimination on the basis of “gender identity,” HHS recently issued a proposed rule reversing that expansive and unlawful interpretation. “Sex,” the proposed rule clarifies, will be given its scientific meaning, referring only to demonstrable biological sex rather than to amorphous, changeable feelings of gender identity.
Finally, HHS strengthened enforcement of pre-existing conscience protections for individuals involved in healthcare provision or research. This means these professionals cannot be forced to violate their consciences by participating in GAT or related research.
Although governmental policy could change as soon as the administration does (for example, the so-called Equality Act would cement extraordinarily damaging and totalitarian policy with respect to gender identity), this pushback holds out hope for a future restoration of reality-based policy-making.
Another example of resistance comes from the world of sports. While boys and men who “identify” as female are handily defeating girls and women, notable personalities are taking exception. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, herself a lesbian and vocal supporter of “gay rights,” called male participation in women’s sports what it is: cheating. The recently organized group Fair Play For Women publicly advocates for the rights of women and girls to meaningful participation in athletics—which means restricting their sports to biologically female athletes. Every photograph of a bigger and stronger male defeating a girl, and maybe eliminating her opportunity for advancement and scholarships, develops the public understanding that transgenderism incorporates a significant degree of narcissism and unfair entitlement.
Feminists are beginning to recognize the threat of transgenderism not only to fair competition in athletics but to women as a whole (see here, here, and here). If a male is allowed to join the female sex simply by declaring he feels like a woman, is there really such a thing as women? Is there any basis for protecting women in private spaces (such as restrooms and locker rooms), colleges, dormitories, even prisons? Is there any way to ensure that programs designed to help women, such as dedicated loans or set-asides in government contracting, are restricted to actual women?
Transgender radicals are so concerned about the resistance from feminists, especially lesbians, that they have created their own slur to describe the leftist dissidents: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFS. The name-calling, however, has not deterred these feminists, who recognize that enshrining legal rights based on gender identity rather than sex “would eliminate women and girls as a coherent legal category, worthy of civil rights protection.”
Perhaps the most powerful voice leading to a restoration of sanity will come from “detransitioners” —individuals who underwent medical transition, realized they had made a tragic mistake, and are now speaking out to warn other victims of the gender industry.
Walt Heyer endured years of gender dysphoria that he now understands was influenced by mistreatment from his grandmother and childhood sexual abuse. As an adult he underwent hormone therapy and surgery and lived for eight years as a woman before de-transitioning. A regular contributor to Public Discourse, Heyer is now in his late 70s and devotes his life to helping other victims recover their authentic lives as he did. His website, sexchangeregret.com, has been accessed by hundreds of thousands of users from 180 countries, and he reports enormously increased traffic as the transgender virus has proliferated.
Other adult detransitioners are similarly outspoken about the folly of “sex change” (see Hacsi Horvath’s scholarly work on transgenderism and Rene Jax’s harrowing account of his experience in Don’t Get on the Plane.) But with some victims, the realization of the truth comes much earlier. More and more adolescents and young adults are speaking out about the mistake they made in transitioning and warning other young people not to be sucked into the cult (see here, here, and here, for example). Although reliable information on the level of regret about GAT is unavailable because so many patients are lost to follow-up (perhaps some to suicide), the more detransitioners speak out, the more will feel comfortable doing so.
The lucky ones are those who got out before surgery or other irreversible treatment. As for the others, perhaps the legal system will eventually provide recompense via malpractice suits. Just as legal liabilitydissuaded psychotherapists from pushing the “recovered memory” theory with troubled patients, the prospect of substantial payout to GAT victims may cause practitioners to think twice.
Is This Time Different?
Every time the forces of the sexual revolution claim another victory—dismantling the norms of sexual morality, or achieving acceptance of homosexual behavior, or imposing same-sex marriage, or coercing third parties to celebrate the latest milestone—individuals of more traditional values think that this time, the radicals have gone too far. Surely this will be the development that swings the pendulum back to basic decency and common sense. But instead, the revolutionaries have pocketed the victory and advanced relentlessly on to the next goal.
But perhaps the transgender movement is different. The damage inflicted by the previous campaigns was real and profound, but it was not immediately obvious. It has taken decades, for example, for the consequences of “anything goes” sexual behavior to become apparent—family disintegration, fatherless and broken children, increased substance abuse and other cultural pathologies—and even now ideologues resist the conclusion that these trends resulted from the cultural shifts they advocated.
By contrast, the damage of transgender affirmation is immediate and apparent. The medical harm alone is undeniable, and the mental anguish festers and grows. The affected children and adolescents, especially, become the walking wounded whose shattered lives testify to the abuse inflicted by “experts” who profit from their misery. The voices of detransitioners penetrate the politically correct chatter to warn that what’s happening is destroying lives, here and now.
Hacsi Horvath, an adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California at San Francisco, has written at length on the bizarre acceptance of the fantastical concept of gender identity:
In my opinion—which is based upon extensive research, as well as my own 13-year-long experience in pretending to be a woman—GD is only superficially concerned with one’s sex. It’s more a disturbance of identity . . . . There is absolutely no good reason why gender dysphoria has essentially been excluded from 15 years of research in new “transdiagnostic” approaches to treating people with depression and anxiety disorders. . . . GD is not sui generis, unique, super-special! It is well within the spectrum of conditions efficaciously treated with transdiagnostic approaches. It is as though the “transition” promoters of mainstream transgenderism had some kind of racket going on.
Fellow survivor Walt Heyer pulls no punches in describing the enablers of the transgender mania. Especially with respect to affirming the false beliefs of minors, he says:
This is child abuse. . . . We are manufacturing transgender kids. We are manufacturing their depression, their anxiety, and it’s turned into a huge industry that people are profiting from after kids’ lives are completely torn apart.
He concludes: “There is absolutely nothing good about affirming somebody in a cross-gender identity because it destroys their life. . . . It’s insanity.”
The transgender castle that radicals have constructed by sheer force of will is built on shifting sand without supports of any kind. The wave that will sweep it away is gaining strength. May the time come soon when we will all say, with observers of past hysterias, “How could we have believed that?”