“That which is falling must still be pushed”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
People who worked in hospital clinics in the United States and Great Britain are blowing the whistle on the rush to prescribe puberty-blocking drugs and surgeries to children suffering from gender dysphoria.
Their claims are shocking: thousands of children, many if not most of whom may be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and suffering anxiety disorders and autism, are being sterilized for a psychiatric condition that most will grow out of.
The whistleblowers are blunt. "What is happening to them is morally and medically appalling," wrote whistleblower Jamie Reed at The Free Press. "Will we look back in ten, 20 years and be like, 'What did we do?’” a British therapist told The Times of London.
Concerns over rushing girls into taking puberty blockers and surgically removing their breasts have been growing since the 2020 publication of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage. Shrier argued that girls who in the past might have had anorexia were now suffering sudden onset gender dysphoria and seeking to become boys.
Now, three years later, the evidence is overwhelming that Shrier was right.
Neither Shrier nor any of the other public figures who have raised concerns about the treatment of girls with gender dysphoria question that trans people deserve their rights and respect. The two of us, like many of the people raising concerns about the rush to drugs and surgeries for children, have long celebrated full rights for same-sex couples, including marriage.
But the best explanation for the rapid increase in girls who believe they are, in spirit, boys, and that they could take pills and remove their breasts in order to become boys physically, is that it is a social contagion like anorexia.
In response to a major increase in dysphoric children coming to the transgender clinics starting around 2015, both the Tavistock hospital in the UK and St. Louis Children's hospital in the United States, along with around 100 similar clinics in the U.S., rushed to prescribe drugs rather than pause to investigate potential reasons for the increase.
These treatments were given despite widespread evidence that the children were suffering from a range of other psychiatric disorders, mental illnesses, and disabilities, particularly autism. "I was struck by the lack of formal protocols for treatment," said Reed, who worked at a special clinic at St. Louis Children’s hospital.
British doctors started prescribing puberty blockers to children under 16, reported The Times of London, in 2014, “before data on effects was available." And yet the clinics did not properly track outcomes. "Former therapists who prescribed puberty blockers admit they do not know 'how many children [have since] changed their mind.’”
As such, alongside U.S. hospitals sterilizing the mentally ill in the early twentieth century, the sterilization of children with psychiatric conditions may go down as one of the worst abuses of medical power in modern history.
It all begs the question: how did it get so bad? How did the idea that girls could, and should, change themselves physically into boys become so widely accepted in the Western world?
The New Spiritualism
In the U.S. and UK, well-funded and politically powerful groups of activists demonized those who questioned the underlying science of their claims or expressed doubt that drugs and surgeries were the best things for girls. The top trans attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) falsely claimed on Twitter that Shrier was “closely aligned with white supremacists in power” and encouraged banning her book.
Trans activists got Amazon to claim, falsely, that the book "infers or claims to diagnose, treat, or question sexual orientation” and suspended advertisements for it one week before publication. In 2021 they forced the non-profit trade association for independent booksellers to issue an apology for daring to mention the book in a monthly mailing. “Stopping the circulation of [Shrier’s] book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on,” wrote the ACLU attorney.
Behind this zealotry is a dogmatic faith. “Gender ideology is very much like a religion,” Shrier told us a few weeks ago. “And gender identity is the secular version of a soul. You're a woman down to every cell of your body. But still, they insist that there is this ethereal thing, your ‘true gender identity,’ which really is the secular version of this soul.”
The separate Woke dogmas have come together to offer the unity provided by traditional religions. Where climate change offers the apocalypse and Black Lives Matter offers absolution from the Original Sin of white supremacy, “being trans” gives one a soul. The three issues form the trinity of Wokeism. As a single religion, Wokeism manipulates powerful emotions, including fear, guilt, and anger.
The emotions are put to work in bullying individuals and institutions to cave in to irrational demands. A black professor in Compact magazine last week recounted how a Woke black student last summer turned the entire seminar against him by accusing him, the author of a book called Black Dignity: The Struggle Against Domination, of racism.
As such, we have seen the profoundly illiberal Woke movement rise out of liberalism itself and become its opposite. Where progressives used to defend free speech, be suspicious of the FBI, and criticize corporate media, they now demand more censorship.
At the heart of Wokeism are self-sacralization and demonization. On gender dysphoria, trans activists frame themselves as liberators and critics of puberty blockers and surgery as transphobes. On race, Black Lives Matter activists depict themselves as revolutionaries and their opponents as racists. On climate change, activists frame themselves as world saviors and their opponents on par with Holocaust “deniers.”
