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Home/Rod Dreher/Compassion Leads To The Surgeon’s Knife

Compassion Leads To The Surgeon’s Knife

Jazz Jennings, left, and surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers (TLC)

You would think it would have made national news when two of America’s leading doctors who provide care to transgendered people — both of them transgender as well! — warn that medicine is going too far with younger kids. They did, in an interview with Abigail Shrier, published this week on Bari Weiss’s invaluable Substack newsletter. Excerpt:

For nearly a decade, the vanguard of the transgender-rights movement — doctors, activists, celebrities and transgender influencers  — has defined the boundaries of the new orthodoxy surrounding transgender medical care: What’s true, what’s false, which questions can and cannot be asked.

They said it was perfectly safe to give children as young as nine puberty blockers and insisted that the effects of those blockers were “fully reversible.” They said that it was the job of medical professionals to help minors to transition. They said it was not their job to question the wisdom of transitioning, and that anyone who did — including parents — was probably transphobic. They said that any worries about a social contagion among teen girls was nonsense. And they never said anything about the distinct possibility that blocking puberty, coupled with cross-sex hormones, could inhibit a normal sex life.

Their allies in the media and Hollywood reported stories and created content that reaffirmed this orthodoxy. Anyone who dared disagree or depart from any of its core tenets, including young women who publicly detransitioned, were inevitably smeared as hateful and accused of harming children.

But that new orthodoxy has gone too far, according to two of the most prominent providers in the field of transgender medicine: Dr. Marci Bowers, a world-renowned vaginoplasty specialist who operated on reality-television star Jazz Jennings; and Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the University of California San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic.

In the course of their careers, both have seen thousands of patients. Both are board members of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the organization that sets the standards worldwide for transgender medical care. And both are transgender women.

Earlier this month, Anderson told me she submitted a co-authored op-ed to The New York Times warning that many transgender healthcare providers were treating kids recklessly. The Times passed, explaining it was “outside our coverage priorities right now.”

Of course! These two doctors violated progressive orthodoxy. They must be ignored (and this ignoring has continued in the mainstream media, despite Shrier’s reporting this week). What did these doctors say? That the use of puberty blockers is happening way too often, with little or no regard for serious consequences down the line. Shrier writes about the case of Jazz Jennings, whose gender transition was documented and celebrated in a reality television show. Shrier describes how the show framed Jazz’s surgery to remove male genitalia and construct a neovagina. It turns out that because Jazz went on puberty blockers at 11, Jazz’s male genitals looked like an 11-year-old’s. This meant that surgeons didn’t have enough tissue to construct a neovagina … so they took lining from the kid’s stomach. And, because Jazz had not sexually matured, Jazz will probably never be able to have an orgasm. Take a look at this five-minute excerpt from “I Am Jazz,” in which Dr. Bowers and another surgeon meet with Jazz to discuss how the previous surgery went wrong, and the possibility that Jazz will never have normal sexual functioning:

Notice how much uncertainty there was even in the operating room about creating a neovagina for this biological male, Jazz. And notice how, when asked, Jazz’s parents can’t bring themselves to admit that they might have made a mistake. Could you admit it, given that if you had been wrong to submit your child to this kind of radical treatment, you bear the responsibility for wrecking their bodies and taking from them the capacity to experience sexual pleasure and intimacy?

Another excerpt from Shrier’s piece. Remember, Dr. Bowers is Jazz’s surgeon:

Many American gender surgeons augment the tissue for constructing neovaginas with borrowed stomach lining and even a swatch of bowel. Bowers draws the line at the colon. “I never use the colon,” she said. “It’s the last resort. You can get colon cancer. If it’s used sexually, you can get this chronic colitis that has to be treated over time. And it’s just in the discharge and the nasty appearance and it doesn’t smell like vagina.”

