Political correctness has made public discourse an absolute minefield. People who say the “wrong” thing are facing swift and sometimes devastating consequences. Right at the beginning of the “MeToo” movement, Matt Damon said, “There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape,” and that while both behaviours definitely need to be eradicated “…they shouldn’t be conflated.” His timing was terrible, but that doesn’t invalidate his point. Damon’s comment was met with a tsunami of very personal attacks on social media. Professors have lost their jobs for saying slurs in the context of direct quotes, and researchers have been fired for pointing out that there is a genetic difference between males and females. We live in the time of outrage culture, with politically correct people taking enormous offence at the slightest comment or action they deem unacceptable. These self-proclaimed social justice warriors are so focussed on upholding their hyper-righteousness that they have turned into predators, with every individual who doesn’t meet their standards becoming their hapless prey.
I recently saw a perfect example of this single-minded moral superiority during a Black Lives Matter protest in L.A. following the murder of George Floyd. A black woman was filming her progress during the march when she came across two young white women spray-painting “Black Lives Matter” on the front of a Starbucks. The black woman walked up to them and asked them to please stop defacing the building as black people would undoubtedly be blamed for the damage. The two white women continued what they were doing, choosing to ignore the black woman’s escalating pleas for them to stop. Eventually they finished the final “r”, put the caps on their spray cans, and walked away. Not once did they acknowledge the black woman, let alone address her concerns. These two white women were so sure that they were on the right side of this issue that they seemingly had no qualms about completely dismissing an actual black person. Black lives may matter, but clearly black opinions don’t.
A major problem with this myopic morality is that it makes discourse of any kind impossible, and nowhere is this more true than in relation to the issues of gender and sex. Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globe Awards three years in a row starting in 2010, and many people found his style abrasive. When he was asked to host again in 2016 he began the evening by saying,
“I’m gonna be nice tonight – I’ve changed. Not as much as Bruce Jenner. Now Caitlyn Jenner, what a year she’s had. She became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t have everything; not at the same time.”
The previous year Bruce Jenner had escaped being charged in a car accident that killed another driver even though he was almost certainly at fault. Gervais acknowledges Jenner’s courage in the set-up to his joke, and the punchline has absolutely nothing to do with her gender reassignment, and still people called him transphobic. It turns out they objected to Gervais calling Jenner by her male, or “dead”, name, even though Jenner herself had no problem with it. This is how members of the outrage culture often operate – they take umbrage on behalf of others with no regard for whether those people are offended or not.
Ricky Gervais is a grown man and can easily defend himself against such ridiculous attacks, but sometimes young, naive people get caught up in the P.C. wars. Abigail Shrier is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. A couple of years ago she started getting calls from people asking her to investigate a strange phenomenon. They were parents of teenage girls, and all of their daughters had suddenly announced that they were trans. These parents all insisted that they supported the LGBTQ community, but were baffled by what was happening because none of their daughters had ever said or done anything in the past to indicate that they felt this way. Shrier is an opinion journalist, so she asked some investigative colleagues if they would like to look into this. Every one of them declined. Issues surrounding gender and sex are an absolute quagmire right now, and none of them wanted to be drawn into that mess regardless of the timeliness or importance of the story.
Shrier was touched by the desperation of the parents who’d contacted her and decided, after exhausting every other option, to do some preliminary research on the story herself. First she looked up information about body dysphoria. Individuals who suffer from this mental ailment are made depressed, anxious and dissatisfied by their own bodies. Trans individuals have gender dysphoria and feel that their gender does not match their biological body. The negative symptoms of gender dysphoria disappear when people suffering from it have their gender reassigned. Historically this condition has presented overwhelmingly in males, and generally first surfaces when they are only 2 or 3 years old. This diagnosis can be made even in very young children because they demonstrate a particular group of symptoms; they actively reject the clothes, toys and games typical for their birth sex, they associate exclusively with friends of the opposite gender, they are often disgusted by their own genitals, and they believe that they will grow into an adult of the opposite sex because that’s who they truly are. A child is diagnosed with gender dysphoria if these behaviours and beliefs persist for more than six months. The majority of children who present with these symptoms grow up and realize that they are in fact homosexual. A small minority of them, 0.01% of the general population, truly have gender dysphoria and only feel comfortable in their bodies when they change their sexual appearance.
Finding this information led Shrier to understand how anomalous these self-identifying trans teenage girls were. Gender dysphoria is much rarer in girls than boys, it almost always presents in childhood, and for most individuals, lasts for years. These adolescent girls had all just suddenly announced that they were trans without previously presenting even the slightest indication that this might be the case. Also, the girls were appearing in clusters. Entire friend groups were coming out on social media as trans at around the same time. This led Shrier to an article published in 2018 by Dr. Lisa Littman, an OB-GYN, entitled, “Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Study of Parental Reports”. Dr. Littman coined the phrase “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” to describe the increasing number of teenage girls suddenly diagnosing themselves as transgender – exactly the phenomenon parents were reporting to Shrier.
Littman began looking into this situation when she noticed that an unusual pattern had developed in her own community, “…whereby friends from the same friend group began announcing transgender identities on social media, one after the other, on a scale that greatly exceeded expected numbers.” She spoke to several doctors who were encountering the same situation in their practices. Littman contacted the parents of many of these girls, and they all described their daughters becoming, “…sullen, withdrawn and hostile towards their families” after announcing their transgender identities. Parents also told her that the clinicians they had consulted about the situation “…were only interested in fast-tracking gender-affirmation and transition and were resistant to even evaluating the child’s pre-existing and current mental health issues.”