By contrast, there is no such unity to the anti-Woke, who are liberal, libertarian, and conservative. In 2018, Bari Weiss published a New York Magazine article about the movement of anti-Woke liberal-ish podcasters and public intellectuals dubbed the “Intellectual Dark Web,” or IDW. Many, including those in the IDW itself, disparaged the name as pretentious. The movement fell apart further over differences over Covid.
How, in the end, did things get so bad? A big part of the reason is that Wokeism is a dogmatic, powerful, and bullying religion. But another part of the reason is that the Woke are united and the anti-Woke divided.
Normies Fight Back
One of the world’s most famous critics of Woke trans activists is Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, who is at risk of losing his license partly for standing up to them.
The College of Psychologists of Ontario is demanding that Peterson submit to a “Coaching Program” with a therapist, partly because of his tweets criticizing breast removal surgeries for girls, and sign a statement that reads, “I may have lacked professionalism in public statements and during a January 25, 2022 podcast appearance.”
It is naked McCarthyism.
In response, we are publishing an open letter defending Peterson’s free speech rights. The letter is signed by 75 of the world’s most influential psychologists and public intellectuals, including Jonathan Haidt and Steven Pinker.
“The issues in question are conspicuously political and not clinical,” write the signers. “The College alleges that some of Dr. Peterson’s comments, including those about gender ideology, climate change, overpopulation, and nuclear power, ‘appear to undermine the public trust in the profession as a whole and raise questions about your ability to carry out your responsibilities as a psychologist.’
“To that claim, we reply simply, ‘No, they do not, and the allegation that they do is symptomatic of precisely the dogmatic victimhood ideology that Dr. Peterson is famous for criticizing.’”
The letter notes, “One need not agree with anything Dr. Peterson has said or written to realize that the College’s concern has nothing to do with his clinical practice. The College has presented no evidence that Dr. Peterson has lacked professionalism, undermined public trust in the profession, or said or done anything that would raise questions about his ability to carry out his responsibilities as a psychologist.”
We hope the letter signals the beginning of more action by a united liberal-conservative coalition against Wokeism.
Such an alliance would reject victimhood ideologies and pseudoscientific views of race and sex. Expressly assimilationist, integrationist, and anti-essentialist on race matters, this movement would acknowledge that sex differences are real and worth defending in some arenas of activity.
Anti-Woke liberals and conservatives will differ on abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, Donald Trump, Covid, political parties, trans adults, the role of government in the economy, and countless other issues, including ones yet to arise.
But we might also agree to reject the pro-scarcity, anti-human, and Malthusian strain of environmentalism and embrace pro-human, pro-abundance environmentalism. We might further agree that we need an approach to addiction, mental illness, and homelessness that emphasizes recovery, not addiction maintenance.
At its foundation, a united anti-Woke movement would defend freedom of speech. Like most others, we hold freedom of speech as an absolute value and favor policies as close to free speech absolutism as possible while also recognizing existing constraints established by courts to prevent speech from being used to incite violence.
But the widening scandals over the apparent medical mistreatment of children suffering from psychiatric disorders point to the need for free speech to be embraced by society, not just the courts. Whistle-blowers usually exist because the institutions they worked for were causing harm and did not allow for the free dialogue and debate required to end it.
What to call the anti-Woke coalition? We find ourselves gravitating toward a label also suggested by Musa al-Gharbi in Compact: normie. It describes well the working-class, working-middle-class, and politically moderate professionals who value law and order, meritocracy, cheap energy, and free speech. And normie signifies people free from the grip of pathological ideologies
For too long, people committed to the basic and normal values of liberal civilization have allowed themselves to be divided by issues from the past with declining relevance to today’s problems. Now, as we learn more about how radical political ideologies can create psychiatric disorders, it’s time for the normies of the world to unite.
“Where climate change offers the apocalypse and Black Lives Matter offers absolution from the Original Sin of white supremacy, “being trans” gives one a soul. The three issues form the trinity of Wokeism.”
Very well stated.
As the vanguard movement of progressive ideological fads, woke activists aren’t honest missionaries of a secular faith in which meaning and identity are derived from political activism, but dogmatic authoritarians convinced that righteous motives justify demanding of others unquestioning adherence to a totalistic political agenda. They don’t want converts, they want targets and unswerving submission.