The problem for kids whose puberty has been blocked early isn’t just a lack of tissue but of sexual development. Puberty not only stimulates growth of sex organs. It also endows them with erotic potential. “If you’ve never had an orgasm pre-surgery, and then your puberty’s blocked, it’s very difficult to achieve that afterwards,” Bowers said. “I consider that a big problem, actually. It’s kind of an overlooked problem that in our ‘informed consent’ of children undergoing puberty blockers, we’ve in some respects overlooked that a little bit.”

Nor is this a problem that can be corrected surgically. Bowers can build a labia, a vaginal canal and a clitoris, and the results look impressive. But, she said, if the kids are “orgasmically naive” because of puberty blockade, “the clitoris down there might as well be a fingertip and brings them no particular joy and, therefore, they’re not able to be responsive as a lover. And so how does that affect their long-term happiness?”

Jazz Jennings later admitted to suffering from disordered eating, in part as a side effect of trans medications:

 

Not to worry — the “fat acceptance” Left is now campaigning to make it taboo to describe Jazz’s new weight as unhealthy.

More:

Anderson agreed that we’re likely to see more regret among this teenage-girl population. “It is my considered opinion that due to some of the — let’s see, how to say it? what word to choose? — due to some of the, I’ll call it just ‘sloppy,’ sloppy healthcare work, that we’re going to have more young adults who will regret having gone through this process. And that is going to earn me a lot of criticism from some colleagues, but given what I see — and I’m sorry, but it’s my actual experience as a psychologist treating gender variant youth — I’m worried that decisions will be made that will later be regretted by those making them.”

What, exactly, was sloppy about the healthcare work? “Rushing people through the medicalization, as you and others have cautioned, and failure — abject failure — to evaluate the mental health of someone historically in current time, and to prepare them for making such a life-changing decision,” Anderson said.

I asked Bowers about the rise of detransitioners, young women who have come to regret transitioning. Many said they were given a course of testosterone on their first visit to a clinic like Planned Parenthood. “​When you have a female-assigned person and she’s feeling dysphoric, or somebody decides that she’s dysphoric and says your eating disorders are not really eating disorders, this is actually gender dysphoria, and then they see you for one visit, and then they recommend testosterone — red flag!” Bowers said. “Wake up here.”

Read the whole thing. It’s important — and it also helps you understand what monstrous things the Trans-Industrial Complex, including the media, are allowing to be done to children. If you aren’t familiar with Shrier, she is supportive of adults who wish to transition to the opposite sex, but not children. She has written a popular but controversial book, Irreversible Damage, about the trans cult seducing young girls. Again: Shrier is not at all against transgendered people, but is very, very concerned about what this aggressive and intolerant cultural movement is doing to children, by forcing them to make changes to their bodies at too early an age.

So, it would seem to be really important when two of the world’s top carers of transgendered people — both of whom are male-to-female transgenders themselves — sound the alarm that the industry is harming children by being so reckless. Nope. Their warnings are outside the media’s coverage priorities now.

How did we come to this point? In a subscription-only issue of his excellent Substack newsletter, Ben Sixsmith writes:

Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, has distanced himself from Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP, for saying – and I hope you’re sitting down for this – that only women have a cervix. It “shouldn’t be said,” claimed Starmer, “It is not right.”

A little over a decade ago I was an active, vocal leftist – and a more obnoxious one than most. I was fantastically rude to critics of immigration, Islam, gay marriage et cetera. Yet I do not recall anyone – anyone – talking about transgenderism.

I know they did. There were certainly trans people in progressive spaces, like the author Roz Kaveney. Judith Butler had written Gender Trouble two decades before. But I swear on my last ice cold can of Tyskie that if you had said “only women have a cervix” at a progressive conference it would have been regarded as a banal statement of a biological fact. While I am sure that trans discourse was A Thing in 2010, it did not even nudge the top hundred progressive priorities.

I suspect some people might suggest that the issue has only become so heated because of opposition to the trans rights movement. Even if you think trans men are men and trans women are women, though, I feel it would be fanciful to argue that campaigns for obstructing puberty in childrencriminalising language that “misgenders” peopleplacing biological males in women’s prisonserasing the word “women” from commentary on female experiences and so on are minor societal adjustments that have been blown out of proportion by Graham Linehan and Julie Bindel.

