The Sex-Change Revolution is Based on Ideology, Not Science

Research shows that 80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria will eventually identify with and embrace their bodily sex.

By Ryan Anderson Published on January 22, 2018

Twenty-eight years ago, the release of When Harry Met Sally highlighted one big debate: whether men and women could really be just friends.

That question may still be up in the air, but now we are being forced to confront a more fundamental debate: whether men can really become women.

America is in the midst of what has been called a “transgender moment.” In the space of a year, transgender issues went from something that most Americans had never heard of to a cause claiming the mantle of civil rights.

But can a boy truly be “trapped” in a girl’s body? Can modern medicine really “reassign” sex? Is sex something “assigned” in the first place? What’s the loving response to a friend or child experiencing a gender identity conflict? What should our law say on these issues?

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These shouldn’t be difficult questions.

Just a few years before When Harry Met Sally hit theaters, Dr. Paul McHugh thought he had convinced the vast majority of medical professionals not to go along with bold claims about sex and gender being proffered by some of his colleagues. And as chair of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, McHugh put a stop to sex-reassignment surgery at Hopkins.

Once the elite Johns Hopkins did this, many medical centers across the nation followed suit.

But in recent years we have seen a resurgence of these drastic procedures — not in light of new scientific evidence, mind you, but as a result of a growing ideological movement. Such is our transgender moment.

The people increasingly in the spotlight of this moment are children.

In the past 10 years, dozens of pediatric gender clinics have sprung up throughout the United States. In 2007, Boston Children’s Hospital “became the first major program in the United States to focus on transgender children and adolescents,” as its own website brags.

A decade later, over 45 gender clinics opened their doors to our nation’s children — telling parents that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones may be the only way to prevent teen suicides.

Never mind that according to the best studies — the ones that even transgender activists themselves cite — 80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria will come to identify with and embrace their bodily sex.

Never mind that 41 percent of people who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, compared to 4.6 percent of the general population. Never mind that people who have had transition surgery are 19 times more likely than average to die by suicide.


These statistics should stop us in our tracks. Clearly, we must work to find ways to effectively prevent these suicides and address the underlying causes. We certainly shouldn’t be encouraging children to “transition.”

Many psychologists and psychiatrists think of gender dysphoria as similar to other dysphorias, or forms of discomfort with one’s body, such as anorexia. The feelings of discomfort can lead to mistaken beliefs about oneself or about reality, and then to actions in accordance with those false beliefs.

The most helpful therapies focus not on achieving the impossible — changing bodies to conform to thoughts and feelings — but on helping people accept and even embrace the truth about their bodies and reality.

Operating in the background is a sound understanding of physical and mental health — proper function of one’s body and mind — and a sound understanding of medicine as a practice aimed at restoring health, not simply satisfying the desires of patients.

For human beings to flourish, they need to feel comfortable in their own bodies, readily identify with their sex, and believe that they are who they actually are.

In my new book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, I argue that McHugh got it right. The best biology, psychology, and philosophy all support an understanding of sex as a bodily reality, and of gender as a social manifestation of bodily sex. Biology isn’t bigotry.

In my book I offer a balanced approach to the policy issues, a nuanced vision of human embodiment, and a sober and honest survey of the human costs of getting human nature wrong.

Despite activists’ best efforts to put up a unified front, Harry cannot become Sally. Activists’ desperate insistence to the contrary suggests that the transgender moment is fleeting.


Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, where he researches and writes about marriage, bioethics, religious liberty and political philosophy. Anderson is the author of several books and his research has been cited by two U.S. Supreme Court justices in two separate cases. Read his Heritage research. @RyanTAnd

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

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  • JP

    This is the failure of so many institutions starting with our education departments.

  • Patmos

    The LGBT Movement is the folly of so called modern man: The idea that people can simply talk themselves out of reality. It’s a mixture of modern leisure by way of industry, the deceit of public relations and the facade of image, and then finally the spread of perversion accelerated by technology. In short, people love darkness more than the light.

    • Sten_Mk_2

      “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”–Ayn Rand

  • swordfish

    The Bible doesn’t mention transgenderism.

  • john

    The author’s analysis of suicide rates is flawed. The comparison ought not to be made with the rate of the general public, but with the suicide rate of transgender people who follow the advice of people like the author. Only if the author can show that transgender people who do not undergo gender assignment surgery and/or force themselves to lead lives based on their birth anatomy can he attempt to make a legitimate claim for what might be better, or worse, for these people.

    • Rusty

      There is little or no research into the issues you have raised. The trouble is that mental health professionals no longer try to help these poor suffering people to accept reality; their focus is on enabling these clearly untrue sentiments as the avenue to reduce suffering. For some, it undoubtedly does reduce suffering, but the majority of so-called transgender people have serious co-morbid psychological disorders (anxiety, depression etc.).

      The activists have managed to make proper research into transgenderism a “no go” area; they were behind the change in the DSM that deleted the term Gender Identity Disorder (the most serious manifestation of this condition) and replaced it with the amorphous term Gender Dysphoria, which does not differentiate on the basis of either the strength of the internal dissonance or any kind of rigorous evaluation of the experience itself.

      There is virtually no scientifically valid understanding of this condition or treatment options. It is a tragedy for those who experience it, and those who love them, because ideology rather than science lies behind the current “best practice” – affirming the delusion, application of cross-sex hormones and cosmetic surgery that destroys the proper functioning of intact bodily systems.

    • Kevin Rahe

      Sometimes the treatment likely to have the best long-term results is the one most unpleasant and undesirable at the outset. So the potential results of various “options” must also be weighed, rather than just the likelihood of “success” (if mere avoidance of suicide can actually be a valid measure of such). In this case we’re weighing a poor and largely non-functioning facsimile of the sex one “identifies as” against acceptance of the sex one IS and the possibility of experiencing all aspects of life as that sex to their fullest. Certainly the superior quality of life likely to result from the latter warrants a bit more risk of failure than the former, and even that may be mitigated by the greater number of people willing to help someone through the process vs. the limited number who will affirm the feelings of someone who finds their body to be curse instead of a blessing when it may in fact be perfectly healthy and in excellent physical shape.

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