In the Transgender Debate, It’s Language vs. Reality

Published June 15, 2022

National Review

During his HBO talk show, comedian Bill Maher highlighted that the LGBTQ-identifying population in America has doubled in each generation since the 1940s. His explanation for the phenomenon? Transgenderism is trendy. But it’s no joking matter.

Activists pushing transgender ideology have contributed to a social trend with significant consequences by reinventing the language surrounding sex and identity. In fact, their semantics pose the greatest threat to the transgender community and society at large. Let me explain.

Activists seem to think that by changing the language used to define sex, they can change reality. According to their terminology, the sex with which a person identifies is that person’s sex, regardless of his or her innate physical characteristics. They say that a male who identifies as a woman is a woman, and perhaps always was a woman.

Yet, as Maher observed, “if we can admit that. . . there is some level of trendiness to the idea of being anything other than straight, then this is not a serious science-based discussion.”

Indeed, modern science shows that our sex manifests itself in every level of our being, from the obvious physical differences between men and women, to our internal organs and the way our bodies are structured, continuing all the way down to our DNA. While cosmetic surgery and cross-sex hormones can affect appearances, they cannot change the underlying biological reality that men and women are different from the moment of conception.

Regardless of the science, transgender activists continue to rely on a reinvented definition of sex, causing great harm to their community by encouraging them to disregard important medical safeguards.

Plenty of evidence proves that transgender “treatments” cause harm. Even Maher noted that transitioning “isn’t just a lifestyle decision — it’s medical.” Embracing transgenderism by “transitioning” often exacerbates an individual’s suffering because there is no medical evidence that “transitioning” from one sex to another relieves the emotional pain such individuals experience.

The Obama administration concluded in 2016 that there were no clinically significant improvements in the quality of life of people who underwent gender-reassignment surgery. A correction to a study published just two years ago, using the largest data set ever, confirmed that neither hormonal nor surgical “transition” brought any benefits to patients.

A thorough 30-year Swedish study found that people who underwent sex-reassignment surgery had a suicide rate 19 times higher than their peers. Finally, the best studies indicate that when children with gender dysphoria are given time to process their internal conflicts without puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones, 80–95 percent of them will naturally embrace their bodily sex.

Sadly, people who identify as transgender are not the only ones who suffer the consequences of transgender semantics. Other people are shamed into adopting their language and endorsing the concept of gender fluidity at their personal expense. There are increasing examples of people being fired for failing to address a person by that person’s preferred pronouns or for not specifying their own.

By weaving the transgender narrative into children’s education, transgender ideology is marketed to young children, in teaching methods such as the “genderbread person” or “drag queen story hours.” These messages confuse children, and the intense push for transgender ideology over the last several years has led to a rapid increase in teenage girls identifying as transgender. For children to be healthy, they need help from adults to accept their physical bodies and understand themselves as male or female.

Perhaps more than anyone, women bear the costs of transgender ideology. Men who identify as women are permitted to enter female-only spaces like women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, and even prisons. At the very least, this poses a privacy risk to our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and granddaughters. Males have been allowed to compete in female sports, introducing unfair competition because of their innate athletic advantages.

Certainly, we should be compassionate toward people who struggle with their gender identity because their condition can cause tremendous pain and suffering. But we can show compassion without jeopardizing their well-being and the well-being of society at large. Let’s speak the truth in love. Semantics matter — but not as much as reality.

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and the Founding Editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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