My interest – here, at least – is in how rapidly society changes. Back in 2008, Barack Obama could not admit to supporting gay marriage. Now, an obscure Democrat somewhere in the ass end of Alabama would cause a firestorm if they admitted to opposing it. A leftist can argue that right-wingers are politically powerful – controlling the British government, for example – but they cannot plausibly maintain that this translates into an effective capacity to bring forth cultural change. Either they are not that powerful, or they are not that right-wing, or both.

He goes on:

What I am suggesting here is that the speed at which ideological standards change is a feature of a sort of unipolar moral space race – an accelerating attempt to redefine the boundaries of what it means to be human, for the sake of the process as well as for the specifics. An attempt to keep history alive by turning inwards, and experimenting on ourselves more than a cold and hostile world beyond our comprehension. This is what makes it both radical and reactionary.

Subscribe and read it all.

Shrier’s and Sixsmith’s writing here exemplify why I associate the transgender craziness — note that I refer not to transgendered people, but to the ideology that propels and protects this cultural movement — with the emergence of a form of totalitarianism.

It matters greatly — greatly — that such an extremely radical phenomenon emerged at lightning speed. A decade ago, if you would have told ordinary people where we would be on this stuff in 2021, you would have been accused of fearmongering. Now, even if you are transgendered and a top medical specialist in transitioning, you put your own career on the line if you defy the official line in the slightest way.

Think about it: there is a movement that is powered by activism, technology, medicine, law, politics, education, and media, that advocates forcing even little children to consider whether or not their gender identification might not be stable, and for those who say they are dysphoric, strongly encourages them to do extreme body modification for the sake of being their “true selves” — operations that will permanently disfigure them, and likely result in them never being able to experience sexual pleasure or intimacy.

Who could possibly want such a thing for their child unless they have truly been convinced that the only thing standing between life and death for the child is the willingness to endure this intervention? What has to happen to convince children and their parents that this kind of thing is not only acceptable, but required?

First you have to create a society in which the self-chosen Self is the highest good. This implies that individual autonomy, especially around sexual matters, is considered to be sacrosanct.

This society further has to believe that sexual identity is not grounded in material (biological, etc) reality, but is entirely subject to human desire, and therefore malleable. It becomes easier, therefore, for masculine women or effeminate men to think of themselves not as, well, masculine WOMEN or effeminate MEN, or same-sex attracted versions of both, but of the opposite sex. It follows that to deny someone’s subjective experience of being the opposite sex is inhumane, cruel, and illiberal.

You also have to have a society that is technologically capable of empowering people to undertake biological manipulation, through drugs and surgery, to manipulate flesh to fit a person’s subjective ideal.

And, crucially, you have to have a society in which those who define that society’s perception of the Real are all in line with the ideology upholding transgenderism — and not only in line, but willing to police dissent and crush it. You will see no celebratory reality shows about detransitioners who are re-discovering their “true selves” — that is outside the media’s (and everybody else’s) coverage priorities right now.

This is what we are dealing with now. A militant ideology based on technological supremacism, philosophical nominamlism, and radical individualism, has taken over all of the institutions in American society. It didn’t come from nowhere, but rather built on suppositions that were already built in to how Americans thought of themselves, and of the Self (and by the way, you cannot find a more comprehensive account of how that happened than Carl Trueman’s must-read recent book). But look: the fact that something so radical went from barely thinkable to unquestionable within a mere decade testifies to how shockingly unstable our society is. As Ben Sixsmith says, this is a kind of space race to redefine what it means to be human. This is the decadent stage of liberalism, an ideology that centers the autonomous self, and sees emancipating the self from all unchosen limits as its ideal.

