The Transgender Movement’s New Subjectivity

February 20, 2018 | Rachel Lu
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According to what is rapidly becoming a reigning orthodoxy, a person’s sex is entirely a matter of his or her subjective feeling. Children at a tender age are thus being encouraged to reject their biological sex, and therapists and physicians have enabled young people to undergo extensive treatments and surgeries to “transition” from one sex to the other. In When Harry Became Sally, Ryan T. Anderson takes a critical look both at the effects of these medical and psychological interventions and at the ideology that underlies them. Rachel Lu writes in her review:

The child who gleefully exchanged her bunny slippers for soccer cleats might end up as a weirdly androgynous, baby-faced twenty-year-old, scarred by surgery and sterile for life. These aren’t the after-effects of some terrible, unexpected accident. They are predictable consequences of elective procedures that are now being performed on minors, on the advice of licensed medical professionals. This is what happens when subjective experience is crowned king (or queen). . . . Surely it is better, whenever possible, to help a suffering child in a way that doesn’t open the way to invasive medical procedures and likely lifelong sterility. . . .

In the book’s most heartbreaking segment, we hear the stories of several people who learned this truth for themselves, in the hardest possible way. These “detransitioners” were once advised by their therapists to identify as transsexuals and undergo recommended treatments. It didn’t help. In time, they discerned for themselves that they were not trapped in the wrong bodies: the dysphoria stemmed from other underlying issues that therapists had overlooked. Those issues remained unresolved. Meanwhile, some felt that the effort to change sexes had only deepened the alienation they were already feeling with respect to their physical bodies. . . . When efforts to uncover the authentic self lead to such gross distortions of reality, it should be obvious that something has gone awry.

That looks a lot like medical malpractice. So why was it permitted to happen? One reason, undoubtedly, is that the transgender cause dovetails so nicely with the agenda of the hard left. Under the Obama administration, activists pressed the transgender cause with all the grace and sensitivity of the mob at Pamplona. Clearly, this is about much more to them than just the social comfort of a fraction of a percent of the population. Transgenderism represents an opportunity to make an ambitious sortie in the ongoing battle against nature. . . .

Culture wars are not the whole story, however. Many activists and practitioners do sincerely believe they are doing something good in championing the cause of . . . people with dysphoria. So should we all. Is it really surprising that this malady would arise in a society that is deeply conflicted about the meaning of sex and sexuality? In an uncanny way, the transgender revolution itself testifies to the enduring significance of manhood and womanhood as meaningful and identity-forming concepts. Sex roles are a source of perpetual controversy, but almost no one favors bland androgyny as a solution.

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