When Harry Became Sally: The Left’s Assault on Reality

In October, 2015, Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, one of the top charter schools in the nation at the time, was torn apart trying to accommodate a “transgender” five-year-old who only stayed four months before his activist parents pulled him out and filed a complaint with the Human Rights Department.  The tragic story, chronicled by Katherine Kersten in First Things, along with a detailed discussion of how to best help those suffering from gender dysphoria, is available here.

Now, on the same subject, I commend to you Nation Review’s compelling review of Ryan Anderson’s compelling book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.

[Anderson] cares about people, including their feelings and aspirations. But he also believes that human beings are happiest when they can align their feelings with material and moral realities. A rational life is better than one built on self-deception and false hope.  . . .

It’s easy to lose track of reality when we begin by elevating subjective experience to a position of infallible authority. The popular transgender narrative offers a harrowing illustration of how this can happen. Most of us have heard the stories of such children as Jazz Jennings and “Tyler” (the transgender poster child of the Washington Post), who resolutely declared from a young age that their gender was misaligned with their biological sex. “I’m a boy,” says the three-year-old Kathryn, seemingly quite resolute.

The three-year old, five-year-old, seven-year-old, or nine-year-old who is suffering from gender dysphoria deserves parental good judgement and probably counseling, instead of being enticed by LGBT groups to become the “Rosa Parks” of your school (as is done by OutFront Minnesota) and put on a path toward hormones, sex-change surgery, and lifelong sterility.

The American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed.) says that 70-95% of young people who struggle with gender dysphoria identify with their own sex by late adolescence or adulthood.

The victims of this foolish ideology

In the book’s most heartbreaking segment, we hear the stories of several people who learned this truth for themselves, in the hardest possible way. These “detransitioners” were once advised by their therapists to identify as transgender and undergo recommended treatments. It didn’t help. In time, they discerned for themselves that they were not trapped in the wrong bodies: The dysphoria stemmed from other underlying issues that therapists had overlooked. Those issues remained unresolved. Meanwhile, some felt that the effort to change sexes had only deepened the alienation they were already feeling with respect to their physical bodies. The hormone treatments and surgeries had left their bodies permanently changed, and some detransitioners described the process of grieving over the loss of their fertility, their natural faces, and their true voices. “There is a very deep, painful symbolism,” writes one woman, “behind losing your original voice and having no way of getting it back.”

All this treatment and surgery in service to a left-wing ideology, and it doesn’t even work.  A 2011 Swedish study found that “sex-reassigned individuals were almost five times more likely to attempt suicide and nineteen times more likely to die by suicide compared to controls.”

Why is this not medical malpractice?

That looks a lot like medical malpractice. So why was it permitted to happen? One reason, undoubtedly, is that the transgender cause dovetails so nicely with the agenda of the hard Left. Under the Obama administration, activists pressed the transgender cause with all the grace and sensitivity of the mob at Pamplona. Clearly, this is about much more to them than just the social comfort of a fraction of a percent of the population. Transgenderism represents an opportunity to make an ambitious sortie in the ongoing battle against nature.

The Left’s assault on reality

Here’s a couple of strong paragraphs from Kathy Kersten’s excellent First Things piece, Transgender Conformity:

Soviet authorities silenced dissenters with late night knocks on the door. In the U.S., the tool of choice is weaponized civil rights. Critics of transgender ideology are denounced as bigots—guilty of the only sin left in our post-Christian world. In this way, the transgender movement’s true believers end reasoned debate, seize the moral high ground, and clear the stage for heart-tugging anecdotes of suffering and suicide, which they use to win sympathy and public support. At the same time, by claiming the mantle of civil rights, they enlist the power of the state to impose a political and cultural agenda.

Today, transgender advocates are creating a Potemkin Village—built on hormones, surgery, and chest-binders—to solidify the illusion on which their magical reality is based. By demanding that others employ “preferred pronouns,” they pervert language, using it not to communicate truth, but to advance their program—the hallmark of propaganda.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.