It is a lie. It is a monstrous lie. It is a lie that in only a few years, has convinced a nation that mutilating its children, making them subject to invasive medical care for the rest of their lives, and robbing them of the possibility of adult sexual fulfillment, is not only necessary, but that refusing it is cruel and ought to be illegal.

Now, let me ask you: if a society can be manipulated into affirming this ideology, what can it not be persuaded to accept and affirm? When people say they are “genderfluid,” they are really talking about how the acid of liquid modernity has invaded the human body. The philosopher of science Michael Hanby has written that the Sexual Revolution is just the Scientific Revolution applied to the human body. Back in 2014, in an essay about same-sex marriage, he said:

Advocates of same-sex marriage feel themselves to be riding the cresting wave of history, and justly so. The force with which an idea has taken hold that is unprecedented in human history and unthinkable until yesterday, the speed at which it is sweeping aside customary norms, legal precedent, and the remnants of traditional morality is nothing short of breathtaking. That it should have achieved this feat thanks largely to sentiment, fashion, and the brute power of a ubiquitous global media, with so little real thought about its profound effect upon human self-understanding or its far-reaching practical implications, is more astonishing still. Though its power seems inexorable, we would do well nevertheless to exercise perhaps the last reserve of real freedom still available to us—the freedom to think about the true meaning of things—lest we be deceived about what this moment portends or caught unawares as it washes over us. For beneath the surface of this rising tide of ‘freedom and equality’ lies something very close to the brave new world of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian imagination.

To appreciate this, we must first understand that the sexual revolution is, at bottom, the technological revolution and its perpetual war against natural limits applied externally to the body and internally to our self-understanding.

More:

Now the state’s presumption to define the family signals its triumph over the family as a natural institution that precedes and transcends it, and so as a consequence we can expect the state to intervene ever more deeply into the family’s life—in education, for instance. But it also makes the state an active agent in bringing the newly designed family about on equal terms with the natural family. This leads inexorably to the state’s promotion of a more extensive regime of ARTs on the one hand, as in the California law requiring insurance companies to pay for IVF treatments for same-sex couples or in the so-called Family Law recently defeated after massive protest in France, and it implies, on the other hand, that pregnancy is merely an ‘elective procedure’ potentially subject to ‘rationing’ simply through bureaucratic adjustments to the schedule of health benefits. Why, after all, should a heterosexual woman be entitled to unlimited prenatal and neonatal benefits—when pregnancy is essentially a choice—while same-sex couples are denied access to the technology necessary to conceive children of their own? We are only just beginning to see this logic take practical effect, but as Nietzsche observed, great deeds take time.

And:

As troubling as this practical consequence is, more worrisome still is the fundamental anthropology—the philosophy of human nature—implicit in it. Of course, the state’s imposition of a philosophy will be largely hidden by the fact that it is never actually stated and by the pretense that it is merely a neutral arbiter of rights, and most proponents of same-sex marriage would probably deny that they hold a philosophy of human nature other than the freedom to love whom one will and equality before the law. We can concede that people support ‘marriage equality’ for what seem to be compassionate and humane reasons. But we’re talking about the objective logic of a position, its presuppositions and its practical implications, not the subjective content of one’s mind or the sincerity of one’s motivations and beliefs. And to declare that there is no difference between conceiving a child through procreation in a marriage and through the technology necessitated by same-sex unions is to say something definitive about what a child and the human being are, even if this goes unrecognized. Indeed it is all the more definitive the more it goes unrecognized.

Underlying the technological conquest of human biology, whether in its gay or feminist form, is a dualism which bi-furcates the person into a meaningless mechanical body made of malleable ‘stuff’ and the affective or technological will that presides over it. The person as an integrated whole falls through the chasm. This is the foundation of the now orthodox distinction between ‘sex’ which is ‘merely biological’ and ‘gender’ which is socially constructed, as well as the increasingly pervasive (and relentlessly promoted) idea that freedom means our self-creation of both. Technological dominance over procreation imposes this bifurcated anthropology upon parents and children alike, and codifying it implicitly makes this anthropology the law of the land.

