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?”
“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.