As recently as ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable that The New York Times, the “grey lady,” the so-called “paper of record,” would run an article with the headline and sub-head, “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy; And it shouldn’t have to.” But that’s what happened on November 25.
Andrea Long Chu was “born a boy” (don’t ban me, Twitter—this is what Chu said). Chu’s op-ed began, “Next Thursday, I will get a vagina.” In other words, this biological male will undergo gender reassignment surgery.
In a 1,200-word piece, Chu vigorously defends that choice. But by bluntly telling the truth about the prospects for patients after such surgery, Chu effectively debunks most of the mythology that underlies the transgender movement’s policy demands. There is nothing so dangerous to the sexual revolution as one of its advocates who admits the truth.
Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, author of the most definitive conservative book on the transgender movement (When Harry Became Sally), has written a lengthy and detailed response to Chu’s piece in Public Discourse. (Chu had attacked Anderson by name.) But here is a condensed summary of Chu’s remarkable concessions.
Myth: Gender reassignment surgery can make a man into a woman.
In the third sentence, Chu admits that this surgery will not magically make him a woman: “Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound.” Chu also essentially admits it will not make him look like a woman, saying, “When she [“my girlfriend”] tells me I’m beautiful, I resent it. I’ve been outside. I know what beautiful looks like.”
Myth: Gender transition makes transgender people feel better.
Chu: “I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones.”
Myth: Gender transition alleviates “gender dysphoria.”
Chu: “Like many of my trans friends, I’ve watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition.”
Myth: Allowing cross-gender hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery is necessary to prevent transgender people from committing suicide.
Chu: “I was not suicidal before hormones. Now I often am.”
Chu also has a beef with the medical profession—practically all of it. Some doctors, like esteemed psychiatrist Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University, argue that gender transition treatments should not be offered because they fail to ease the suffering of transgender people. Others, who wish to affirm the latest ideologies, like those in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), argue these treatments should be available because they do ease suffering. Chu accuses both camps of “compassion-mongering”—“peddling bigotry in the guise of sympathetic concern.”
Chu directly and explicitly attacks a core principle of medical ethics, known as “nonmaleficence”—the idea that doctors should “first, do no harm.” In its place, Chu substitutes the philosophy that I believe is at the core of the entire LGBT movement—one of radical personal autonomy.
To Chu, the potential for harm from a gender transition is irrelevant: “I still want this, all of it. I want the tears; I want the pain. Transition doesn’t have to make me happy for me to want it.” Chu believes that “surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”
Ironically, the world that Chu envisions—where desire is all that matters—is very close to the world we already live in. If Chu wants gender reassignment surgery, can find a doctor willing and able to perform it, and is willing to pay for it, he can obtain it. Although I believe that there are serious ethical concerns about such procedures, virtually no one is trying to erect any legal barriers to people obtaining them voluntarily at their own expense. (This is in notable contrast to how the Left approaches the issue of sexual orientation change efforts, and now seeks to prevent even adults with unwanted same-sex attractions from obtaining such care.)
The public policy concerns regarding transgenderism virtually all center around the efforts of the Left to force people to do things they do not want to do—affirm, celebrate, and subsidize (as payers of taxes or insurance premiums) such procedures. We can only hope that Chu’s admission that these procedures are elective and cosmetic—not “medically necessary,” as is usually claimed—will relieve the pressure for such a denial of the personal autonomy of those of us who choose not to publicly affirm the transgender movement.