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Jack DeVine / June 23, 2022

The Gender Trap

The rush to redefine human gender and then attempting to re-engineer human bodies accordingly is a road to nowhere.

For a while we thought the idea of gender fluidity was too loony to take seriously — just a passing fad. We were wrong. It’s a serious matter, going too fast and way too far.

Gender dysphoria — the feeling that one is innately disconnected from his or her biological sex, a disorder classified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) — is very real, and those afflicted with it deserve support, compassion, and freedom from discrimination. Fortunately, it is also a very rare condition.

But according to an extensive review by The New York Times last week, the number of young people in the U.S. who identify as transgender is about 300,000, more than 100 times as many as APA statistics on gender dysphoria would suggest.

So what changed? Do these new data simply reveal that gender dysphoria is far more prevalent than previously thought? Or is it that today’s celebration of all things LGBTQ, perhaps especially transgenderism, is now making that avenue particularly enticing to prospective young customers?

The Times argues that the increase is attributable to the greatly reduced social stigma associated with differing sexual orientations, making it safe for those affected to self-identify.

But if so, what happened to all those trans kids hiding in the closet in generations past? Were they relegated to repressed, miserable lives stuck in the “wrong” bodies? Or did they simply outgrow their adolescent anxieties and go on to live normal (if imperfect) lives as healthy males and females?

Surely, there are some of both. But the obvious reality is that today’s fervent buzz has made transgenderism very attractive, particularly to young people struggling with the challenges of adolescence, worried about peer acceptance, obsessive about their appearance, blitzed with social media “guidance,” and petrified about puberty and its changes. They see trans folks as cool, edgy and bold, and it stands to reason that many are attracted to a change that could catapult them into that idyllic, celebrated, and socially protected in-crowd.

And compared to the relative simplicity of growing up years ago, the invitation to today’s youth to “change” genders poses immense, life-altering implications. Puberty blockers and hormone injections have lasting, often irreversible effects. And the follow-on surgical body modifications are permanent and horrifying.

Those physical body modifications — mastectomies and replacement of genitalia with non-functional fabricated alternatives — are now marketed under the innocent-sounding term “gender affirming surgery.” And somehow, we’re expecting youngsters — notoriously clueless and shortsighted (think back, we’ve all been there) — to march down that one-way path and live with the outcomes for the rest of their lives.

Reports vary on post-transition regrets — so far, they seem relatively infrequent, but there are many well-publicized anecdotes of dissatisfied, disillusioned individuals who try, with limited success, to reverse the process. But with the flood of gender transitions now taking place, it is simply too soon to get a statistical handle on long-term effects.

The central, compelling point here is that the gender transition proposed for many adolescents is a one-way trip with uncertain outcome, one that surely demands extreme caution. Evidently, medical professionals agree on the need for caution, but they remain divided on the degree to which it should restrict aggressive transition protocols for young patients.

Underlying this entire debate is the fiction that gender is fundamentally distinct from biological sex and is purely a matter of personal preference. Biological science says otherwise, but the spiraling enthusiasm about LGBTQ has left that detail in the dust. Note that what not long ago was growing and appropriate recognition of the importance of fair, non-discriminatory societal interaction of gay and lesbian individuals has now morphed to LGBTQI2A+ (with the “+” as shorthand for even more capital letters).

I don’t even know what all of those mean, and even after Googling them I’m still not sure. But if we are to understand that each represents a distinct sexual orientation deserving of special consideration, I submit that it’s way too many. And we haven’t even gotten into mandatory pronoun use, implications on Title IX protections for women athletes, and other casualties of this runaway train.

To be perfectly clear, no one is arguing for prejudicial treatment of individuals whose gender and sexual preferences are outside of the mainstream. And regarding gender dysphoria, there must be room for appropriate, timely treatment.

But in the main, this rush to redefine human gender and then attempt to re-engineer human bodies accordingly is a road to nowhere. It’s time to re-boot. And as I think about it, my mother’s usual caustic reaction to my own teenage woes — “oh, just grow up!” — wasn’t so insensitive after all.

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