Ryan T. Anderson has a book to sell. Everything he writes about transgender people has numerous links to his page at Amazon.com. The current piece is no exception.
First things first. Jennifer Finney Boylan’s piece at the New York Times is here. Boylan writes very well and I usually learn something by reading her articles. This piece is no exception. It is a response to Ryan Anderson’s idiotic book.
I have not read Anderson’s book. However, I have read numerous pieces that Anderson himself has written regarding the book. From those polemics it is clear (at least to me) that Anderson (who I think is a gay man) is defending the teachings of the Catholic Church. Anderson has done this before. He was a co-author of a book about marriage that was intended to derail marriage equality, again on behalf of the Vatican.
The good news is that his marriage book encapsulates the losing arguments. Anderson’s transgender obsession is equally unscientific and illogical. The current piece is titled: “A New York Times Writer’s Reckless Hit Piece on My Transgender Book.” Poor Ryan. I am limiting myself to a few examples of the absurdity.
Boylan claims I wrote “a book that suggests that transgender people are crazy, and that what we [people who identify as transgender] deserve at every turn is scorn, contempt, and belittlement.”
Good luck finding a single line from my book to back up either claim. I wrote nothing of the sort. On the contrary, at several points in the book I admonish my fellow social conservatives not to treat people who identify as transgender with “scorn, contempt and belittlement.”
Seriously Mr. Anderson? He has written, in a piece promoting the book:
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.
“Reality” according to Anderson is limited to natal sex. A few things come to mind:
- Those “therapies” do not exist.
- To suggest that a nonexistent therapy is “most helpful” is preposterous.
- Anderson is probably advocating for a re-tooled version of thoroughly discredited gay conversion therapy.
- Anderson is unambiguously claiming that transgender people are delusional. That is to say “crazy.”
- Anderson is therefore suggesting that gender identity is a choice and that transgender people are making bad choices. Therefore, they are worthy of scorn, contempt and belittlement.
Anderson’s entire view of transgender people is at odds with science. Anderson also wrote (in promoting the book):
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.
Aside from the fact that he is clueless, he is calling transgender people crazy and he is claiming that being transgender is unhealthy which constitutes scorn in my opinion.
According to the current piece attacking Boylan:
…social conservatives (including myself) should take care to be respectful and compassionate toward people we may disagree with.”
I repeat the point in Chapter 3 itself, writing: “This charge should prompt social conservatives (like myself) to be careful not to attack or marginalize people as we advocate for the truth.”
First of all transgender people do not need Anderson’s compassion which amounts to pity. More importantly, how does one “disagree” with a medical condition? That makes no sense at all. Furthermore, Anderson is devoted to marginalizing transgender people. He does insist that they are crazy and “the truth” means the teachings of the Catholic Church. Perhaps Anderson can identify which of the eunuchs at the Vatican have the training and experience necessary for weighing in on gender dysphoria. Or is he relying on ancient texts?
Anderson repeats himself endlessly while attacking Zack Ford’s review of the book. Then he writes:
Americans disagree about gender identity and the best approaches to treating gender dysphoria. Boylan claims my book is “abundant in junk science,” but couldn’t point to anything in particular that I got wrong.
“The most helpful therapies … (see above) is a call to junk science. Furthermore, whether or not Americans disagree about gender dysphoria is irrelevant. There is mainstream science and then there are a few Defenders of the Faith™ like Paul McHugh. As Boylan pointed out, McHugh and his cohorts do not publish original peer-reviewed research to scholarly journals. They publish opinion pieces as literature reviews to religious blogs. That constitutes junk science per se.
To quote myself: Most of the religion-oriented objections to gender affirmation inherently presuppose that … a conspiracy to bury dissent exists or that the 87-year-old retired Paul McHugh has knowledge that no one else has.
The medical evidence suggests that sex reassignment does not adequately address the psychosocial difficulties faced by people who identify as transgender. Even when the procedures are successful technically and cosmetically, and even in cultures that are relatively “trans-friendly,” transitioners still face poor outcomes.
While he is not specific, I know from following Anderson that he is referring to a study with some subjects who had surgery 40+ years ago. Even the lead investigator of that study has written in an email to me that most of the problems that transgender people face are attributable to the Meyer Minority Stress Model. If crackpots like Anderson and McHugh would cease promoting their religious bullshit, that would probably be a good start in relieving some of the stress.
Anderson insists on promoting nonsense:
A more cautious therapeutic approach begins by acknowledging that 80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria will grow out of it naturally. Many experts think of gender dysphoria as being much like other kinds of dysphoria, or serious discomfort with one’s body, such as anorexia.
I have written about this numerous times. Note that Anderson does not cite a specific study. Anderson’s numbers can be attributed to three studies:
- Green’s Sissy Boy Syndrome, 1987
- Zucker’s 1995 GID study
- Wallien’s 2008 study of pediatric gender dysphoria
In Green’s study, 1 of 44 were trans, Zucker had 9 of 45 and Wallien in Amsterdam had 21 of 54. Wallien’s — the most recent and inclusive — confirms my understanding which is that desistence is somewhat limited to children who have not transitioned.
Clinicians are not transitioning kids. Those children who do transition have a powerful determination to do so because it offers relief from suffering. Once they are at that stage, they do not desist. This is further confirmed in a paper by Dr. Kristina R. Olson, published to The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Anderson is mindlessly repeating a McHugh originated talking point that simply isn’t true. He is free to purchase Olson’s paper (as I have done) if he has the intellectual curiosity to do so. He goes on, oh so concerned about kids.
Children are especially vulnerable. We need to respect the dignity of people who identify as transgender, while also doing everything possible to protect young people and foster their healthy development. That will require a better conversation about these issues, and that’s why I wrote my book. [with yet another link]
Anderson is manufacturing a controversy that does not exist. It reminds me of creationists or Holocaust deniers. They insist that a legitimate alternate view exists and that is simply not the case.
Anderson wrote his book for two reasons: First to defend the teachings of the Catholic Church and secondly to make some money. Anderson fully believes those teachings which means that he is not a sociopath. However the teachings of the Catholic Church — when it comes to an issue of medical science — amount to nothing more than superstition. If anything, Ms. Boylan was less critical of Anderson than is warranted. Anderson is painfully ignorant and a consumer of information based on selective observation.
One more time: Religion is a belief system based on faith. Science is based on evidence. Anderson is trying to artificially alter the evidence to conform to the faith. In doing so he is hurting people who are already vulnerable — especially trans and gender nonconforming children. This is all so similar to the anti-gay diatribes that they can no longer substantiate. Attacks on trans people serve as a proxy for attacking the entire LGBT community.