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Culture

Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters

By Abigail Shrier·· 9 min read
Irreversible Damage

Until just a few years ago, gender dysphoria was incredibly rare. It presented in less than 0.01 percent of the population, displayed in early childhood, and affected males almost exclusively.

That's no longer the case. Every indication listed above has reversed. First, gender dysphoria is becoming increasingly common. Second, it now emerges among adolescents and young adults, rather than young children. And finally, it now affects a disproportionate number of women. According to Abigail Shrier, the author of the new book "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters," between 2016-2017, "the number of gender surgeries on girls and women in the U.S. quadrupled, with biological females accounting for 70% of all gender surgeries."

Perhaps the most worrying trend of all is that it seems to be contagious. "Unsuspecting parents are awakening to find their daughters in thrall to hip trans YouTube stars and 'gender-affirming' educators and therapists who push life-changing interventions on young girls — including medically unnecessary double mastectomies and puberty blockers that can cause permanent infertility."

Her book, exploring these and other disturbing issues, has already disturbed the transgender orthodoxy. The book has already been banned from running sponsored ads for the book on Amazon. Shrier's interest in the topic isn't about denying sex or gender identity, but questioning the social and scientific soundness of encouraging an increasing number of girls to irrevocably change their bodies, sometimes even sterilizing themselves. It's an essential book for a time when the very meaning of being a woman is questioned.

You Don't Have To Identify As the Opposite Sex To Be “Trans”

An excerpt from Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters

If Chase Ross is among the most likable of influencers, then Ash Hardell left me most confused. Ash is a natal female with a squeaky voice and a strong Midwestern accent, cute as a Kewpie doll. Her elfin adorableness makes her look all of twelve (she’s in her late twenties), and she identifies as “non-binary” or “genderqueer”—meaning neither male nor female. (Her pronouns are “they/them.”)

Her videos are some of the best produced—they have fun sound effects and are tightly edited, and because she’s so articulate, they’re among the most enjoyable to watch. She has over 650,000 YouTube subscribers to prove it. She’s relentlessly upbeat, bright, even Pollyannaish, a remarkable feat for someone wearing a septum ring. And she’s willing to share everything.

We watch her tell her mother—for the first time—that she’s “trans,” and join her on her journey to top surgery, from her first medical consults to the final results. But unlike more traditional transgender adolescents, she does not take testosterone. What Ash wants to be—or thinks she is—is “something in between.” She is perhaps the personification of that most desired of attributes among today’s adolescents: “quirky.”

Perhaps because she’s so adorable and looks like a very young girl, Ash manages to make trans look wholesome.

Perhaps because she’s so chatty and adorable and looks like a very young girl, Ash manages to make trans look wholesome. She shows you her torso after top surgery, which, apparently without testosterone’s enhancement, looks something like the body of an eight-year-old boy. (Her spouse, Grayson, also had top surgery, and Ash tells us in grisly detail of the joy and chagrin of the post-op results.)

Some non-binary and agender influencers do go on testosterone—but the effect they’re shooting for is the in-between state. As Ash’s agender friend Chandler explains, “There are two different things that a lot of non-binary people on testosterone will do. Either they will take [T] for a short amount of time at a regular dosage, which is what I plan to do, or they will take it at a lower dosage for a more constant amount of time. And so I might change my mind and do that.” An adult might wonder—as I did—what doctor oversees this witchcraft? This trial-and-error administration of hormones with indeterminate and shifting goals? What would possibly be the Hippocratic justification for removing a natal female’s breasts to give her the appearance of a “neither”?

What bothers Chandler—and the reason she started a course of testosterone—was that everyone “read” her consistently as a girl. She wants to get to “a more in-between feeling”—of being identified as a woman only some of the time. “They/them” are the pronouns she claims—but sexless, epicene is how she wants to be seen. Very often non-binary teens seem to resist playing your game or speaking your language. They want to topple the board, send the pieces flying, rewrite all the rules, eliminate rules altogether. They don’t want to “pass,” and they don’t want your categories. They are “genderfluid”—and reserve the right to change their minds.

Very often non-binary teens seem to resist playing your game or speaking your language.

