I just knew that Ryan T. Anderson would exploit the misgivings of a single transgender woman.

Ryan T. Anderson
Ryan T. Anderson, Defender of the Faith

Image via YouTube/C-SPAN

A transgender woman, Andrea Long Chu, wrote an OpEd in the New York Times on Saturday titled My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy. The subtitle continues with “And it shouldn’t have to.” Ms. Chu seems conflicted and I thought that her piece is poorly written; and very poorly edited.

Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. The procedure will last around six hours, and I will be in recovery for at least three months. Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.

I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.)

I have no idea whether or not her post-surgical expectation is a reality.

Now, according to Ryan T. Anderson in Witherspoon Institute’s blog: The New York Times Reveals Painful Truths about Transgender Lives. No it does not. It reveals something ambiguous about one transgender woman. The subtitle of his piece reads:

Why should a doctor perform surgery when it won’t make the patient happy, it won’t accomplish its intended goal, it won’t improve the underlying condition, it might make the underlying condition worse, and it might increase the likelihood of suicide? Sound medicine isn’t about desire, it’s about healing.

Anderson is not a physician and it shows. By “underlying condition” he means something in a person’s upbringing that causes them to experience gender dysphoria. Instead of gender affirmation, a practitioner can fix the underlying condition. The notion that the surgery “might increase the likelihood of suicide” is unsupported nonsense. In fact it directly contradicts both logic and research.

Anderson is a defender of the faith writing for an ultra-conservative Catholic outlet for which he is the editor. The Church does not approve of transgender people. Thus, Ryan T. Anderson does not approve of transgender people. One more time for the logic-impaired:

There is no intervention known to medical science to resolve gender dysphoria!

Moreover, there is increasing evidence that the brains of transgender people are physically different from cisgender people. In many ways they resemble the individual’s gender rather than natal sex. Anderson will claim that becoming transgender alters the brain which is just another helping of BS.

Anderson is immune to science. He writes his usual blather while promoting his idiotic book:

Sex reassignment is quite literally impossible. Surgery can’t actually reassign sex, because sex isn’t “assigned” in the first place. As I point out in When Harry Became Sally, sex is a bodily reality—the reality of how an organism is organized with respect to sexual reproduction. That reality isn’t “assigned” at birth or any time after.

In the above Anderson is pretending — contrary to medical science — that gender does not exist as a separate and distinct construct from natal sex. It is willful ignorance. According to at least one study:

Transgender people are a diverse group of individuals whose biological sex does not match their gender identity. Typically, sex is assigned at birth based on the appearance of the genitalia. In contrast, an individual’s gender identity is defined as being a male/man, female/woman or of a different gender …

I found the above with a quick search at NIH.

Later on, according to Anderson:

Chu acknowledges that “transitioning” may not make things better and could even make things worse. Chu writes: “I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones.” And continues: “Like many of my trans friends, I’ve watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition.”

Indeed, as I document in When Harry Became Sally, 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.

A more complete quote from Ms. Chu:

I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones. One reason is that, absent the levees of the closet, years of repressed longing for the girlhood I never had have flooded my consciousness. I am a marshland of regret.

Chu is actually supporting the conclusions of the American Academy of Pediatrics that dysphoric children should be treated with gender-affirming care. She would be better off today (as would countless numbers of transgender people) had she had an early diagnosis and treatment. Anderson has some chutzpah referring to “the medical evidence” for which he does not provide a cite. Moreover, his conclusions about outcomes are unsupported by medical science.

Indeed, as I document in When Harry Became Sally, the medical evidence suggests that sex reassignment does not adequately address the psychosocial difficulties faced by people who identify as transgender.

Anderson is not qualified to “document” anything about human sexuality. He relied on a handful of fringe doctors who are also ultra-conservative Catholics and who have never treated anyone with gender dysphoria. For example his expert on hormones is really an expert in diabetes and we all know about Paul R. McHugh who has strong religion-oriented opinions and who has not practiced medicine for decades.

Even the Obama administration admitted that the best studies do not report improvement after reassignment surgery. In August 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid wrote: “the four best designed and conducted studies that assessed quality of life before and after surgery using validated (albeit non-specific) psychometric studies did not demonstrate clinically significant changes or differences in psychometric test results after GRS [gender reassignment surgery].”

To support the above, Anderson cites his own post at Witherspoon which mentions his idiotic book five times. Assigning a decision memo by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to the Obama administration is highly misleading as is Anderson’s selective observation. Quoting from the actual memo:

Currently, the local Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) determine coverage of gender reassignment surgery on a case-by-case basis. … The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is not issuing a National Coverage Determination (NCD) at this time on gender reassignment surgery for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria because the clinical evidence is inconclusive for the Medicare population.

What they wrote is that there is insufficient evidence to support coverage for gender-affirming surgery for people over 65 years of age. Furthermore, Anderson quotes from the memo about the research. Prior to the quote that he supplied is this (emphasis added):

Of the 33 studies reviewed, published results were conflicting – some were positive; others were negative. Collectively, the evidence is inconclusive for the Medicare population.

