A few days after his inauguration, Joe Biden made a radical yet largely unnoticed declaration on Twitter: “Let’s be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.”
We are living in what CNN called our “transgender moment.” “Transgenderism”—the “T” in LGBT—is devouring our culture and institutions. As recently as ten years ago, most people outside of Gender Studies departments had only the faintest idea about “transgenderism” and its supporting ideology, Gender Theory. Now, they are the closest thing America has ever had to an official state ideology. Institutions are eliminating all forms of sex differentiation, including single-sex bathrooms, women’s prisons, women’s sports and even boys and girls toy aisles.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court cemented Gender Theory in federal law in Bostock vs. Clayton County. The court ruled 6-3 that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are protected classes under the Civil Rights Act. Heretics to this ideology are finding themselves excommunicated from society and punished without mercy. In February, Amazon removed from its website without explanation Ryan Anderson’s book against “transgenderism,” When Harry Became Sally. When a group of Republican senators demanded an explanation, Amazon announced that it would no longer sell books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”1
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In 2016, New York City passed an ordinance that allows the city government to fine individuals up to $250,000 for refusing to call someone by his or her “preferred pronouns.” Universities across the country are eliminating sex-segregated bathrooms and sports. Many professors have been fired or punished for questioning Gender Theory.
Most shocking, however, is the “transgender” revolution’s attacks on children. The last decade has seen a sharp rise in LGBT characters on television, film and social media. Disney recently announced an upcoming film that will feature “Jess, a 14-year-old transgender girl. She’s compassionate, funny, and always has your back.” Another program, “Drag Queen Story Hour,” is designed to indoctrinate children as young as three into accepting cross-dressing and “transgenderism.” One LGBT activist admitted that its purpose is the “grooming of the next generation.”2
As a result, the country is experiencing an unprecedented explosion in the number of adolescents who self-identify as “transgender.” With the full support of the state, these children often “transition” against the will of their parents, who are sometimes powerless to stop it. Last year, a Dallas judge stripped one Texas father, Jeffrey Younger, from custody of his eight-year-old son James so that the boy’s legal mother could put him through a “gender transition.”3 Another father from Canada is facing jail time for his efforts to stop the government from putting his 14-year-old daughter on male hormones.4
How do we make sense of this unspeakably perverse destruction of our children? Is there anything we can do about it? Abigail Shrier, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, attempts to answer these questions with her 2020 book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Although social conservatives have fought the LGBT movement for decades, the “transgender” movement has shocked centrists and even some leftists by its radicalness. Shrier falls into the latter category.
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In Irreversible Damage, she attempts to sound the alarm about the enormous spike in “transgenderism” among our youth. Her book gained a lot of favorable attention from social conservatives thanks to the efforts of “transgender” activists to ban it.5 Target briefly removed it from its website, causing a massive outcry (they quickly put the book back online). Shrier has appeared on national media outlets and has suffered vicious, personal attacks from “transgender” activists.
Her book shows how an unprecedented wave of “transgender” self-identification is sweeping children and adolescents across the West, especially among adolescent girls. The numbers she cites are staggering. Before 2010, the rates of “Gender Identity Disorder” (renamed “Gender Dysphoria” in 2012 by the American Psychological Association) were stable at .005-.014 percent for males and .002-.003 percent for females. This is fewer than 1 in 10,000 people. Two-thirds of cases were boys.
Since then, “Gender Dysphoria” among adolescents in America has increased 1,000 percent. In Britain, the increase is 4,000 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 percent of American high school students now identify as “transgender.” The change happened so swiftly that it led to a new diagnosis: “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.”
The vast majority of this rise has occurred among young girls. Since 2017, females made up at least 70 percent of “sex reassignment” surgeries. One psychologist interviewed by Shrier claimed that 80 percent of her adolescent patients with “Gender Dysphoria” are female. In high schools, most “transgender” teenagers are girls.
What is going on? Shrier presents some of the major causes. Not surprisingly, this explosion in “transgenderism” has occurred alongside (or because of) a collapse in mental health. Although it began decades ago, it has accelerated substantially in the past decade. Only 45 percent of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2010) report very good or excellent mental health, compared to 56 percent of Millennials and 70 percent of baby boomers.6Among teenagers over the past decade, attempted suicide, depression and self-harm have jumped 25, 37 and 62 percent, respectively, with teenage girls far outpacing boys.
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This self-destructive behavior has many causes, among them the decline of the traditional family and religious practice. But a lot of the blame goes to smartphones and social media. Study after study has shown that social media causes or exacerbates sadness, anxiety and depression. “It’s not an exaggeration,” wrote psychologist Jean Twenge in The Atlantic, “to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”
Besides the ubiquitous presence of pornography and the harm of screen time, parents who give smartphones to their children are playing “transgender roulette.” Most parents are unaware of the vast network of young, smooth-talking “transgender” influencers on YouTube and Instagram.
These teenagers and young adults rack up hundreds of thousands of subscribers and millions of views. They post slick pictures and videos of their own “transition,” where to obtain opposite sex hormones, how to “pass” as the opposite sex and how to cut “unsupportive” parents entirely out of your life. Many thousands of teenagers have become “transgender” in this way.
