Now, I have no wish to outlaw sex-change operations. And when a mature adult like Jenner decides to undergo such a process, I wish him the best, although I suspect that reading Dante, or Buddha or Freud or Jung, would have done more for him than the course he has chosen. But to hold him up as a “hero,” and to suggest he is an exemplar for “troubled youth struggling with their identity” (as I recently saw argued on social media), is a triumph of ideology over any concern for the well-being of actual people.
For the human animal, the teen years are a difficult time, as new demands of adult responsibility combine with surging hormones to buffet the individual’s psyche this way and that. To suggest to individuals going through such a tempest that the route to calm weather is as simple as altering one’s genitals is a cruel joke. I suggest that the number of teens for whom their primary psychological problem is that they have a penis instead of a vagina, or vice-versa, is very close to zero. But many struggling teens—and how few teens aren’t struggling in some way?—will feel the lure of this easy answer, especially when they are told that they will be “heroes” if they act on the idea.
There is compelling evidence that sex-change operations do not improve the well being of those who have undergone them, and that the primary cause of gender confusion is psychological, not biological. As Dr. Jon Meyer, a psychiatrist involved in pioneering work in this area, put it, “To say that this type of surgery cures psychiatric disturbance is incorrect. We now have objective evidence that there is no real difference in the transsexual’s adjustment to life in terms of jobs, educational attainment, marital adjustment and social stability.” Another pioneer in the field reported: “There is too much unhappiness among people who have had the surgery … Too many end in suicide.” In fact, the suicide rate of those who have had such surgery is a shocking 20 times above that of the “non-transgendered.” But when I recently noted these facts in an online discussion, a “self-created individual” ideologue told me the cause of these suicides is… people like me! The parallel to Marxists blaming “reactionaries” for the continual failure of their schemes to achieve utopia should be obvious. As Voegelin noted in The New Science of Politics, “The gap between intended and real effect [of utopian schemes] will be imputed not to the [ideological] immorality of ignoring the structure of reality but to the immorality of some other person or society that does not behave as it should according to the dream conception of cause and effect.”
Unfortunately, as in the case of Marxism, secondary realities exist only in the ideologue’s mind, and all of us must actually live in primary reality. The victims of this particular second reality will be those young people who buy into the falsehood that they are “self-created heroes” if they try to change their natural sex, and then find, a couple of years down the road, that not only are all the real problems with which they were grappling still with them, but beyond that, they are now dealing with a radically altered body which they no longer want. As psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh says, “Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.” Like communism, reality will catch up with this ideology too, and it will fade away as all such insanities must, but, in the meantime, the cost in human happiness may be very large indeed.
By Gene Callahan, The American Conservative, June 2015.