A message to Americans: you may not be interested in transgenderism, but transgenderism is interested in you — especially if you have school-age children or grandchildren.
You may not fully realize it, but, when it comes to this subject, you inhabit an entirely different society than you did twenty years ago. Published in the year 1994, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) included several pages on gender identity disorder, a malady whose sufferers think they’re “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — or vice versa — and that is comparable to anorexia (skinny people thinking they’re fat) or body integrity identity disorder (people wanting their limbs amputated). The fifth edition (DSM-5), issued nineteen years later, eschews the word “disorder,” referring instead to “gender dysphoria,” which it defines as “clinically significant distress or impairment related to gender incongruence.”
Behind this revision lies an ideological sea change that is well-nigh unprecedented in human history. Today, the major medical and psychiatric organizations, the leading government officials in blue states and large cities, and almost everyone in America’s mainstream media and cultural establishment no longer view a man who says he’s a woman as someone suffering from a mental disorder. Rather, in accordance with the relatively new and reality-defying creed known as transgender ideology, he’s understood to be experiencing a thoroughly valid personal truth: namely, that he has a “gender identity” different from his biological sex — the sex, as one is now supposed to say, that was mistakenly “assigned at birth.” As the current slogan has it, “trans women are women” — yes, even if they still have penises. Only if a person’s trans identity causes “distress” or “impairment” is it, in the year 2022, a matter for psychiatry to address.
DSM-IV stated that there were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of gender identity disorder, but it noted that “roughly 1 per 30,000 adult males and 1 per 100,000 adult females seek sex-reassignment surgery.” In other words, as of the year 1994, the number of people claiming to have a gender identity at odds with their biological sex was vanishingly small. Note that the book referred to “adults”: at the time, the idea of performing such surgery on minors was unheard of.
In the almost three decades since, this entire picture has been transformed. The number of people identifying as trans has exploded. Today, most are young people. In 2017, the number of medically insured American children aged six to seventeen with new diagnoses of gender dysphoria was 15,172; that number rose to 18,321 in 2018; 21,375 in 2019; 24,847 in 2020; and 42,167 in 2021. Whereas most self-identified transgender individuals used to be biological males, most are now biological females, as documented in books such as Helen Joyce’s Trans and Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage. Whereas the tiny number of adults who used to present themselves for “sex reassignment” treatment could recall feeling since childhood that they’d been born in the wrong body, many trans minors today don’t — hence the newly identified syndrome called rapid-onset gender dysphoria. Moreover, at least three-quarters of the children who are deciding today that they’re trans already have other psychiatric issues, one of the most prevalent being autism.
In any event, the scale of this phenomenon is staggering. “A quarter of the girls in my daughter’s class,” wrote one anonymous mother recently — I’ll call her Parent A — “identify as transgender. Seven out of 28.” Another mother — Parent B — reported that at her daughter’s small school, “all the girls were either bi, trans, or lesbian.” It couldn’t be more obvious that these kids aren’t really experiencing gender dysphoria in the usual sense but have, in fact, been caught up in a toxic charade; yet, people in power who should know better continue to pretend otherwise. The number of children who’ve fallen for this charade should perhaps not be a great surprise. Years ago, anxious teenagers engaged in self-harm or became anorexic. Today they claim to be trans.
What’s different today is that while doctors used to do their best to keep patients from cutting themselves or losing too much weight, nowadays they parrot trans ideology — and act on it. Why? Some are in it for the money. Others, knowing that they might lose their licenses if they challenge this new orthodoxy, are too cowardly to stand up to it. And many of the doctors involved in the gender industry actually buy trans ideology’s premise that personal conviction, on this front anyway, trumps objective medical fact. Many, indeed, are themselves trans, and they are activists — crusaders for transitioning — as much as they are doctors. (This isn’t the first time, by the way, that many American physicians have gone along with a calamitous trend: between 1949 and 1952, at least fifty thousand lobotomies were performed in the U.S. because they were thought to ameliorate reduce some psychiatric mental disorders; in reality, they were a nightmare, replacing anxiety with almost total mental incapacity.)
