Culture

The Sinister Creep of Gender-Identity Ideology

People protest Trump administration’s reported proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth outside City Hall in New York City, October 24, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Honest inquiry into the causes of gender dysphoria is being demonized.

With debate over the Equality Act looming, two groups held events in Washington D.C. last weekend. The first, “Women Stand Up,” was organized by members of Standing for Women, along with other bipartisan women’s- and lesbian-rights groups across Britain and North America. The second, “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left,” was put on by the Heritage Foundation and featured an all-liberal panel.

Jennifer Chavez, a liberal lawyer on the Heritage panel, pointed out an irony:

One of the significant differences between here and the U.K. is that there are journalists in the U.K. speaking out about [the issue]. And here there are journalists speaking out but not with the sort of national reach and name recognition that the journalists who are speaking in the U.K. have had and I think that has made a humongous difference. So, we need journalists to speaking about this and covering both sides of the story at least.

Ironically, Chavez was later misquoted (and a correction was issued) by Tim Fitzsimons of NBC News. Fitzsimons’s piece focused on the conservative politics of the Heritage Foundation and ignored the progressive parents’ testimony.

This is particularly striking, since the host at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan T. Anderson, explained that the event had only come about once a progressive mother, whose autistic daughter has identified as a boy for the past four years, contacted him saying she’d been ignored by liberal organizations and media.

“As a lifelong Democrat I am outraged by my former party and find it ironic that only conservative news outlets have reported my story without bias or censorship,” the mother, who wished to remain anonymous to protect her daughter’s privacy but is known to National Review, wrote.

Anderson introduced the event by acknowledging that while he and the panel and audience likely disagreed on a range of issues from abortion to taxes, “If ‘gender identity’ becomes a protected class in federal civil-rights law, there will be serious negative consequences. That’s where we agree. And that’s where we can work together.”

On the panel, she was joined by Kara Dansky of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), Hacsi Horvath, a lecturer in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California (who identified as transgender for more than a dozen years), and Julia Beck, a lesbian writer and producer of Women’s Liberation Radio News, who was kicked off Baltimore’s “LGBTQ Commission” for stating that only females can be lesbians.

“When a child says they’re transgender, we as a society have been taught to accept and celebrate this announcement,” Chavez said. She then showed a clip of Jazz Jennings, star of the American TV series I am Jazz, as he had a “farewell to penis” party to celebrate his upcoming surgery at age 17.

“But there are many parents who are not celebrating,” Chavez said after the clip. “They are suffering in silence. They know their children were not ‘born in the wrong bodies.’”

Chavez then shared four stories, seen by National Review, from parents who wished to remain anonymous. The first was of a 13-year-old autistic child who believed herself to be transgender after watching a school presentation. Without evaluation or therapy, the mother was told by a “gender therapist” to buy her child a breast binder and put her on puberty-blocking drugs. If she didn’t comply, she was told, her child would face a high risk of suicide. She only realized later how inaccurate and baseless this clinical advice had been.

“Why are physicians medicalizing children in the name of an unproven, malleable gender identity? Why are lawmakers enshrining gender identity into state and federal laws?” this liberal mother wrote.

Next was the story of a 14-year-old girl with a history of trauma, who, out of the blue, announced that she was male. She accused her parents of child abuse when they refused to call her a male name and use male pronouns. Though they were investigated and found to be supportive, they were forced by the Department of Child Services to meet with a transgender adult who could “educate” them on these issues.

“Without my knowledge, a pediatric endocrinologist taught my daughter, a minor, to inject herself with testosterone. She then ran away to Oregon where state law at the age of 17 allowed her . . . to undergo a double mastectomy and radical hysterectomy. . . . The level of outrage and rage I’m experiencing as a mother is indescribable. Why does Oregon law allow children to make life-altering medical decisions? . . . Why are doctors who took an oath to first do no harm allowed to sterilize and surgically mutilate mentally ill, delusional children?” the mother wrote.

Another story was about a lesbian couple whose seventh-grade daughter came home from sleepaway camp and announced she was male. “We may be lesbians, but we are not confused about biology,” the mother wrote.

A common theme in all the stories was how “gender identity” laws and policies had tied parents’ hands behind their backs, demonized them, and destroyed their relationship with their child. The media have played a part in this, too, as Fitzsimons demonstrated.

Major health organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, are moving in the direction of a surface-level, activist-driven “medical consensus” that is anything but — and many doctors who know better are afraid to speak out.

Though Americans enjoy free speech rights, speaking out can still have serious professional and parental consequences. The state of New Jersey, for instance, encourages children to report their parents to child services if they refused to use male pronouns and names. Meanwhile “conversion therapy” — an activist invented term which was initially used to oppose voluntary therapies for adult homosexuals and is now applied to children with gender dysphoria — have been banned for minors in New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New York. I explain more on so-called “conversion therapy” and the euphemism of “gender-affirmation” in another piece:

Broadly speaking, there are three main approaches for youth with gender dysphoria: 1) a range of treatments from psychotherapy to peer relations, which attempt to resolve root causes; 2) an intermediary therapeutic approach known as “watchful waiting”; and 3) gender affirmation (which involves social or medical transition). In recent years, however, activists have been increasing the pressure to make gender-affirming treatment the only treatment.

While gender dysphoria, a marked feeling of incongruence with one’s biological sex, may have a biological component — it does not explain 100 percent of the variance. Moreover, the suggestion that gender dysphoria is the symptom of some quasi-mystical immaterial reality — a transgender identity — is unsupported, leading to the fiction that a human being can be literally “trapped in the wrong body.” Certainly, a human being might feel that way. But what might be causing these feelings? This is the question in desperate need of inquiry.

The Center for Disease Control reports that 2 percent of schools’ populations nationwide identify as transgender. A U.K. government investigation is looking into why there has been an increase of 4000 percent among adolescent females being referred for transition treatment in less than a decade.

One important factor could be “peer and social contagion”, which Lisa Littman, a doctor at Brown University, identified in a PLOS One study. Heritage panelist Hacsi Horvath, an expert in systematic review methods who himself presented as a woman for over ten years, suggested that for females, a transgender identity can stem from internalized misogyny and response to trauma, while for males, it can stem from internalized homophobia or a fetish known as auto-gynephilia.

Might Horvath be right? The overarching and unproven theory of “gender identity” leaves no room to explore.

Gender-identity ideology is not a debate between Left and Right, secular and religious. It is being deployed by transgender activists who aren’t prepared to have their arguments scrutinized or tested. Unquestioning acceptance of gender-identity ideology blurs the lines between science and ideology, justice and injustice, women’s rights and oppression, and child protection and abuse. These feminists and liberals are absolutely right — it must be resisted.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended since original publication. 

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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