Warning: This essay contains graphic language about surgical procedures that are not appropriate for younger readers.
The summer of 2022 was the summer of Kate Bush’s classic song “Running Up That Hill”. The 80’s hit was inescapable, having been rediscovered by a new generation thanks to the “Stranger Things” Netflix series. While the distinctive tune and the artist’s amazing voice provided a fun backdrop to my days, I realized I had never really thought about the lyrics. I looked closer and discovered they’re a bit…odd. It’s a simple sentiment, a plea to God to let a couple switch bodies, so they can acquire a deeper understanding of each other’s beings. A nice sentiment for lovers, who wish to truly become one with their beloved.
But lately, the concept of body switching, or the notion that spirits can be trapped in the wrong body, has taken over society. Concurrent with an epidemic of gender dysphoria, the transgender movement is rolling like a juggernaut across the country, transforming the culture swiftly, and in ways that are hard to grasp. The effects of transgenderism are everywhere, and the ideology is being promoted and protected by cultural institutions with the ferocity of zealots proselytizing their new religion. While the average citizen might have no interest in the subject, proponents of trans ideology are very much interested in remaking society, and perhaps the very idea of humanity itself, and have the force of many millions of dollars behind them.
Champions of the movement assert that a portion of the population suffers from “body dysphoria”, technically a genuine mental illness. They contend that some people are “born in the wrong body”, and subsequently suffer confusion and distress. Advocates cite as hard evidence for the condition small boys who have an interest in dolls or dresses, or girls who like to play with toy trucks. As these kids grow older, and if they have parents who seek notoriety, as in the case of Jazz Jennings, they may be pushed into therapy (and in front of news cameras), to brag about their choice of pronouns and their latest drug prescription.
The inconsistent, unscientific thought behind these conflicting arguments is mind-boggling. For years, we’ve been told that a girl’s interest in dolls or in play kitchens, or a boy’s interest in guns or trucks, are merely culturally-conditioned gender roles, and don’t reflect the individual’s true nature. Now, these tendencies are held up as indisputable evidence that a child’s personality/spirit/what have you, has been ensouled in the incorrect physicality. For years, science has promoted the materialist philosophy that there is no spiritual realm, that there is no free will, that the illusion of consciousness arises from biochemical processes working in matter. Now we are lectured that somehow, some force (the Universe? God?) has become a bumbling idiot and is routinely plugging the wrong souls into the wrong bodies.
If dealing with transgenderism were a mere matter of humoring tomboyish girls as they buzz-cut their hair or allowing artistic boys to wear skirts until they outgrow their issues, perhaps the trend would burn itself out and be dismissed as a blip in history. Instead, it seems the majority of the medical industry stands ready and willing to “affirm” these individuals in their feelings, and are offering drastic, dangerous, and permanent solutions to what should be a passing phase in most cases.
Examples of their irrational arguments run like this: “Be proud of who you believe yourself to be, demand affirmation from your family and society, BUT if you feel at all uncomfortable in who you are, seek drastic (and expensive) medical intervention.” While purporting to affirm, they actually encourage dissatisfaction and self-hate. Furthermore, patients are often encouraged to play the “suicide card”, and parents are seen as adversaries. Parents who question the path to extreme treatment are browbeaten with the question: “Would you rather have a living trans child or a dead child?”
While gender dysphoria is classified as a genuine mental illness, it isn’t that common. There is also a very rare mental condition known as “Body Identity Integrity Disorder” or xenomelia, where sufferers are convinced that a portion of a limb, or even their eyes, must be removed in order for them to feel comfortable. It’s very difficult to treat, since the medical field as a whole correctly agrees it’s not good practice to cater to the delusion by amputating an arm or destroying eyeballs.
Yet in the case of children, who’ve often been subject to countless hours of propaganda and peer-pressure, and as a result are now questioning their gender, vast swathes of society are bending over backward to accommodate them. The interventions are indeed drastic. Companies rush to sell chest-binders to girls—horrific devices which constrict breathing and crush developing breast tissue to create a more boyish appearance. Off-label use of powerful puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormone treatments can lead to serious side effects. Actual surgical procedures remove or alter normal organs.
It’s difficult to comprehend the seriousness of what is being done to these kids’ bodies and psyches. While most mainstream news outlets are rather quiet on the details, a few minutes’ search on the internet will easily yield graphic photos and videos of procedures such as phalloplasties, where a section of a patient’s forearm muscle is harvested and sewn into a crude penis, to be connected to the urethra. Also vaginoplasties, where a boy’s penile tissue (or colorectal tissue, if more is needed), is flayed and inverted into a orifice which is then pretentiously labeled a “neo-vagina”.