One reason why transgenderism caught on is that teachers and school administrators have been a special target of trans activists, who have persuaded a great many of them that transgenderism is common among young children and that it’s a major part of a teacher’s job to help such children discover and announce the truth about themselves. In many school systems, teachers are expected to refer confused children to a school counselor or psychologist — who, in turn, will almost always affirm those children’s declared identity and set them on a path that will involve encounters with psychiatrists, endocrinologists, and probably surgeons. “My daughter’s trans identity,” recalls Parent A, “started when the school taught a module on ‘identity’ during which they told a group of 11-year-olds that, if you feel uncomfortable in your body, it means you are transgender. My daughter had just had her first period two months prior to this class. Of course she was feeling uncomfortable in her body. She went home, looked up ‘transgender’ on Tiktok, and that was it. She was now trans.”
That teacher’s irresponsible statement is par for the course nowadays. Over a period of decades in the late twentieth century, it increasingly became considered acceptable for boys to play with dolls and for girls to play with toy cars; moreover, if a boy was effeminate or a girl was a tomboy, it was understood that he or she might grow up to be gay. Now, however, children who violate traditional stereotypes often are told that they’re trans. Last April, Christopher F. Rufo wrote at City Journal about a 277-page guidebook explaining to teachers in Evanston, Illinois, how to teach gender to children from pre-kindergarten through third grade. One passage instructed teachers to tell pupils: “When we show whether we feel like a boy or a girl or some of each, we are expressing our GENDER IDENTITY…. There are also children who feel like a girl AND a boy; or like neither a boy OR a girl. We can call these children TRANSGENDER…. Your identity is for YOU to decide!”
Evanston isn’t an outlier. As Parent A puts it, more and more American schools — at every level in every part of the country — are engaged in the “non-stop celebration of LGBTQI+ identities,” exposing children to “a relentless stream of identity flags and rainbows” and celebrating “[t]ransgender ‘heroes’ like Jazz Jennings,” who in 2007, at age six, made a famous appearance on ABC’s 20/20 and who, now twenty-two, has been the star of a TLC reality show since 2015. Moreover, while mainstream media outlets, almost without exception, push transgender ideology on adults, the social media platforms on which many youngsters spend several hours every day extol boys and girls who identify as the opposite sex — or as “nonbinary,” or as members of some other newly invented gender category, the number of which seems to mount by the week. The trans propaganda aimed at children routinely whitewashes the finality and gruesomeness of the surgical intervention involved — mastectomies, for example, are called as “top surgery,” while hysterectomies and penectomies (penis removals) are “bottom surgery.”
Why all this celebration of transgenderism? Because trans activists — whose stratagem it was, many years ago, to create the acronym “LGBT” and its numerous variations (such as “LGBTQI+”), thereby yoking transgenderism to the entirely unrelated phenomenon of homosexuality — have done a remarkable job of persuading millions of progressive-minded people that if they support gay equality, it follows that they should also support “trans rights.” They’ve rewritten the history of the gay-rights movement to place transgender people at the center of it — and to push actual homosexuals to the margins, or offstage entirely.
And what does “trans rights” mean, according to their ideology? It means that the moment someone claims to be a member of the opposite sex, everyone should be compelled to affirm that identity and to refer to that individual using the pronouns of his or her choice. Of course, this has nothing to do with bestowing rights on an oppressed group; what’s going on here is that non-trans individuals are being denied their right to state basic biological truths: namely, that a man cannot become a woman and that a woman cannot become a man.
Trans ideology includes other reality-defying, and even self-contradictory, assertions. The parent of one child — Parent C — described one school’s “sex education” presentation, at which it was stated that “[g]ender is fluid, yet immutable” and that “[t]here are 46 genders.” Parent C dared to “question their illogical logic” but was told “to shut up.” Then there’s the question posed by the title of Matt Walsh’s recent documentary on this subject: What Is a Woman? If anyone who claims to be a woman is a woman, then how do we define the word “woman”?
