Author Interview: When Harry Became Sally

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Posted: Mar 17, 2018 12:00 PM
Author Interview: When Harry Became Sally

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted by Townhall Media Account Executive Jack Little.


Bertrand Russell famously said, “All movements go too far.”  Regardless of how one feels about gay marriage, the logic seems to be supremely lacking in the statement: 

If a man can marry a man, society should also accept that, a man can become a woman.

Not only is the logic lacking, but so is the science.  That’s what Ryan Anderson argues in his new book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement.”  In a recent phone interview, Ryan and I spoke about why transgenderism has the potential to be one of the biggest political wedge issues in the 2020 elections, and beyond.

Jack Little: A lot of this simply seems like really bad medicine.  To me, that’s the strongest argument against this transgender movement. The effects of “transitioning” to a different gender are drastic on the human body, and yet the hurdles to go on this are far less.  To me, that seems extremely dangerous.  Can you comment on that?

Ryan Anderson: The third chapter, several of the people that transitioned and then de-transitioned, more or less say the exact same thing as what you just said.  It was only after three months of meeting with the “gender specialist,” it was only a once monthly visit, so after three or four visits they were prescribed testosterone, with no meaningful attempt to identify let alone discuss psychosocial possible causes or possible solutions.  So what you just said is exactly what the testimony of people who have undergone this therapy and then regretted it, and wanted to de-transition, have said.  It’s also the testimony of some of the medical doctors.  You see people like Dr. Michelle Cretella saying, “Wait a minute, we wouldn’t do this for any other situation, prescribe drugs like this at these dosages on such a limited diagnostic set of criteria, so why are we doing it now?”

JL: Why are they doing it? It must be because it’s politicized and there is political pressure, right?

RA: I think more it’s an ideological commitment.  There is a certain worldview here.  There’s a certain vision of the human person, and of the human body, and of modern medicine.  And it’s a vision that sees the body as something that’s very malleable, and there aren’t facts about human nature, and that modern science isn’t about restoring health.  In many cases its about transforming bodies, to the desires of the patient.  It’s that vision of the human person, and that vision of modern medicine, when you combine those two things, it’s not hard to see where some of these therapeutic approaches come from.

JL: It’s weird though because, of all professions, you would assume, the one that understands the non-malleability of the human body is doctors.  In college, I was an English and Communication Studies double major at a liberal, liberal arts college, so all day long I was fed “gender is just a performance.”  And I can understand that point of view coming from the humanities in academia, but not doctors.  I would think that they have the greatest grasp.  How do you think this post-modern perspective weaved its way into hard objective science?

RA: Well because, there is self-selection here…. So many of the people that are speaking out against this are the objective, fact based, medicine science people you are talking about… But many of the people of that go into “gender based” medicine, you know 45 pediatric gender clinics have opened in the past decade, it’s somewhat self-selecting of who chooses to specialize in gender therapy, who chooses to be the director of a pediatric gender clinic.  And then its other people, where this isn’t their specialty, and they hear about what’s going on, and they say, this isn’t fact based!  So they look into it.  And they say look we’re just going to do a literature review of all the existing literature on sexuality and gender - and they then point out all the flaws.  Like that the claims being made for “what science shows,” science doesn’t actually show.  And then they get attacked by the “gender experts.”  So there is somewhat of a self-selection factor going on which skews the outcome.

JL: The most devastating statistic that I found in your book, it’s listed more than one time, “85% of people with gender dysphoria grow out of it.” It seems to me like maybe this is being covered up?  Is this statistic in dispute? 

RA: So the activists want to attack that statistic, they want to say it’s not accurate. I quote from (Lawrence S.) Mayer and (Paul R.) McHugh saying, “All credible experts acknowledge this fact.” But then you have people on the left politically, who are activists on these issues, saying all these people who desisted, they were never transgender to begin with.  So it almost becomes a self fulfilling diagnosis.  The only people who accurately are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and are transgender, are those who persist in their identification.  You can google some of the debates on desistance and you’ll see people on the left saying it’s all wrong.  And that’s where I quote Jesse Singal, Senior Editor for New York Magazine, who points out that people on the left all attack these desistance numbers, but there is actually a very sizable, rigorous body of research that shows this. 

JL: Do you feel like a lot of these people that transition, and are being encouraged to transition, are being used, politically?  Why are people so heroized for transitioning?

RA: So sometimes I think it’s people that haven’t thought too much about this.  So especially the media.  It went from the LGB to the T part of acronym.  As soon as marriage equality was accomplished, people were like, “Look I’m a good social justice person, I’m a good LGBT ally.  We just did marriage equality.  Now we have to do transgender.”  But people never really stopped to think, “What does the T in acronym really mean?”  You know what does it mean, especially if we’re talking about children.  I think for other people it’s an ideological commitment.  They want it to be the case that there is not meaning to the human body.  That human nature is malleable.  They want these new therapeutic techniques to be successful because they want to be in the type of universe in which the body has no meaning.

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JL: So I’ve been in the conservative movement for ten years, but I do support gay marriage.  It’s not super uncommon for conservative millennials to support gay marriage. However, the thing that baffled me is that, I really have a problem with this transgender movement.  And I don’t see it as the logical “next step.”  And I was wondering, do you see this as a potential wedge issue?

RA: You’re seeing more and more people saying exactly what you just said.  Look if two men love each other and want to live with each other I have no objection to that.  It doesn’t harm anyone, it doesn’t get in the way.  You know I personally disagree with that.  You and I disagree about gay marriage, and that’s fine.  But you see people who will say you know, I’m personally in favor of gay marriage, for all those reasons I just cited.  But wait, the idea that a man can be a woman, or a woman can be a man, or man can become a woman or more radically that children can do that.  People are like, this isn’t the same thing.  This isn’t just about who do you love, and who do you want to live with.  This is about transforming who you are, not just living a certain way.

I mention at one point that I had hosted an event at the Heritage Foundation, with a board member of the Women’s Liberation Front feminist organization and with the first woman to be reinstated into the military after “don’t ask don’t tell,” and they both said at certain points, "I can’t believe I’m about to say this but, thank you to the Heritage Foundation for hosting me." A lesbian activist reinstated into the military and a feminist board member, both said: “We think that, when gender identity wins, women lose.”