Why the recent tide of so many teens and young adults adamantly insisting they are in the wrong bodies? It’s taken us awhile to get here. Despite some cultural outliers throughout human history, the rather nebulous idea that a person could be born into the wrong body doesn’t seem to have been taken seriously much before the 1910s. In Germany at that time, exposure to Berlin’s homosexual and transvestite subculture opened a new train of thought for one Harry Benjamin, who later immigrated to America and is now regarded as a pioneer in treating gender dysphoria with both hormone therapy and surgery. To date, there is no genetic or other physical test to definitively prove this condition: diagnosis is based solely on the patient’s and parents’ self-reporting.
Psychiatrist Miriam Grossman also blames “Peer contagion” and “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” for the current trend, which would appear to be the educated way of saying ‘it’s a fad’. Currently, girls seem more susceptible, with author Abigail Shrier claiming that as many as 70% of sex-reassignment surgeries are performed on girls. Grossman lists autism and anxiety disorders as co-morbidities with gender dysphoria, conditions which make some kids easy prey for social media influencers.
Journalist Chris Rufo has outlined a clear path from Marxism to the operating room in his eye-opening research. He documents the “school-to-gender-clinic” pipeline that is currently feeding scores of confused and vulnerable youth into such institutions as Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Ruth Ellis Center, and, in my home state of Oregon, the Doernbecher Gender Clinic.
In addition to the deliberate and cynical pattern laid out by Rufo, general cultural decay plays a critical role in creating an environment where this phenomenon can flourish. Browsing de-transitioner’s stories on social media shows a pattern of girls who, while dealing with the normal stress of puberty, become further tormented by the burden of seeing themselves through the porn-addled eyes of men, as well as the unrealistic physical ideals promoted in pop culture. Some are clearly on the autism spectrum, which added to their confusion during puberty. Others are reacting to sexual abuse by destroying that which may have attracted their abusers. Celebrity Eliot Page cites emotional trauma following sexual assault as a factor in his [her] choice to become male.
We live in a climate which consistently devalues the childbearing-nature of women’s bodies, and has diligently worked for decades to elevate sexual expression to the ultimate human right, while debasing the procreative aspect. Is it any wonder that the more sensitive members of society struggle with confusion, revulsion and self-hate? When young women look at themselves through the culture’s eyes and see their God-given, beautifully designed bodies as enslaving and grotesque, they are ripe for being suckered by the promise of a quick fix, one that will help them join the feted and validated ranks of social media influencers. Conversely, boys are led to believe that by taking on the secondary traits of a female body, like a “Live Action Role-Playing” costume, their status in society will rise. They hope to become accepted celebrities, acclaimed by the media for their boldness.
Even understanding how we got here, it’s hard to come to grips with the reality that so many people in positions of authority, people who should know better, are playing along with this mass delusion. The movement has many hallmarks of a powerful cult. Many who have spent their entire professional careers in the medical field are struggling with the present reality.
Dr. Willam Toffler, co-founder of Physicians for Compassionate Care, is aghast at the state of the medical profession. He tells me it seems “American medicine has lost it’s soul….current medicine has abdicated responsibility…it’s ignoring scientific reality.”
He points out how political ideology is tightening its grip on formerly respected and valued institutions. Dr. Toffler admits he was deeply disturbed by the lack of open discussion of ideas during COVID, and that the trans situation is even more contentious. He says that the current climate fosters the highest level of distortion he’s seen in his lifetime.
Given the extreme nature of these gender-reassignment treatments, and the potential for serious, life-long complications, it’s literally a life-and-death issue. I ask if he can estimate how many medical practitioners are sincere but mistaken do-gooders, vs. what percentage may have more nefarious motives. He says that’s very difficult to say: while practicing at the renowned Oregon Health Sciences University, he interacted with colleagues that represented a spectrum of motivations. “At best, those who believe in and practice mutilation of otherwise perfectly healthy bodies are misguided and clearly lack any scientific foundation, not only in the short term but particularly with long-term outcomes.” But he adds the institution is also often at odds with science itself. It has become a bastion of group-think and is currently untouchable.
While he knows many others in the medical professions are also appalled at this situation, Dr. Toffler says they are afraid to challenge the narrative, as they don’t want to risk losing jobs or being ostracized. He cites a recent case of ideology being placed ahead of individuals, concerning a cancer patient who expressed discomfort at the large trans flags displayed in the offices where she was being treated. Having suffered threats of rape and death from trans activists, Marlene Barbera claimed the white, blue and pink-striped flags “triggered” her. Rather than ignoring or somehow accommodating the patient during a stressful time in her life, the renown medical institution retaliated by dismissing her from OHSU-affiliated facilities, and she’ll have to arrange for treatment elsewhere.