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (or WPATH) states in its 2012 Standard of Care document that people who have gender dysphoria need to consult medical professionals for diagnosis and throughout whatever treatment regimen they choose to follow. In the very next paragraph it says that hormone therapy should be provided to anyone who gives informed consent, including emancipated minors. This directive is included to ensure necessary treatments are freely available to trans people – treatments which historically have often been withheld due to medical ignorance and/or prejudice. Trans advocates seem to have latched on to the statement promoting ease of access while almost completely disregarding the one endorsing medical oversight.
Adolescence is an extremely difficult and confusing time. Most teens feel insecure about their looks and are made anxious by the looming spectre of sexual relations. Girls in particular are prone to massive insecurity in relation to their developing bodies, and an ever increasing number self-harm to help alleviate the stress, while still others develop body dysmorphia and become bulimic or anorexic in response to it. These maladaptations tend to happen in clusters, with female social groups all starting to demonstrate the same behaviour at around the same time. Researchers speculate that these girls all follow suit partially as a sign of solidarity, but also because the first one to try the behaviour reports how much better they feel as a consequence, so they all jump on board. Who doesn’t want to feel better?
Girls with eating disorders and who self-harm are rewarded internally – anorexia and bulimia both give girls a feeling of power and control over their burgeoning bodies, and cutting involves pain which in turn releases endorphins that elevate the mood. The groups of girls suddenly claiming they are transgender aren’t intrinsically rewarded for their behaviour, but rather receive massive amounts of affirmation and support from pro trans individuals and groups online. They are immediately embraced by these communities at a time when they are absolutely desperate for acceptance. These online cheerleaders encourage the girls to embrace their new trans selves, and to start transitioning as soon as possible. Unfortunately this advice can have unintended negative consequences, and all parties involved are often unaware that there are any risks at all.
Firstly, gender dysphoria is a specific diagnosis with a specific cure, and many of these girls are immediately going on testosterone and putting on breast binders without medical approval or supervision at the urging of their new social media “friends”. Secondly, a lot of online trans communities are exceptionally distrustfully of cisgender people and consequently advise these impressionable girls to pull away from their families at a time when they really need their parents’ guidance and support. Thirdly, most of these girls are 13 to 15 years old, meaning they don’t yet fully know their own minds and are also tremendously suggestible. Online pro trans communities don’t seem to take the age of these girls into consideration at all, and unquestioningly support them in a self-diagnosis which could be totally baseless and therefore detrimental to their psychological and physical well-being.
The vast majority of these girls realize after a year or two that they are not transgender, but for many irreparable damage has already been done. The binders they wear to flatten their developing breasts lead to shortness of breath, cracked ribs, and more alarmingly, deformed breast tissue. This means their breasts can end up looking abnormal, sometimes cannot secrete milk, and are more prone to develop cancer because the mammary lymph glands are unable to drain properly. Many of these girls, in the States at least, are given testosterone as soon as they self-diagnose. Testosterone leads to immediate feelings of strength and well-being, as well as redistributing fat on the body, making one appear thinner. Extended use of testosterone is quite a different story. It has been linked to severe problems for these young women, such as permanent facial and body hair, an increased risk of heart attack, and infertility.
There are some U.S. States where the age of informed consent is as low as 15, and there is no way children younger than this, emancipated or otherwise, should be allowed to make the decision to take hormones without adult consent and supervision. The blanket statement of access to hormones issued in the WPATH document makes it impossible for parents to intervene on behalf of their children despite knowing that they are heading down a very dangerous and sometimes completely incorrect path. Shrier found that many of these confused, self-identifying girls go to Planned Parenthood, give their informed consent, and walk out with testosterone that same day. When she talked to clinicians about providing hormones without any psychological or physical assessment of the patient, they all pointed to the WPATH document. Denying this treatment inevitably leads to online and sometimes in person character assassination and harassment by pro trans groups and individuals, and none of them were willing to pay that price.
Shrier has recently published a book on this topic called “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters.” She did countless interviews with trans men and women, most of whom were appalled that some members and supporters of their community were being so incautious with the health of children. She also spoke with clinicians who work with trans patients and surgeons who specialize in gender reassignment procedures, along with the parents of self-identifying trans teens and, most importantly, many of the girls themselves. All of these teenagers said they had been seduced by the overwhelming acceptance and support of online pro-trans communities. One of them summed it up this way, “There’s just so much positive reinforcement that there’s just no room at all for any criticism or any thought that something bad could be happening.” Several of them compared the experience to being in a cult.
I understand and respect how committed these online groups and individuals are to gaining full acceptance for trans people, but I have to draw the line when their blind adherence to the cause harms others. Adult trans advocates who communicated with these girls should have proceeded much more slowly as soon as they learned how young they were. Questions should have been asked, caution should have been advised, and parents should have been involved. I for one am grateful that Abigail Shrier has brought this heart-breaking problem to light in the hopes that some constructive steps can be taken to protect vulnerable girls in future.
I think it’s wonderful that trans men and women are finally able to publicly transition and express their true selves, and I have frankly never understood why anyone would find this problematic or distasteful. Firstly, its nobody else’s business what a person does with their own body, and secondly the way a person looks or who they love has absolutely no bearing on their intrinsic value as a fellow human being. I have heard Abigail Shrier express similar sentiments, and explicitly say that this book is in no way an indictment of trans people or their supporters. She is simply shedding light on a particular problem concerning the welfare of young girls which happens to involve some members of the trans community. Despite this she has been labelled transphobic, and is currently being regularly insulted, harassed and threatened on social media. She is unfortunately the latest in a long line of people who have unwittingly stepped into the minefield of political correctness.