Hanby concludes:

Thus what seems at first glance to be the latest step in the forward march of freedom turns out, on closer inspection, to be a decisive moment in the triumph of technology over the human being, though these aren’t really the opposites that they appear to be. When freedom is understood as limitless possibility and is elevated to the highest good, it is inevitable that anything that would define us prior to our choosing—even our own bodies—will eventually be regarded as an obstacle to be overcome.

Read it all. Transgenderism does not come up once in this seven-year-old essay, which gives you an idea of how swiftly trans arose and conquered. But everything that made this transgender moment possible is contained in Hanby’s essay. This is the triumph of technology over the human being.

Think about what might be coming next. If a society has been convinced to accept the anthropology that makes transgenderism normative, anything is possible. As Hanby points out, the body becomes an artifact. Hanby warns that “the deep anthropological assumptions inherent in the push for same-sex marriage, in other words, are those of synthetic biology and the new eugenics, which promise to ‘seize control of our own evolution’ through bioengineering.”

I hope I am wrong about this, but I don’t see how this is going to be possible to stop. In theory it could, but when you consider that the ideologues have control of all the institutions, and when you consider that the population has become so demoralized as to accept this radical trans stuff without significant protest, where do you think a resistance powerful enough to overturn it is going to come from?

Nevertheless, we who refuse to live by lies have to resist this big lie. That’s why I wrote Live Not By Lies. Yesterday I filmed a presentation for an upcoming training conference for pastors, to try to convince them that we cannot live as we have been living, and that they had better commit themselves to training their congregations for resistance and resilience. This passage from LNBL tells you what we are up against:

In his 2019 book, We Have Been Harmonized—China’s term for neutralizing citizens as a threat to the social and political order—veteran journalist Kai Strittmatter, who spent years in Beijing reporting for a German daily, reveals the techno-dystopia that modern China has become. He interviews a Chinese teacher who gives his name as “David,” and who despairs of his country’s future.

“People born in the 1980s and afterwards are hopelessly lost,” David says. He continues:

The brainwashing starts in nursery school. It was different for us. They called us a lost generation because schools and colleges were closed back then, and many of us were denied an education. But in reality, we were probably the lucky ones. We fell through the cracks. The brainwashing didn’t get us.

Mao was dead, and everyone was desperate for China to open up, for reform, freedom. The state’s information-control apparatus has demolished the ability of young Chinese to learn facts about their nation’s history in ways that contradict the Communist Party’s narrative. The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for example, has been memory-holed. This is something that we will almost certainly not have to endure in the West.

But the condition of the youth in consumerist China is more Huxley than Orwell. As the American media critic Neil Postman once said, Orwell feared a world in which people would be forbidden to read books. Huxley, by contrast, feared a world in which no one would have to ban books, because no one would want to read them in the first place. This, says David, is China today. Even though a great deal of information remains available to students, they don’t care about it.

“My students say they haven’t got time. They’re distracted by a thousand other things,” David tells Strittmatter. “And although I’m only ten years older than them, they don’t understand me. They live in a completely different world. They’ve been perfectly manipulated by their education and the Party’s propaganda: my students devote their lives to consumerism and ignore everything else. They ignore reality; it’s been made easy for them.”

And so, a population that has been wholly propagandized by a totalitarian state, and demoralized by hedonistic consumerism, will hardly be in a position even to imagine opposition to its command-and-control strategies. And even if some dissidents did emerge, the government’s total information system would quickly identify and “harmonize” them before they had the opportunity to act—or even before they had the conscious thought of dissenting.

You see? We are creating a generation that will never have known anything but gender ideology, and for the sake of harmonizing with a society that makes accepting gender ideology a condition of participating in it, will cut off any questioning of gender ideology before it becomes conscious. Thus does “compassion” lead to the surgeon’s knife to slice off the genitals of a minor, and create fake genitals using slices of the excretory system. Thus does “compassion” lead to a softer form of totalitarianism. We have been warned.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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