Dr. Toffler is no stranger to OHSU’s policy of intolerance for unpopular opinions or inconvenient truths: his contract there was not renewed, following complaints from a 21-year-old patient that he “made her feel guilty” after he shared the potential side effects of hormonal contraception, including breast cancer and blood clots. He points out that if he had been warning her of the dangers of smoking, he’d have been commended by the administration for showing how much he cared.
The narrator in Kate Bush’s hit song believes that swapping places and “running up that hill” will somehow lead to a life without problems—or at least to a temporary respite from confusion.
But what sort of life awaits those who follow the Pied Piper of social media up the Pride rainbow, to the land of gender-affirming surgeries? For many of those who have taken puberty-blockers, cross-sex hormones or undergone surgery, “swapping places” with the opposite sex can lead to a lifetime of pain and regret. Televised hearings recently held on Capitol Hill introduced Americans to girls like Chloe Cole, who gave powerful and moving testimony about how she feels she was manipulated into transitioning during a vulnerable period of her life. De-transitioners claim they were misled to think that, if they ever changed their minds, reversing the process would be easy. This is far from the truth.
The risks that some of these procedures entail are not trivial. Social media is rife with videos of transitioners sharing intimate details of their various infections, prolonged catheterizations, and their chronic pain. Risky off-label use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are associated with osteoporosis, heart disease and personality changes. A few transitioners have even died from reoccurring infections from the complex, experimental surgeries.
But a grassroots counter-movement is growing and there are other signs the tide of insanity may at least be thinking of turning. Sites such as “Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans” offer a safe place for families to share the anguish of standing by, feeling helpless, as the pop culture and trusted institutions seduce their children and set them on the path to irreversible physical destruction and profound emotional trauma. “Sex Change Regret” offers support and resources for the victims of this radical ideology.
Another sign that sanity may be returning to parts of the Western world is that Sweden, Norway, Finland and the U.K., all countries with decades’ worth of data to consult, are now halting or seriously curtailing gender-affirming procedures for children while data is studied further. A previous Swedish study of 324 sex-reassigned adults concluded that such individuals have “…considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior and psychiatric morbidity than the general population…” So much for the popular claim that trans procedures are the best hedge against suicide.
Thus far in the U.S., 21 states have passed legislation to protect vulnerable youth, while restoring some power to parents to help them push back against the agenda.
But the gender-affirming field is big-business, and it’s hard to imagine those with a stake in the pie going down without a fight. By some estimates, the industry is projected to be worth 5 billion dollars by the end of the decade, and that figure does not account for a lifetime of continued cross-sex hormone prescriptions. Trans man Scott Newgent estimates he [she] has racked up about $900,000 in medical bills, much of that being due to follow-up treatments to adjust the initial surgeries or to fight serious complications and infections.
Yet even as lawsuits begin to roll in from victims like Chloe Cole and Prisha Mosley, the West Coast styles itself as a haven for those fleeing the backlash in other states. Activist surgeons are doubling-down on protecting the medical/pharmaceutical complex at the expense of youth, while driving more wedges between parents and kids when they most need support and loving care.
Recently, Oregon’s House Bill 2002 was at the center of a contentious legislative session, with most of the State Republicans walking out rather than agreeing to pass a bill that further restricts parental rights regarding their children’s medical issues. Despite the show of opposition, the bill eventually passed; the legislation mandates that insurance companies cover many gender-related procedures, but does not allow redress for those who later change their minds and want to try reversing their treatment. Apparently, “affirmation” only goes one way.
For a closer glimpse into the mindset of some of those promoting this movement, I looked about my own neighborhood. The city of Portland is dominated by the distinctive buildings of the revered Oregon Health Sciences University campus, sitting atop the thickly wooded hills to the west. The institution’s reputation of excellent care and innovative research is undisputed. Yet perhaps this reputation has contributed to its atmosphere of arrogance, the culture Dr. Toffler describes as “untouchable”. It is staffed by scientific elites who firmly believe themselves to be on the right side of history, on the right sides of both compassion and of science, an environment where people like Dr. Blair Peters thrive.
Peters, a self-styled ‘queer’ surgeon who specializes in Gender Reassignment Surgeries at Doernbecher Gender Clinic, can be seen on numerous videos sharing how popular his experimental surgeries are, and is clearly quite proud of the robotic surgery device that helps process so many high-precision procedures. Inviting blatant and unfavorable comparisons to Mary Shelley’s fictional Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Peters brags about performing mastectomies on young teens, transforming growing women’s bodies into parodies of male torsos. He’s also gaining a reputation for much more complicated flesh-sculptures, such as the previously mentioned phalloplasties and vaginoplasties.