Another major change has taken place on this front. Patients claiming to be transgender used to get hormone injections and undergo operations — then colloquially known as “sex-change surgery” (even though sexual identity, based on chromosomes in each cell of our body, is of course immutable) — only after lengthy psychiatric observation, and only in adulthood. Today, however, patients are being subjected to irreversible medical regimens at younger and younger ages, with little or no psychiatric screening.
And their parents are routinely subjected to intimidation by professionals who assure them that their child is indeed trans. These doctors, if met with the slightest resistance, insist that the parents, if they hesitate to “affirm” the child and to approve the recommended treatments, risk driving the child to suicide. Innumerable parents in these circumstances report having been asked: “Do you want a dead daughter or a live son?” — or vice versa — as if anything short of immediate affirmation on their part could have fatal results. This scare tactic, like so much else related to transgenderism, is without factual basis. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of kids who think they’re trans will, if left alone, snap out of it, and oftentimes they will turn out to be gay.
Alas, parents are rarely told this. They’re pressured to play ball, and, if they refuse, their children will be urged by teachers and counselors to distrust them and lie to them. One girl’s parent, Parent D, discovered a book given to the child by her school counselor; the book, which had “a false cover,” told her “not to trust [her parents]” and provided addresses to online forums containing “pornography, suicide notes, self harm manuals, advice on how to obtain drugs, and template letters inviting children to tell their bigoted parents to ‘f[***] off and die.’”
To be sure, many parents trust authorities, and they are thus quick to believe that their child really is transgender and that their role now is to be “supportive.” Some of these parents — more often mothers than fathers — are actually delighted to have “trans” children, sometimes because they always wanted a child of the other sex, sometimes because they’d rather have a “trans girl” than a gay boy, and sometimes because the role of “affirming parent” makes them feel virtuous and allows them to show how liberal they are. An op-ed titled “How I nurtured my trans nonbinary child’s path — and learned to grow with him,” published on October 2 of this year in the Los Angeles Times and written by Rebecca Brenner of Park City, Utah, is a perfect self-portrait of the kind of twenty-first-century American mother who’s absolutely thrilled to be able to tell the world that she is, as she puts it, “an ally and a compassionate human.”
In schools and other institutions controlled by leftists, the purported “rights” of self-declared transgender individuals routinely trump the rights — and safety — of everyone else.
The story begins with Brenner’s daughter, called “E” throughout the article, telling her mother at age seven that she’d like to wear a tuxedo. Brenner allowed it, and the girl was supposedly overjoyed. Further parental encouragement led to more cross-dressing. Meanwhile, Brenner and her husband started “to deepen [their] understanding of the difference between biological sex and gender; learn the differences between trans nonbinary, gender fluid and queer…. [They] learned that using E’s chosen pronouns reduced depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.”
In other words, they swallowed trans propaganda completely. When neighbors ask, “What if E changes his mind?,” Brenner replies: “He can change his mind as much as he wants. That is what being gender fluid is.” In fact, she hopes that “E continues to change his mind — to be curious, explore, grow, shift and change. I hope E always feels free to be who he is, shine in this new and glorious way, and know that I am in his corner, no matter what.” This is a confused, puerile woman living in a fantasy world. Confronted with what could merely have been the passing whim of a seven-year-old, she embraced it so wholeheartedly that of course the child, enjoying all the attention and praise, kept the whole ridiculous thing going.
Many parents of purportedly “trans” kids are like Brenner. Others aren’t. They’re in torment. But what to do? Parent A spoke to people at her child’s school “about the harm they are doing,” but “they would not hear it,” telling her “that they celebrate all identities, that they pride themselves on being inclusive.” These people, lamented Parent A, “cannot see the transgender issue as anything other than fun flags and inclusivity and respect. They do not see the dark side that we parents do: we are trying to protect our kids from bone-crushing puberty blockers; from taking cross-sex hormones when they’re too young to have had sex; from having radical surgery on their developing bodies. Some days it feels like we are holding back a tsunami.”
