Is Caitlyn Jenner a woman? A growing body of research from scientists, philosophers and feminists says no.
The latest contribution to the debate is “When Harry Became Sally,” a just-released book by Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ryan T. Anderson, who critiques the transgender movement on the grounds of metaphysics, medicine and public policy.
Contrary to the transgender movement’s central claim — that “gender identity” determines whether someone is a man, a woman or something else — Mr. Anderson said the only rationale for determining an organism’s sex is “by that organism’s organization with respect to sexual reproduction.”
“Apart from that, all you have are sex stereotypes,” Mr. Anderson said Wednesday at a Heritage Foundation gathering. “There’s no other objective standard for identifying the sex of an individual.”
Human beings are a “sexually dimorphic species,” with complementary reproductive systems that are either male or female, Mr. Anderson said. One’s sex is evident in DNA, can be tracked in the womb and manifests itself “in many of our bodily systems and organs all the way down to the molecular level.”
Mr. Anderson, a leading defender of traditional marriage, also co-wrote the influential pamphlet “What Is Marriage?” In “When Harry Became Sally,” he turns his attention to the transgender movement, which progressive activists have dubbed the new civil rights frontier.
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He took pains to direct his critiques not at transgender people themselves, but at the activists who promote the ideology.
People with gender dysphoria are suffering, Mr. Anderson said, and as many as 41 percent of those who identify as transgender will try to commit suicide at some point in their lives.
“It’s important that our response to them be one of compassion and respect for their struggle,” he said. “But we also need to beware of the harm that activists are doing by promoting their ideology.”
The greatest harm perpetrated by the transgender movement is on children, Mr. Anderson said.
He identified a four-part standard of care that transgender activists recommend to bring both body and society into alignment with a child’s identity after gender dysphoria is diagnosed.
First, children should be encouraged to transition socially if they express a “consistent, insistent and persistent” identification with the opposite sex. Among other things, the social transition consists of a new name, a new gender pronoun, a new wardrobe and access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.
Second, as the children approach puberty, they should be placed on drugs that prevent them from “going through puberty in the wrong body.”
Third, as the children enter adolescence, they should be given the “opposite sex’s sex hormones — estrogen for the boy and testosterone for the girl — to mimic puberty in the right body.”
The final stage of transition comes at or around age 18, when they become eligible for surgical procedures that replace external genitalia and secondary sex characteristics with those mimicking the opposite sex.
Concerned parents are convinced that this is “the only way to prevent their child from committing suicide,” Mr. Anderson said, although “somewhere between 80 to 95 percent of children who express a discordant gender identity will naturally grow out of it and come to identify with their bodily sex if development is allowed to proceed.”
Mr. Anderson said the transgender movement’s emphasis on surgical and cosmetic procedures is inconsistent with the notion that “gender exists primarily between our ears.” If gender is a mental phenomenon, “why do we then have to radically transform people’s bodies?”
He also said the concept of social transition, “in which girls play with dolls and boys play with trucks,” relies on “rigid sex stereotypes” that progressives would normally reject as relics of a misogynistic era.
‘Sexuality and Gender’
Indeed, feminists have been making this point for decades. Known derogatorily as TERFs — “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” — this strain of feminism was pioneered by scholars Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond, who argue that feminist and transgender ideologies are incompatible.
That conflict was on display this month when actress Rose McGowan, an outspoken leader of the #MeToo movement, was promoting her book in New York City. A transgender activist at her public appearance shouted at Miss McGowan over comments the actress had made on a podcast.
Miss McGowan had said being a transgender woman is not “growing [up] as a woman, that’s not living as a woman, and a lot of the stuff I hear trans [women] complaining about — yeah, welcome to the world.” She also said Caitlyn Jenner has “male privilege” and “doesn’t understand” what it’s like to be a woman.
One of the authorities frequently cited in Mr. Anderson’s book is Dr. Paul R. McHugh, university distinguished professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In his capacity as psychiatrist in chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, a position he held for 26 years, Dr. McHugh pioneered sex change surgery as a way to treat gender dysphoria. After studying the results, however, he concluded that the procedures brought no benefit to his patients and stopped offering the treatment in the 1970s.
Today, he recommends that patients with gender dysphoria seek psychosocial treatment, and he compares the malady to anorexia and other body-dysmorphic disorders.
In 2016, Dr. McHugh co-wrote a special report with Lawrence S. Mayer, a biostatistician and epidemiologist, that was published in The New Atlantis. The paper, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings From the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” reported that many of the LGBT movement’s claims are “not supported by scientific evidence.”
“Gender dysphoria — a sense of incongruence between one’s biological sex and one’s gender, accompanied by clinically significant distress or impairment — is sometimes treated in adults by hormones or surgery, but there is little scientific evidence that these therapeutic interventions have psychological benefits,” the researchers wrote.
Despite its modest political gains, the transgender movement has rapidly institutionalized its ideology at major medical institutions and research universities, Mr. Anderson said. He pointed to Boston Children’s Hospital, which became, according to its website, the “first major program in the United States to focus on transgender children and adolescents” in 2007.
“Today, a decade later, more than 45 pediatric gender clinics have opened their doors to our nation’s children,” Mr. Anderson said.
Even the Johns Hopkins Hospital resumed gender reassignment surgeries last year.
The Pentagon is considering a new ban on transgender troops in the military. Defense Secretary James Mattis was expected to deliver his recommendations to the White House by the end of this week.
Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Anderson’s book “could not arrive at a more pertinent time for our nation.”
“At this critical time,” Ms. Kao said, “the freedom to debate the best treatments for gender dysphoria must be protected.”
• Bradford Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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