The pro-“transgender” radicalness of the political, medical and educational establishments is shocking. Anyone who disagrees with Gender Theory is labeled a “bully” and declared guilty, literally, of murder. For “trans” activists, parents who don’t go along with this madness are “killing” their children. You don’t want your child to commit suicide, do you?
More and more doctors support “transgender” hormones and surgeries for children. Both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have lobbied against laws to restrict it.7Many distraught parents have taken their confused teenagers to see a doctor or psychologist, only to have the child affirmed in his or her desire to “transition.”
Teachers play a significant role in helping schoolchildren to “transition.” In many public schools, it is official policy to embrace a “transgender” student’s new identity—complete with a new name and way of dressing—without ever telling the parents. As one public school student explained to Shrier, “Even parents that come in and say, ‘I don’t want my kid to be called that.’ That’s nice, but their parental right ended when those children were enrolled in public school.”
The stories Shrier tells are tragic. Parents will one day find that their previously shy teenage daughter has convinced herself that she is a boy, seduced by an online “transgender” influencer. One couple sent their daughter to college and learned that she already scheduled a sex-change surgery when she returns on break. Worst are the stories of regret when “transitioners” discover that they made a terrible mistake and cannot reverse it.
Where Shrier’s book starts to break down is how she addresses “transgenderism” as a movement. She and her book have received much support from social conservatives who oppose the LGBT agenda. No doubt, it takes courage to resist any facet of the LGBT movement. But, although her book fights one consequence of the sexual revolution, she accepts the LGBT movement in principle.
“Transgenderism” didn’t come out of nowhere. It is the brainchild of far-left academics and well-funded activist organizations. Left-wing ideas about individual freedom and rejection of traditional morality are directly responsible for “transgenderism.”
It is therefore not surprising that the overwhelming majority of “transgender” teenagers come from politically liberal households. In one peer-reviewed study by psychologist Dr. Lisa Littman and cited by Shrier, 85 percent supported same-sex “marriage” and 88 percent support “transgender rights.”
Many of these same parents told Shrier of the anguish as they watch their teenage or young adult children go through “transgender” surgeries, torn between their love for their child and their belief in LGBT “rights.” In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Shrier wrote:
“Many of the mothers I spoke with say they enthusiastically supported same-sex marriage long before it was legal anywhere. Some of them describe welcoming the news when their daughters came out as lesbians. But when their daughters suddenly decided that they were actually men and started clamoring for hormones and surgery, the mothers begged them to reconsider, or at least slow down.”8
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These parents are experiencing something that no mother or father should suffer. But it is impossible to deny that their leftist “anything goes” worldview was a significant factor. They are a living contradiction—supportive of “transgenderism,” just not for my daughter. As Saint Paul writes, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.” (Gal. 6:7-8)
Shrier is herself an example of this contradiction. In an “Author’s Note,” she writes that she supports “transgenderism” for adults and even uses their “preferred pronouns.” Like the liberal parents she interviews, her problem is not “transgenderism” per se, but only with the “transgendering” of minors. If those minors grow up and decide to mutilate their bodies as adults, good for them. “Transgender success stories,” she writes, “are everywhere told and celebrated. They march under the banner of civil rights. They promise to breach the next cultural frontier, to shatter one more basis of human division. But the phenomenon of sweeping teenage girls is different.”
She tries to make a distinction without a difference. For Shrier, child “transgenderism” is immoral because minors are too young to consent to such a life-changing procedure, not because it violates any universal morality. Shrier, in fact, never mentions any absolute moral code at all, just a personal squeamishness at seeing child sex changes. If there is no universal morality to fall back on, such as natural law or the Ten Commandments, her opinion is no better or worse than any other.
If you accept that “love is love,” or that “love has no gender,” and that LGBT people are “born that way” (as Shrier certainly does), then who is she to restrict those “rights” to those 18 and older? If it’s licit for teenage girls to become lesbians or high schools to have “Gay/Straight Alliances,” as Shrier believes, why draw the line at “transgenderism”? After all, isn’t age just a number anyway?
Moreover, “transgenderism” is not a “craze,” as Shrier says in her title, but the natural result of the sexual revolution. “Transgenderism” is the latest phase of this process that began nearly a century ago with feminism and contraception. It continued with abortion, then homosexual “marriage,” and finally “transgenderism.” In 1949, feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir laid the foundation for this revolution and Gender Theory with her existentialist book, The Second Sex:
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine. Only the mediation of another can constitute an individual as an Other. Inasmuch as he exists for himself, the child would not grasp himself as sexually differentiated. For girls and boys, the body is first the radiation of a subjectivity, the instrument that brings about the comprehension of the world: they apprehend the universe through their eyes and hands, and not through their sexual parts.”9
The war over “transgenderism” is not about “rights.” Rather, it is a war over the fundamental basis of morality and civilization. Are things objectively true? Must all people submit to that truth? Is there any such thing as self-evident, biological reality (male and female), and must law and morality reflect that reality? If the answer is no, then society is doomed to chaos and disintegration. We cannot hope to defeat the “transgendering” of children if we agree with the LGBT movement’s premises. Only an appeal to Divine and natural law can serve as a solid foundation upon which to build a serious counterattack. Our children’s lives depend on it.
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9. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. C. Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier (New York: Vintage Books, 2011), 283