It is worth noting that non-binary identity “affirmation” and surgeries threaten to dismantle the rationale for transgender body alterations in the first place. The underlying rationale for gender surgeries has always been that this is dysphoria—discomfort in a particular “wrongly sexed” body—not discomfort with both sexes or hatred of one’s body altogether.

But if what you want from your body is “non-binary”—something that does not, or has not, ever existed—how will you know if you’ve reached it? Doesn’t it seem more likely that you’ll never arrive? Like Michael Jackson’s “perfect” nose, it may always lie one surgery away, just out of reach.

Before I watched the videos and interviewed some of their makers, I didn’t expect to like trans influencers. Many of the parents I’ve interviewed regard them as cult leaders or drug dealers. But I didn’t dislike them. Riven with piercings and stamped with tattoos, battling the bouts of depression that strike like a summer storm, furiously and without warning, obsessing endlessly over their changing bodies: If these influencers are relentless evangelists for a dangerous cause, they also need all the love and care they can get.

Many of them peddle misinformation, outright medical falsehoods, and just bad advice.

Ecstatic about being “on T,” pitying those who can’t yet “get access” because their “gatekeeping” parents won’t allow it, they are the undeniable drug and surgery boosters of the trans world. Many of them peddle misinformation, outright medical falsehoods, and just bad advice. They extol the glories of testosterone as if it were a protein shake, not a Schedule III controlled substance. They enthuse over double mastectomies as if they were of no more significance than a haircut. They refer to skeptical parents as “toxic”—and encourage their audience to upgrade to a trans “glitter family.”

They coach you to lie to doctors by inventing a history of childhood dysphoria or omitting your own mental health history. They suggest that suicidality looms large—but can be banished quickly with transition. Better to transition right now, before your dysphoria demons overtake you.

But they’re all so young, and so hard-bitten. They’re giving the camera everything they’ve got and more, things they may come one day to regret. Their battles may be internal, but the scars are real—shiny pink rivulets that slash their chests in half-moons, just below where breasts used to be.

They come across as the Artful Dodger, the swaggering street-smart pickpocket of Oliver Twist. Dodger’s no model citizen; then again, that isn’t entirely his fault.

They seem to spend more time focused on their bodies than the average runway model.

Trans influencers claim to be having the times of their lives and exude genuine enthusiasm for the transgender identity, but they also seem to spend more time focused on their bodies than the average runway model. Their expenses are not inconsiderable—testosterone can cost hundreds of dollars a month. Top surgery typically runs around ten thousand dollars. They remain constantly vulnerable to reminders of their birth sex—to the injury of being “deadnamed” (someone using their birth names to refer to them) or misgendered (the wrong pronouns). They are beset by uncomfortable physical events that are, for them, a kind of crisis: even after nearly a decade on testosterone, Chase Ross occasionally gets his period.

They don’t exactly “pass,” which makes it hard to imagine their fitting in in a mostly not-transgender world. They’re much smaller than the average man: they have more petite hands, and slenderer faces. They seem doomed to snag double takes from passersby when they want to—and just as often, when they don’t. Since they almost never undergo the phalloplasty necessary to achieve one of the defining features of manhood, it’s hard not to see their male identities as fragile; a quick trip to a urinal, and the jig is up.

Then there’s the audience the influencers entertain—teenagers, a famously fickle and faddish bunch. It grants them rapt attention now, but it might just as easily lose interest. The gurus want you to believe their lives are full, that they have a lot more going on than just being trans, but that rarely seems to be the case.

They will occasionally apologize, as transgender heartthrob female-to-male Wes Tucker has, for failing to upload videos on account of depression. They share every private crisis with hundreds of thousands of viewers. The internet shelters they’ve fashioned seem precariously close to the shoreline, vulnerable to the waves of public opinion or their next mental health crisis.

Like glitter, they add fun adornment without the weight or encumbrance of an actual relationship.

There does seem to be genuine companionability among them. They give each other encouragement. They profess love and offer acceptance. Like glitter, they add fun adornment without the weight or encumbrance of an actual relationship.

Their confessional videos are shown in schools, ostensibly to broaden LGBTQ understanding, and they cue up automatically on YouTube if Google wants them to.

If you’ve ever felt different, anxious, or afraid—if you’ve ever felt like you don’t really fit in, why . . . “Consider yourself at home / Consider yourself one of the family / We’ve taken to you, so strong / It’s clear, we’re going to get along.”

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