Irreversible Damage: the trans threat to girls
Abigail Shrier's new book is a must-read on the harm trans ideology is doing to young girls
Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage is a brilliant exploration of the steep rise of transgender identity among adolescent girls, and the damage it is doing.
Gender dysphoria, the acute discomfort in one’s biological sex, was, until about five years ago, extremely rare. It was diagnosed in less than 0.01 per cent of the population. But for many of us who have conducted academic research or written about gender dysphoria — and its previous incarnation, gender-identity disorder — we have noted the huge increase in the numbers of those identifying as transgender over the past decade.
In particular, there has been a huge increase among teenage girls and female university students, most notably in the US, the UK and Scandinavia. Transgenderism is certainly no longer the preserve of adult males, as it once had been.
However, it is clear from the introduction to Irreversible Damage that critiquing trans ideology is a risky business. The threat of censorship is omnipresent. Just last month, Shrier’s publisher, Regnery, was told by Amazon that it would not run any sponsored ads for Irreversible Damage. Amazon explained that it ‘contains elements that may not be appropriate for all audiences, which may include ad copy/book content that infers or claims to diagnose, treat, or question sexual orientation’. Amazon stated this even though Irreversible Damage does not question sexual orientation. Still, at least it remains for sale on Amazon.
Trans activists have also predictably attacked Shrier. But in many ways, the pushback to Irreversible Damage is a testament to the strength of its research and the power of its case. Indeed, Shrier conducted almost 200 interviews and spoke to over four-dozen families of adolescents, as well as many doctors, psychologists and researchers.
The chapter ‘Girls’ is a case in point. It presents a mixture of personal stories against a broader statistical analysis, in order to illustrate just how much time adolescents today are spending online, instead of socialising with their peers. It also looks at the ways kids now relate to each other through the tick-box categories of hardship. Recording her observations at a young people’s weekend retreat, she noted how the youngsters would introduce themselves via approved identity categories: ‘I’m transgender, and I go by they/them’; ‘I’m depressed’; ‘I’m gay’.
She suggests that too many young people, seeking security in a label, are now missing out on crucial aspects of socialisation: ‘Many of the adolescent girls who adopt a transgender identity have never had a single sexual or romantic experience.’
Situating the narratives of her young subjects within a larger social and medical context, Shrier looks at why many girls, often from the point they start menstruating onwards, start to feel alienated from their own bodies, despite never having experienced any previous discomfort in their biological sex.
The first key factor for Shrier is the role of trans narratives propagated within schools. ‘Gender affirmation’ is rife within public schools across the US, she writes. She goes on to show how classrooms are being colonised by therapists eager to push children towards a pathway of lifelong medicalisation.
Part of the problem, suggests Shrier, is cultural. We can no longer stomach the thought of our children being unhappy. Instead, this unhappiness must be treated. ‘Between the battalions of therapists’, she writes, ‘the upper middle class has made a habit of extirpating anxiety, depression, and even the occasional disappointment wherever they find them’. She adds: ‘Perhaps we’ve trained adolescents to regard happiness as a natural and constantly accessible state.’ And if that means affirming young people’s chosen gender identity, and endorsing transitioning, so be it.
The second key factor is the rise of online trans-influencer culture. In some ways, this has been the engine driving the transgender narrative over the past decade. It hooks into contemporary youngsters’ need to establish a social identity and have it affirmed. Indeed, such is the power of online trans influencers that it is surely no coincidence that, as Shrier puts it, ‘over 65 per cent of teens had increased their social-media use and time spent online immediately prior to their announcement of transgender identity’.
Shrier looks, for example, at online trans guru, Ty Turner. He suggests that if you merely think you are trans, then you are. This shows how quickly typical teenage self-questioning has been transformed into the expectation of immediate affirmation. This cycle of endless self-identification and affirmation leads at points to incoherence. ‘Chase Ross told me he currently identifies as “60 per cent male” and the rest, “squiggle”‘, writes Shrier. ‘Confused? That may be the point.’
Shrier also criticises the common and coercive trans-culture tropes that appear online, including: ‘If your parents loved you, they would support your trans identity’, and, ‘If you’re not supported in your trans identity, you’ll probably kill yourself’. She even uncovers online trans influencers showing kids how to convince doctors they’re trans in order to receive prescriptions for hormone-blockers or hormones. The damage all this does to young girls’ bodies is terrifying.
What’s more, the medical world offers no resistance. When Shrier asks Randi Kaufman, a gender therapist, about those parents who just can’t understand the discourse of gender identity, Kaufman responds: ‘I tell them that we can’t change the mind and so we have to change the body.’ Echoing the online trope, Kaufman says that if parents don’t support their trans kids, they may ‘try to commit suicide’.
Irreversible Damage is a must-read book. It portrays a generation of girls being exploited by a cultural contagion that too few adults are willing to question. It is an exhaustive and balanced investigation into what amounts, for girls, to rebranded sexism. A sexism that tells girls today that if they don’t like being female, don’t speak out or work for change; instead, become life-long medical patients.
Julian Vigo is a writer and academic.
Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by Abigail Shrier, is published by Regenery Publishing. (Pre-order this book from Amazon(UK).)
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