Unfortunately, such parents have little or no power to resist that tsunami because school authorities, medical institutions, and the judicial system are increasingly on the other side. In some jurisdictions, to be sure, it’s illegal to subject minors to “gender-affirming care” (at present, alas, this is the case in fewer than half a dozen U.S. states); but, in other places, teachers are free — or even forced — to hide from parents the fact that their children go by different names and pronouns at school than they do at home. In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law making California the first “sanctuary state” for transgender youth — meaning that minors who’ve been denied “gender-affirming surgery” in their own states can secure it in the Golden State.
To be sure, some parents who start out as cheerleaders later snap out of it. A woman I’ll call Parent E wrote recently that when, at age four, her son asked if he was a boy or girl, she “told him he could choose”; soon, he was on the trans assembly line. Fortunately for him, Parent E eventually realized that “I was leading my innocent, sensitive child down a path of lies that were a direct on-ramp to psychological damage and life-long irreversible medical intervention.” Just before his eighth birthday, she took back control, telling him that “males cannot be females, and that we were wrong to tell him he could choose to be a girl.” At first he was mad, then sad — but, a day later, he exuded relief and went back to being a child.
The trans craze, needless to say, can be a tragedy for the children who think they’re transgender as well as for their loved ones. But it’s also a blight on the rest of society. In a time when trans kids supposedly can make up 25 percent or more of a primary- or secondary-school class, the children who’ve managed to dodge the trans bullet are also victims of this twisted ideology. Girls must share their school bathrooms and gym showers with biological boys — a situation that already has led to many sexual assaults. Girls who excel in school sports, and who a few years ago would have been candidates for medals and athletic scholarships, now lose consistently to bigger and stronger “trans girls.”
One might have expected feminists to criticize these injustices. But the Left has its priorities. So, in schools and other institutions controlled by leftists, the purported “rights” of self-declared transgender individuals routinely trump the rights — and safety — of everyone else. Indeed, at many universities, corporations, and other establishments, you can be expelled or fired simply for saying that only women can have babies or that only two sexes exist.
And Democratic Party politicians, almost without exception, are on the trans side. In June 2021, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said that “Republican attempts to ban trans kids from playing sports in our states” — that is, to prevent biological males like the swimmer Lia Thomas, born William, from winning women’s medals — “are heartless, shameful and rooted in hate.” In December 2020, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed with “Joe Biden’s plan to grant transgender children access to sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms according to their gender identity.” In March 2022, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said that “[p]arents deserve to be able to make their own parenting decisions — with their medical providers — to do what’s best for their [trans] kids’ health. They shouldn’t have to worry about what a right-wing politician thinks is best for their kids. And they definitely shouldn’t live in fear that a state legislature is going to intervene in their parenting decisions and hurt their child.” In other words, children too young to vote, drive, or drink should be able to opt for chemical and surgical intervention that will change their bodies forever. On Election Day, all of these politicians were up for reelection, and all of them won.
Among the Democrats’ candidates for statewide office this year was DeShanna Neal, who ran for the Delaware House of Representatives. Neal, whose pronouns are “she” and “they,” has advocated for “trans rights” on Capitol Hill for years — and has praised legislators such as Cory Booker and Maxine Waters for their support. Neal’s biological son, Xavier, was four years old when a gender therapist “immediately diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder” (this was before 2013’s DSM-5); at thirteen, the child, now known as Trinity, was, thanks to help from then-governor Jack Markell (D), “the first transgender minor in Delaware to be approved by Medicaid for puberty blockers to halt her sexual development.” Neal won her election, as well.
This madness is still spreading. But so is the pushback. Angry parents all over the country are showing up at school board meetings in impressive numbers to challenge irrational transgender policies. More and more detransitioners — people who underwent “sex reassignment” procedures but now realize that they made a mistake — are speaking up. So are gay men and women who resent being yoked against their will to the trans phenomenon. But too many Americans are still unaware of just how widespread, and insidious, the institutionalization of transgender ideology is. It’s a sheer horror for which none of us voted — but which all of us should strive to undo before it harms even more innocent children.