Once again, Mr. Anderson was dishonest in his presentation of material. Maybe that is why he cited his own post rather than the original document. He tried to cover up his own bullshit which makes it bullshittier.

Later on:

These results are tragic. And they directly contradict the most popular media narratives, as well as many of the snapshot studies that do not track people over time. Indeed, the Obama administration noted that “mortality from this patient population did not become apparent until after 10 years.” So when the media tout studies that only track outcomes for a few years, and claim that reassignment is a stunning success, there are good grounds for skepticism.

He is referring to the Swedish study that I have cited many times. Rather than referring to the original study he points to one of his posts at Witherspoon. According to the 2011 study:

All 324 sex-reassigned persons (191 male-to-females, 133 female-to-males) in Sweden, 1973–2003. Random population controls (10∶1) were matched by birth year and birth sex or reassigned (final) sex, respectively.

Yeah, people who had surgery 45 years ago had societal problems. Big surprise. Even people who had the surgery 15 years ago are going to have problems due to Minority Stress. One of the purveyors of minority stress is Ryan T. Anderson. The study concludes with a recommendation for better psychological support for transgender people. In other words, the surgery does not create the problems — as Anderson would have people believe. The surgery is insufficient without emotional support. That was seven years ago.

And Chu takes issue with me:

Many conservatives call this [gender dysphoria] crazy. A popular right-wing narrative holds that gender dysphoria is a clinical delusion; hence, feeding that delusion with hormones and surgeries constitutes a violation of medical ethics. Just ask the Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson, whose book “When Harry Became Sally” draws heavily on the work of Dr. Paul McHugh, the psychiatrist who shut down the gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins in 1979 on the grounds that trans-affirmative care meant “cooperating with a mental illness.” Mr. Anderson writes, “We must avoid adding to the pain experienced by people with gender dysphoria, while we present them with alternatives to transitioning.”

Of course I never call people with gender dysphoria crazy. And I explicitly state in the book that I take no position on the technical question of whether someone’s thinking that he or she is the opposite sex is a clinical delusion. That’s why Chu couldn’t quote any portion of my book saying as much.

Oh please. Calling transgender people crazy, deluded and confused is about all that Anderson does do. Ever since United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage in 2013 and 2015 respectively, Anderson adopted a new hobby. He went from opposing marriage equality to vigorously opposing gender transitioning. What the hell are “alternatives to transitioning?” There is no scientific support for “alternatives to transitioning.”

I repeatedly acknowledge that gender dysphoria is a serious condition, that people who experience a gender identity conflict should be treated with respect and compassion, that we need to find better, more humane and effective, responses to people who experience dysphoria.

Anderson’s idea of compassion is to talk people out of transitioning. He is trying to influence parental guidance in a way that is contrary to the science. He is saying that transitioning is ineffective and inhumane.

Remember that Anderson’s decisions came before the arguments. His position is based on the teachings of the Catholic Church. His job is to somehow support those teachings. If he is misleading people or simply lying that’s just fine because he is supporting Jesus.

For the record, Chu never contacted me regarding my research or my book. Nor did the Times contact me to verify any of the claims made about me in the op-ed. Indeed, this is the second time the New York Times has published an op-ed with inaccurate criticisms of me and my book.

Nonsense. He was accurately quoted as was McHugh. Anderson does not approve of transgender people. Period. The first time he complained about the New York Times was when Jennifer Finney Boylan skewered him over his idiotic book.

Anderson has an all-too-familiar tactic. He condemns bigotry while he spouts bigotry. His bigotry is not bigotry because he says so. The truth is that bigotry is determined by the people affected not the speaker of the disparagement. Poor Ryan. First marriage and now this. Yet he does it again:

Americans disagree about gender identity and the best approaches to treating gender dysphoria. We need to respect the dignity of people who identify as transgender while also doing everything possible to help people find wholeness and happiness.

Except that Anderson’s obsession does everything but respect the dignity of transgender people. He most certainly does call them crazy. He might not use the word but that is the effect of his bloated blather. “Wholeness” according to Anderson is agreeing to conform to one’s natal sex regardless of gender.

He does it yet again:

Chu may regard me as a “bigot,” but I regard Chu as a fellow human being made in the image and likeness of God who is struggling with a painful and dangerous condition.

What is the danger? Suicide? Anderson would like people to believe that gender-affirmation (in whatever form) is responsible for suicide. That is just more dishonesty. According to the most current research, transition significantly reduces anxiety and depression in gender dysphoric kids.

Reducing anxiety and depression obviously reduces suicidality. Now if religious zealots like Anderson would stop creating stress due to religious dogma they would be much better off.

I have written that I do not believe people of faith are stupid. I stand by that. However, when faith becomes so extreme that it replaces evidence-based science, that is the very definition of one form of stupidity.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.