While it’s undeniable that humanity owes much to doctors who pioneered important medical procedures, the operations Peters performs are basically cosmetic. Yet he is nonetheless proud of his role as a trailblazer in a relatively new field. It’s also a lucrative field: according to Peters, the Gender Clinic is the premiere facility on the West Coast, where he performs two procedures a day, and that the waiting list is years long.
But assuming his motives to be entirely altruistic, they are still seriously misguided. In past centuries, medicine often contained high levels of opium, cocaine or other harmful substances. Proponents of lobotomies also believed they were offering patients genuine relief from acutely intolerable conditions, and even Nazi Germany was ahead in “science” of the time, with around 48% of their doctors being members of the Nazi party. Whether or not infamous figures like Josef Mengele truly believed they were adding to the body of human knowledge, or if they were exclusively evil sadists, history certainly condemns them and their experiments, just as it now condemns lobotomies and programs like the Tuskegee syphilis study.
Dr. Peters and his ilk peddle appearances and illusions, not substance. No matter how cunningly flesh is rearranged, no matter how deeply the girls’ voices drop or how sharp the menstrual cramps the boys think they are experiencing, it’s all fantasy. The hardline transgender advocates have dazzled vulnerable victims with snake-oil medicine, turning clinics into chambers of horrors and their patients into a freak show. The emotional and psychological problems the dysphoric patients hoped to address may be temporarily numbed, but a host of new issues will inevitably arise when the spell wears off. Troubled individuals who think they’re “running up that hill” to escape their problems may in fact end up trapped in lives filled with avoidable pain and unhappiness.
In the words of radical Queer Nation pioneer Susan Stryker: “The transsexual body is an unnatural body. It is the product of medical science. It is a technological construction. It is flesh torn apart and sewn together again in a shape other than that in which it was born.” This summation is presented as something positive, a foreshadowing of the bizarre neo-Marxist, transhumanist Utopia a handful of ideologues envision for us all.
Now that many European countries are more closely and dispassionately studying the data on the long term-effects of extreme gender-affirming treatments, it will be interesting to see how much attention their findings will receive from the larger society. How many high-profile lawsuits and tragic stories of manipulation and regret will it take to slow or halt the transgender machine? Dr. Toffler believes it’s going to take time, and that pushback via lawsuits are the key.
For some, transgenderism has become a sort of dark religion founded on the re-made self. Susan Stryker’s manifesto further proclaims that the transgender body stands “…against traditional family values and against the hegemonic oppression of nature itself.” With so much rage to fuel it, and so many interests so heavily invested in this agenda, things will likely get worse before they get better.
Dr. Toffler advocates for better education on the subject, and believes the truth about what’s happening at clinics like Doernbecher should be shouted from the rooftops. Since trans advocates embrace the comparison with Frankenstein, perhaps citizens need to confront the hubris of the modern scientists creating living experiments in their laboratories high on the hill. We need to inform ourselves and raise awareness. We should be public about withholding donations. Government and lawmakers need to be held accountable for politicizing medical care at the expense of troubled kids and families, and using tax dollars to do so.
Meanwhile, there’s a growing group of young people who now face a lifetime of serious scars, pain and infertility. They must live with the burden of being far more uncomfortable in their new bodies than they were in the old ones. How will the victims of the trans movement rebuild their lives? And how can other kids be stopped before they take such drastic steps?
It’s troubling that Oregon consistently ranks at or near the bottom of U.S. states for mental health care resources, and with so many medical practitioners aboard the gender band-wagon, or else terrified to speak against it, it can be very difficult for kids struggling with any kind of emotional issues, let alone gender-dysphoria, to find trustworthy and ethical advocates. When I mention this to Dr. Toffler, he admits there’s definitely a dearth of mental health expertise—specifically Catholic—and that it can be hard to get good care that doesn’t actually harm the patient.
Recently, Oregon’s Archbishop Alexander Sample drew both admiration and ire for upholding the Catholic Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, by stating that gender ideology won’t be tolerated in the archdiocese’s schools. This was a welcome contribution to the battle, but there needs to be many more voices raised in charity and truth. Kids should be free to express a range of interests, and experience complex emotions during puberty, as they learn to integrate their spirits with their bodies. The last thing they need is the fragmented, cynical culture manipulating them to change their physical sex.
The manufactured hype of the gender movement should be countered with the message that the human person, soul and body, is fearfully and wonderfully made. The powerful gender narrative may be a formidable hill to climb, but it must be conquered…for the well-being of the country, of our communities, and most importantly, our kids.
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