by Steve Golden —
This is the story of the American family—decent, loving, hardworking and kind. It wants to do the right thing. But it finds itself set in a society that increasingly regards parents as obstacles, bigots, and dupes. We cheer as teenage girls with no history of dysphoria steep themselves in a radical gender ideology taught in school or found on the internet. Peers and therapists and teachers and internet heroes egg these girls on. But here, the cost of so much youthful indiscretion is not a piercing or tattoo. It’s closer to a pound of flesh.Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage, p. xxx
Abigail Shrier, a journalist and author, stumbled into writing about the transgender craze sweeping up our daughters seemingly accidently. After writing a piece for the Wall Street Journal on state laws threatening punishment for failure to use preferred transgender pronouns, Shrier received an email from the mother of a girl, “Lucy,” who had declared herself transgender (despite having no history of gender dysphoria). Shrier initially did not pursue the story, but she eventually interviewed Lucy’s mother and numerous other parents of girls with similar stories along with “detransitioners” (those leaving the transgender lifestyle), social media influencers who promote transgenderism to young girls, and many others. The result was this book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.
Shrier writes, “The more I learned about the adolescents who suddenly identify as transgender, the more haunted I became by one question: what’s ailing these girls?” (p. xxviii). Irreversible Damage answers that question thoroughly, and Shrier is a delight to read. Her writing style is compelling, and each chapter leaves readers wanting more. This is not a high-brow academic work—it’s thoroughly researched but written for all of us, because the transgender craze affects all of us.
A few caveats are in order: While many of Shrier’s conclusions align with conservative Christian beliefs, Shrier herself is neither a Christian nor a conservative, and has noted in interviews how surprised she was by the pushback her book received in Leftist circles (she’s the only one). Shrier also makes it a point to tell readers that her book’s concerns are limited to underage girls. Adults who choose a transgender lifestyle are, for her, a different story, and she appears to generally support these folks in their choice. My positive review should not be read as a wholesale endorsement of Shrier’s views. If you decide to read Irreversible Damage, it’s worth doing so with your Bible open, comparing Shrier’s truth claims to relevant passages including Gen. 1:23–27, 2:18–22; Lev. 18:22; Deut. 22:5; Romans 1; and 1 Cor. 11:14–15.
A Concerning Trend
One of Shrier’s more illuminating interviews is with Dr. Lisa Littman. Littman, an ob-gyn and public health researcher, noticed a curious phenomenon in 2016: “several adolescents, most of them girls, from her small town in Rhode Island had come out as transgender—all from within the same friend group” (p. 25). Dr. Littman knew very little about gender dysphoria, but she did know statistics—and the number of girls claiming to be transgender in this single friend group was “unprecedented” (p. 25).
Dr. Littman published a paper in 2018 on this trend, calling it “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” or “ROGD.” For many of us, it’s easier to call this a transgender “craze,” a sociology term meaning “a cultural enthusiasm that spreads like a virus” (p. 27). What Dr. Littman was seeing was a kind of peer contagion, where one girl identifies as transgender, and then her friends begin to do the same thing.
Dr. Littman’s research hit a nerve, and transgender activists—the same ones interacting with our daughters online and in the public school system—came out in force. PLoS One, the journal that published Littman’s paper, issued an apology and demanded “corrections.” Brown University, where Dr. Littman taught, also published an apology. Finally, transgender activists went to the Rhode Island Department of Health, where Littman worked as a part-time physician, and demanded her termination. The DOH complied, ending Dr. Littman’s employment.
Schools and Doctors vs. the Parents
If you take nothing else away from Shrier’s book, know this: when it comes to the trans agenda, the public schools and the doctors largely work against parents—and they will use lies, secrecy, and deception to push trans ideology on our kids. I’m generalizing more than Shrier does, but this is going on across the country, and schools in red states are just as guilty.
