The Michigan Catholic
June 26, 2014
The June 9 cover story of TIME magazine wonders or, rather, insinuates, that we have reached the “Transgender Tipping Point,” and dubs it “America’s next civil rights frontier.”
Who are the “transgendered”? “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” is the most common description of the transgender person’s experience. Underlying the notion is the belief that biology doesn’t determine gender. Sex refers to “man” or “woman,” the result of a chromosomal difference decreed by biology. Gender, on the other hand, refers to one’s identity as masculine or feminine, a social and psychological construction.
Transgender people are those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were “assigned at birth” by their parents, doctors, midwives or society. Often times they seek surgery to rectify the contradiction between sex and gender. Christine Jorgenson (1926-89), formerly George Jorgensen, America’s first celebrity transsexual, wrote that “Nature made a mistake which I have had corrected.” After surgery, the “transgendered” become the “transsexual.”
Last week, I was chatting with a friend who heads up a national ministry devoted to defending traditional marriage. She waved me off when I raised the topic of TIME magazine’s transgenderism cover story. Why the reticence? She simply didn’t know enough to discuss it. Not many of us do. Much scientific study remains to be done. TIME’s piece, however, lacked such reticence. Complex questions of nature, nurture, morality and health were shunted aside by a call for a new civil rights movement.
Laverne Cox, star of the Netflix drama Orange is the New Black, is TIME’s public face of the transgender movement. Her glam photo ignores many other not-so-glamorous faces. Bruce/Brenda Reimer was a twin boy who suffered a severe deformity through a botched circumcision. It was 1967 and Johns Hopkins’ Dr. John Money was testing his new theory of gender equality. Someone born a man could experience life as a female with the proper social influence and, in time, physical surgery. The problem was that from the beginning, Reimer couldn’t be made to experience typical girlish behavior or desires. The tragic story is told by John Colapinto in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.
When Reimer refused the gender reassignment surgery urged upon him by Money, his parents told him the truth which did set him somewhat free. Now called David, life began making sense to him. David Reimer went on to marry and have a child, but in the end both he and his twin brother became suicides. Money’s theory blinded him to the person he was treating.
Look at the face of Renee Richards, the former Dr. Richard Raskin, a Yale-educated doctor admired by his friends as a “dashing alpha male,” star athlete and ladies’ man. After 40 years of inner torment, he underwent sex reassignment surgery, left his son, went to California and undertook professional tennis. Citing unfair advantage because she still possessed the 6-foot-2 inch, broad-shouldered male frame with size-12 feet and male musculature, she was denied entry into the 1976 U.S. Open by the United States Tennis Association. She refused to take a chromosomal test claiming that it couldn’t tell the truth about her femininity. Her biology, she insisted, had no necessary link to her gender, and she went to court. The New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in a 1977 landmark decision in favor of transsexual rights.
Her life, however, wasn’t quite the victory suggested by her legal win. Personal problems, the alienation from his/her only son and a surprising loss of interest in romance followed.
“[I] never had the same kind of love that Dick had for women. So something got lost. Something got lost.” ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Renee doesn’t blink at these problems while generally favoring her point of view.
But TIME magazine, in its haste to advocate the latest in civil rights chic, neglects all this anecdotal counter-evidence. Worse, it fails to disclose the scientific evidence that forced Johns Hopkins Hospital, the pioneer in sex-change surgery in the late 1960s and early 70s, to shut down its sex reassignment clinic.
According to Dr. Paul McHugh, who became psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1975, serious follow-up studies were required to determine the therapeutic value of this surgery. He “concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness.” While most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as “satisfied,” their psycho-social adjustments didn’t fare better than those who didn’t have the surgery. “And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”
TIME magazine should have included this extraordinary discovery in their piece. Further studies at Vanderbilt and London’s Portman Clinic showed that 70-80 percent of children who reported trans-gender feelings spontaneously lost those feelings. Because 25 percent did have enduring transgender feelings, we need to determine what differentiates them from the others. None of this is even hinted at in TIME’s article. We have entered an era, however, in which even respected mainstream news sources have, wittingly or unwittingly, decided to become activist organs of opinion rather than fair and accurate reporters of the news.
Al Kresta is president and CEO of Ave Maria Communications in Ann Arbor. His radio program, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” can be heard from 4-6 p.m. daily on 990 AM-WDEO and EWTN.