Issues, Etc. (http://issuesetc.org/) is a radio program and podcast on Lutheran Public Radio. Its host is the Reverend Todd Wilken, an ordained minister in my former church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I have heard the show many times, and read several of Rev. Wilken’s theological essays. I have always been in line with his theology and impressed with his writing.
On February 7, he interviewed Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, whose book was recently published, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement”. Here is the podcast: http://issuesetc.org/podcast/25030207182.mp3
I have listened twice to his Issues, Etc. interview. I have not read the book. While Dr. Anderson displays concern for those with gender dysphoria—and I have no reason but to believe that he truly wants to do right by all, and to help and not hurt—I found many of his comments to be one-sided and some not necessarily accurate.
I mean this: He speaks as one all the way to the right of those who are all the way to the left.
I do not identify with the far left transgender activists and advocates. I also do not identify with those on the far right. The reason? When one gets to the end of the spectrum on these issues (on most issues?), thinking grows narrow, reduced to one’s ideology and deaf to hearing any other ideas.
As a Christian, I am theologically traditional. Politically, I am conservative. In all things, I strive to be reasonable. It is from these positions that I address everything, including my reactions to the Issues, Etc. interview.
On February 8, I posted the following to Issues, Etc.’s Facebook post for this interview. I worked quickly, in order to get this posted. That’s why it reads clunky in some places, and in others I wish I had said more.
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These are some of my reactions to the interview with Dr. Anderson, in which it seems that I was mentioned toward the end of the program.
In the beginning of the interview, when Dr. Anderson talks about “the meteoric rise of transgender,” he doesn’t say a word as to a key reason we might have a lot of gender dysphoria. I believe the chemicals, plasticizers, and pharmaceuticals in use, which have been found to be behind numerous ailments, are the likely culprits. I believe mine was caused by medicine my mom was given when pregnant with me, diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Then, at the end of the interview, he said that the “transgender moment” might be fleeting. While we might not continue to treat gender dysphoria as we now are with hormone therapy and surgeries, I see the root cause for most cases as not being a fleeting situation. I believe that the stuff we are putting into our bodies is what is behind the rapid rise in gender dysphoria. While no general root cause for gender dysphoria has been found, my evidence comes from looking at those illnesses and diseases which have origins that have been proven, and we have identified chemicals and plasticizers and pharmaceuticals which are behind them. (Do an internet search on DES. You will find loads of websites devoted to the harm it did over the decades it was in use.) Why not one or more upsetting the endocrine system of a person so that gender identity does not match his or her chromosomes and genitals (the suspicion regarding DES)? We are blind, even arrogant, to deny the possibility.
Dr. Anderson says that a person is either organized in a male or female pattern, and quotes our chromosomes. He neglects the many maladies of mankind which are not chromosomal. What precludes a malady to cause gender dysphoria, for it to be just as physical as the intersex conditions which are chromosomal, and those which can be seen with the eye—such as malformed genitals, and those of the androgen insensitivities family—to be just as real as, say, autism. We don’t know what causes autism, yet no one denies that it is physical, and not merely a mental illness, as gender dysphoria is seen by many.
He said that those who transition “currently don’t have good outcomes.” This statement is based on what data? There are so many people living as transitioned however far has been right for them, feeling better about themselves and being productive people. When he goes on to cite the 41% suicide attempt rate, he said that those who transition fall into this category. I have never seen a study which breaks down the statistic into those who have transitioned versus those who have gender dysphoria and have not transitioned.
Re: Walt Heyer. Heyer admits that he had been wrongly diagnosed, and when his past finally was recognized—years after he had transitioned—and then when he was properly diagnosed he was able to receive proper therapy and was able to find peace as a male. Certainly, a correct diagnosis is vital, and it can be challenging to root out the cause for one’s struggling with gender identity.
When asked whether transitioning were being driven as a new medical market, after saying that he wouldn’t view it that way, Dr. Anderson said, “I think this is largely driven by some people who are entirely well intentioned, but are extremely misguided . . . they believe that human nature and the human body is entirely plastic, entirely malleable, therefore it’s just raw material that can be assigned and reassigned at will. …” There is another viewpoint, one which I never heard in this interview. It is my viewpoint, that this terrible malady is caused by the fall into sin, that a person can treat it medically, as I have, and hate being in this spot. I do not embrace being transgender. I don’t agree with much of what many trans activists believe about this, such as our being entirely plastic and malleable. Yet, I was in a spot I had to deal with it, and no one had any help for me—including more than a dozen ministers and two therapists.
Dr. Anderson simply neglected an entire area of concern, and a vital viewpoint, and that is the impact of Original Sin upon our bodies, and that it is perfectly reasonable that gender dysphoria rises from a physical malady, a malady which is just as real and physical is that which causes things like diabetes and Alzheimer’s and you name it. He never mentioned that it could be an intersex condition which is just as real as those of the genitals.
When he talks about alternative therapies, I will keep the conversation to adults. When it comes to children, there are many other factors which come into play, especially because they are so young. For adults, I ask what alternative therapy there is. In 2013, when I was still a minister and told pastors of my gender dysphoria, I begged for help. Even by a pastor, who is a psychologist, after he and my district president talked with many experts, he told me, “There is no hospital. There is no therapy.” His exact words. This struck me as terribly as the day as infant son died, so desperate I was to find help, not to transition, and to remain in the ministry.
Rev. Scott Stiegmeyer, in his Concordia Theological Quarterly article in 2015, admitted that talk therapy is not known to be effective. I quote, “There is no form of talk therapy or psychotropic medication that can fully assuage the intense dysphoria felt by many transgender patients.”
When, toward the end of the program, Todd Wilken apparently brought me up—not using my name, but I have no idea to whom else he might have referred—he more or less quoted me, regarding my transitioning, as having said, “I have to do this. If I don’t, I will die.” That is where I was. Many who have reached out to me have reported the same, that they would either kill themselves or literally go insane. I was confident I would not kill myself, but who knows what despair might do to a person? I more feared that I was on the brink of losing my mind. That is why I attempted transitioning, to see if I could get relief from my malady, the way any person seeks healing from an illness or disease.
I hate when trans activists one-side this subject. It bothers me just as much when it is one-sided in the other direction, which is how I heard this conversation. There is a way better way to view these issues, to be scientifically logical and theologically responsible. I continue to hold my doctrine according to how I professed it when I was ordained into the LCMS ministry.
We have to do better, especially for the many Christians who are suffering. I will gladly answer any and every question, Todd Wilken, if you would be kind enough to interview me on your program.