Last week, I finished Abigail Shrier’s book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.
This is not “normal” reading fare for me at all. Longtime readers know that I cannot stand identity politics anything. I even have a difficult time listening to conservatives who obsess over responding to identity politics stuff. I honestly just want it to go away. It’s stupid. It’s mean-spirited. It’s everything that is despicable about this political moment. I feel like Franny Glass in Salinger, meditating on people who just go around ruining everything that is true and beautiful.
I was not expecting to relate to this book as much as I did.
I am not even remotely unsympathetic to (truly) transgender people. Before we moved to Florida, we had a dear, dear friend who was a transgender woman, or what would have been known in the past as a drag queen. We were friends with her for many years, and she was one of the few people who came to visit us when our daughter was in the NICU for several months. This person lived a very complicated life, where work days were spent as a man in a corporate environment, and some nights were spent with a totally different persona. I learned a lot about the nasty, humbling details of transitioning physically to a new gender and the impact of domestic trauma on a person’s mind. I wouldn’t dare speculate why or how she became the person she is. As far as I am concerned, that is for God to know. But our friendship opened my eyes to a lot of things I would not have seen before.
I watched as this person’s world was turned upside down by politics, long before Trump was a candidate. I had never thought about where she might prefer to go to the bathroom or the kind of hate she would have to endure. In fact, that was kind of what was bizarre about the whole thing. She did not have to endure any meaningful hate until she became a hill progressives were willing to die on. Then hate was everywhere. And her plight was lumped in with bratty and rebellious teens who did not know what they wanted, but who had suddenly become political expedients to be lifted up as a fucked up model for society.
Shrier presents the current transgender phenomenon as the latest version of how teenage girls romanticize self-harm. I can totally see that, too. There’s a reason why – until now – we associated gender dysphoria with drag queens. Historically, we are talking about gay men who enjoy dressing as women. Not teenage girls.
But that is not what is happening now. You have an overwhelming number of teenage girls who suddenly think they are not girls. It’s not that they think they are boys, either. They just don’t want to be girls. And their idea of gender is actually gender stereotypes. What they reject is being an Instagram Barbie, not being a girl, per se. Their predicament is not all that different than Blacks living in an environment of “anti-racism,” where white liberals define things like grammar and showing up for appointments on time as quintessentially white traits and platforms for oppression. It’s just the dumbest, most fake, and unnecessarily cruel thing lately.
I am not a Barbie doll. My best subjects were math and symbolic logic. I am pretty fine with having a vagina and being a woman. But if I were in school now, my teachers would be telling me I am dysphoric. They would be pressuring me into decisions that would deprive me of the experience of producing and meeting my daughter. Would that make me suicidal? You’re goddamn right it would. Having a baby was literally the best thing that ever happened to me. And public school activists are stripping young girls of exactly that.
In past decades, hormonal teenage girls would have been driven to anorexia, bulimia, cutting, affecting bipolar or depression symptoms, substance abuse, destructive boyfriends. But now, they live in a world where they are being radicalized on the interwebs long before they have a single romantic interaction in the real world. They start watching porn at an average age of 11 – truly grotesque stuff, like getting choked and beaten.
The main difference between what is happening now versus in past decades is that teenage girls are being encouraged and enabled by the adults in positions of authority around them, who have increasingly mentally ill ideas about human sexuality themselves. In California, where the de facto Democratic presidential nominee is from, it is now possible for kids as young as 12 years old to get hormone injections on the campus of their public school, sans parental notification, let alone consent.
Imagine that for a moment. You send your kid to school, and a few months later her voice starts to change. You wonder what is up. You find out your kid’s school has been giving her testosterone injections without your knowledge. You get to explain to your daughter, amid the normal teenage angst, that she is now infertile and will never be able to have kids. No one walked her through the consequences because they were too busy slapping their own back for being so progressive. She now wants to have a double mastectomy. Not to be male, but because she lives in an environment where hating your developing body is elevated and praised. It’s a phase that will pass, but she will have destroyed her embodied self.
People would lose their shit if they heard that schools were now pro-anorexia. But that is effectively how they are acting with transgender students. You hate your body and want to mutilate it? Good for you? How can we help you achieve your self-mutilation goals? That’s what counts as “caring” now.
That is what gets me about all of this. Not the mania or collective mental illness of politics, but the institutionalization of self-harm. The idea that you could send your child to a school that thinks you, the parent, is dangerous to your child, that puts using the wrong pronoun in the same box as trying to drown your child in the bathtub. That the suggestion of “hey, let’s think about the long-term consequences of this” is now met with institutions trying to remove a child from your custody.
We need to reject this new development forcefully.