The growth of the transgender movement has left many unanswered questions, but the media never seems to accurately represent both sides. In 2015, Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg collaborated with Dale O’Leary to produce a comprehensive 42-page policy paper, “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement.” Now, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation has provided an even more comprehensive treatment of the topic with a 251-page book. When Harry Became Sally is a fair and informed assessment of the transgender ideology written not to convert the activists, but rather to inform the average American that the implications of gender identity, gender fluidity, and transitioning may go beyond what we have been told by the media. In an engaging walkthrough of every aspect of this growing movement, Anderson makes it clear that we have much more to learn.
The stories of psychologists, biologists, and philosophers give the book more depth than any other response to the transgender movement thus far. In a crusade dominated by emotion and skewed statistics, it is refreshing to readdress the core meaning of male and female and the differences between the sexes. Anderson moves beyond statistics and engages with literature of both sides, seeking to give readers the tools to address this movement in an informed and persuasive way.
Even more moving are the testimonies of men and women who found “transitioning” was not the answer. Often squelched and silenced, the voices of these “detransitioners” are shared with no sense of bias, allowing raw experiences to do the talking and the readers to make their own conclusions.
When one looks at the dangers of gender transition and accompanying reckless treatment plans, it becomes clear that transgenderism is turning medicine into a playground with no rules. Anderson draws from the care plans of physicians and psychologists to give us the data our newspapers would never publish. He tells the stories of doctors ambushed for asking questions and children being given more authority than an average adult. Things are changing, medicine is being politicized, and children are becoming the choosers, even though all the research points in the opposite direction as the path to comprehensive health.
This deviates from the typical brash narratives of transgenderism. As Anderson makes clear, he is not seeking to destroy a movement, but to save lives. Never failing to speak with love, the author has given us one of the most systematic and sensitive approaches to gender identity. As we follow the different waves of feminism and philosophy, it is evident that this ideology had been percolating for years, but our society is only now coming to face the ramifications. His brilliant overview of policy shows that everyone is affected by this movement. While legislative bans and surgical operations seem like the simplest solution to our problem, they only put a Band-Aid on a very large wound and drive a wedge deeper into a cracked foundation.
With grace and humility, Anderson acknowledges that our society is not perfect. In fact, he admits that societal stereotypes greatly contribute to many distortions of gender identity. Anderson is not seeking to validate stereotypes, but to illuminate how complex the issue is. We have rushed to medical and political decisions that have radical implications, without truly understanding what we have done. Anderson asks us to think, not simply with our hearts, but with our heads.
Anderson’s main goal is to inform and encourage, reminding us that taking a position is not enough. There is still much to be done, still much to be explained, still much to be researched. In the meantime, we are doing irreparable damage and silencing voices, rather than empowering them. Anderson proves that we must hold on to the reality of humans being embodied as male or female, even while society diminishes the importance of human nature altogether. Our culture believes that breaking foundations is the only form of progress, but this will only destabilize the moral architecture of society.
Hannah Borchers is an intern at Family Research Council.