Six Quotes from “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment”

I just finished reading Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender MomentIn this book, he deals with transgender claims from medical, psychological, philosophical, political, and biographical viewpoints (for a theological angle, see Andrew Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate).

If you read no other chapter, read the one entitled “Detransitioners Tell Their Stories,” in which Anderson lets us listen to the voices of those who tried transitioning to the opposite sex only to find greater misery. Hearing these accounts is largely what led Anderson to write the book: “I just couldn’t shake from my mind the stories of people who had detransitioned” (205). Read them and see if you can.

Anyone who wants to know more without reading the entire book can listen to Anderson’s conversation with Al Mohler on the Thinking in Public podcast here.

Meanwhile, here are your six quotes, two of which are autobiographical quotes from detransitioners:


At the core of the [transgender] ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests; they disparage alternative practices; and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down any disagreement. The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That’s what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths. (48)

“I wanted to make a video previously…so that folks can see that I’m a real live person, but didn’t out of fear of showing my face. But I think it’s important when we talk about these issues to really undersand that women like us aren’t just statistics, not just some dry data some gatekeeping doctor might throw at you, we’re real people. This is a real outcome of transition. I’m a real live twenty-two year old woman with a scarred chest and a broken voice and 5 o’clock shadow because I couldn’t face the idea of growing up to be a woman. That’s my reality.”

-Cari, a female detransitioner

“We transitioned for a lot of different reasons. Many of us transitioned due to trauma. We lived through events terrible enough that it damaged our sense of self and so we created a new self to cope and survive. That self was our trans or male or genderqueer identity. We transitioned because we got raped, because we’re incest survivors, because we faced violence for being lesbians, because we were locked up in psych wards, because one of our parents killed themselves…Sometimes bad things happened to us just for being female in a culture where women are violated every day and sometimes bad things happened because we’re the wrong kind of woman, maybe too butch or “masculine” or loud or unemotional. One way or another, we didn’t fit in with what other people and our culture expected women to be. Sometimes our bodies themselves were deemed not female enough and treated as if they were freakish. That happened to me because I had traits like an adam’s apple, body hair, an angular face, and so on, leading many to speculate on what sex I was. Eventually, other people’s judgments got inside my head and infected how I saw myself until I started questioning whether I was really female too.

Trauma and misogyny led us to disassociate from being female and then to transition. Transitioning was itself further trauma. First others attacked and wounded our bodies and distorted our self-perception and then we hurt ourselves in response. Transitioning was an act of self-destruction, enabled by medical professionals who were supposedly ‘helping’ us to be our ‘true selves.’ It is truly horrifying to come out of that dissociated state and realize that not only were you suppressing and trying to destroy yourself but that other people were there encouraging and assisting you in doing so.” (73-74)

-Crash, a female detransitioner

This raises metaphysical questions concerning what it could mean to “be” a man in a woman’s body, and epistemological questions concerning how a man could know what it is to “feel” like a woman. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel argued back in 1974, no one (other than a bat) can answer the question “What is it like to be a bat?” So, can a man know what it feels like to be a woman? Or vice-versa? It is impossible to know experientially what it is like to be something one is not. The claim of a biological male that he is “a woman stuck in a man’s body” presupposes that someone who has a man’s body, a man’s brain, a man’s sexual capacities, and a man’s DNA can know what it’s like to be a woman. As many feminists have pointed out, no biological male can really experience what it is like to be a woman, for males can have no embodied female experiences. Many of the claims made by transgender activists seem therefore to rely on stereotypes of what “real” men and women are like… (104)

“The current findings of medical science provide arguments against sex reassignment therapies, but we also need to look deeper for philosophical wisdom, starting with some basic truths about human well-being and healthy functioning. Our minds and senses function properly when they reveal reality to us and lead us to knowledge of truth. And we flourish as human beings when we embrace the truth and live in accordance with it. A person might find some subjective satisfaction in believing and living out a falsehood, but that person would not be objectively well off. Someone could make it through life believing and living out a falsehood without experiencing psychiatric distress, but that person would not fully flourish.

This philosophical view of human well-being is the foundation of a sound medical practice. Dr. [Michelle] Cretella emphasizes that mental health care should be guided by norms grounded in reality, including the reality of the bodily self. “The norm for human development is for one’s thoughts to align with physical reality, and for one’s gender to align with one’s biologic sex,” she says. For human beings to flourish, they need to feel comfortable in their own bodies, really identify with their sex, and believe they are who they actually are…Unfortunately, many professionals now view health care in general, and mental health care in particular, as primarily a matter of fulfilling a patient’s desires. (114)

What’s at stake in the transgender moment is the human person. If trans activists succeed in their political agenda, our nation’s children will be indoctrinated in a harmful ideology, and some will live by its lies about their own bodies, at great cost to themselves physically, psychologically, and socially. Lives will be ruined, but pointing out the damage will be forbidden. Dissent from transgender worldview will be punished in schools, workplaces, and medical clinics. Trying to live in accordance with the truth will be made harder.

This doesn’t have to happen. Everyone can play a role in bearing witness to the truth and ministering compassionately to people in pain. For anyone who takes part in this important work, Dr. [Paul] McHugh offers some advice: “Gird your loins if you would confront this matter. Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.”” (203)

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