Using Dr. Littman’s groundbreaking research as a starting point, Shrier walks readers through every area of the system failing our daughters. It’s important to understand that this is not just conservative Christians making noise: Just like in Littman’s research, where 85% of the families she dealt with were supportive of LGBT rights, most of the families Shrier interacted with are also LGBT rights enthusiasts. The themes in each interview were similar: a daughter who dated boys, who was feminine and showed no inclination toward transgenderism, suddenly “came out” as transgender.
The parents in every case were left puzzled—but what made it worse was how our social systems betrayed them. The public school systems involved, as Shrier documents, invited transgender speakers to share the wonders of the lifestyle with young students. They started clubs for students to join to show solidarity with the LGBT movement. And—as a slap in the face to parents everywhere—the schools aided these girls in adopting new names, a new gender, and in some cases got them started on testosterone therapy, without ever telling the child’s parents. School records were updated with the new name and new gender, and these girls were able to live a different life eight hours a day, five days a week, with their teachers and classmates affirming all their choices. (See Chapter 4.)
The medical establishment is no better. Shrier writes that many therapists—the people tasked with helping those dealing with gender dysphoria—have instead adopted “transgender affirming care.” In other words, when you take your child to a psychiatrist to seek help, they are more likely to encourage your child’s belief that she is a boy than to offer any real help. These therapists often use scare statistics (e.g., suicide rates of trans kids) to pressure parents into supporting their child’s transition—and that’s when they are even willing to tell the parents that they are affirming the child’s choice. (See Chapter 6.)
Transition itself is no small thing—despite what the medical establishment tells parents. Many of these doctors opt to start young girls on Lupron (a drug traditionally used for chemical castration) as a way of “delaying puberty” until they can determine whether they are transgender or not. It’s billed as a relatively harmless, neutral intervention—but this is a fabrication. Lupron not only pauses sexual development, but it stops sex hormones from doing their years-long work on the brain and has the potential for numerous negative side effects. Shrier writes that 70% of children on puberty blocking drugs go on to start cross-sex hormone therapy (p. 165). Once a girl starts on testosterone therapy, infertility is a foregone conclusion, and sexual development never occurs. (See Chapter 9.)
The final stage the medical establishment pushes these girls toward is “top surgery” (double mastectomy), eventual hysterectomy, and sometimes full gender transition surgery. This leads to one of the more heart-wrenching chapters in Irreversible Damage, where Shrier documents the level of regret that occurs after transition. And the difficulty that detransitioners experience is compounded by the dogma of gender ideology:
Those who transition often assume that there is no going back. This is gender ideologues’ favorite dogma, that epistemic access to one’s gender identity is perfect: “Kids know who they are.” Because no one can be wrong about his or her gender identity, there is no reason ever to change your mind. (p. 203)
Many of those who are seduced by the transgender lifestyle later feel enslaved by it, trapped in a life they realize they never wanted. Many of the detransitioners tell Shrier that they felt deceived by their doctors and therapists. It’s like a woman in an abusive relationship, except the parts of society meant to protect her instead encourage her to enter the relationship, knowing what a bad guy he is, and then they egg him on during the beatings.
Our True Hope
Shrier believes there is hope for those leaving this lifestyle, but where this hope comes from is nebulous for her. This is one of the areas where we part ways, because I know where hope is truly found. Feminists sometimes quote Galatians 3:28–29 in a misguided attempt to support their view that gender roles are not important, but the glory of this passage is what it says about those who are in Christ:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (ESV)
Christ died to save sinners, and salvation is found in Christ alone, not in a certain gender or sexuality or ethnicity or level of freedom. But Christ did not die to eliminate male and female or to make gender more fluid. One of the many joys of the Christian life is that Christ empowers us to embrace the maleness or femaleness God gave us at conception and to walk in godly masculinity and femininity. And He offers that hope to the least of us, including and especially those lost in gender dysphoria and body mutilation. It’s never too late to be the man or woman God intended you to be.