3 years ago
Abigail Shrier is an author, journalist, and writer for the Wall Street Journal. Her new book "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters" is available now.
Irreversible damage, the transgender craze seducing our daughters. Boy, that's a hot buttons object, right? That is a, this is a minefield. It shouldn't be though. No? It really shouldn't be. No, it shouldn't be, but, so I think we should probably establish some things like upfront, right? Some people surely as adults are transgender. Of course. Yes. Of course, I interviewed a lot of them. And we fully support that, right? Absolutely. Okay. I have friends who fall into that category. Your concern is about very young children. Teenage girls. Teenage girls. Has nothing to do with adults who are transgender, okay? Many of whom are amazing people. They went through mental health therapy and they decided, they made this decision, they suffered with discomfort in their bodies from the time they were young. And as adults, they made a decision to transition, fully support them, has nothing to do with my book. What was the motivation to write this book? And if it's about teenagers, why is there a very young girl on the cover? Well, it's... This is like the cover, it looks like a four year old. A little girl. Right. It does. I mean, I didn't do cover, but I think the cover is very good because I think it's supposed to evoke what we've lost in our whole generation. Well, yeah, she's... What is that? I assume her uterus. Oh, it's just crazy. Infertility is what's... It's like a pillow. Yeah. Oh, infertility. Yeah, that's what happens. Right. I mean, I got involved in this. This wasn't a personal issue for me. In fact, it was an issue originally I thought I was gonna avoid. A reader wrote to me, I write most often for the Wall Street Journal, and a reader wrote to me and she said, listen, I've tried to get every mainstream journalist to pick this up. No one will touch it, but my daughter got caught up in this. All of a sudden, she went off to college, all of a sudden with her French, she had a lot of mental health issues, anxiety, depression, and all of a sudden with her group of friends, they all decided they're trans, and she went on hormones, and this is happening to parents all across the country, teenage girls, all of a sudden deciding with their friends that they're trans, wanting surgeries and hormones and getting them. And at first I thought, I don't need this. And so I tried to get another journalist to take it up, a real investigative reporter. I'm not... I'm an opinion journalist usually. That's what I've done, and I couldn't get someone to take it up. Because it's such a minefield, because... Yeah, because it's a minefield, because for some reason the activists who are not representative of transgender adults that I've met at all, but the activists had convinced the world that because they object to anyone's transition being questioned, we can't talk about a mental health issue facing teenage girls. Now I've heard there's an issue with some teenage girls who are on the spectrum who wind up getting sort of roped into this idea that that's what's wrong with them. Is that one of the things you cover in your book? Yeah, I actually don't deal with that specifically very much, and the reason is that's a whole book in and of itself, because a lot of it is true that a lot of girls who are high functioning autistic, and I did interview some experts in autism, and that's when I realized that's a book of its own, which is that a lot of girls who are high functioning autistic, they tend to fixate, and they are particularly susceptible to fixating on the idea that they might be a boy when it's introduced to them. So yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about, and they are one part of this phenomenon, but they're a big part. So the teenage girl part, so you're talking about teenage girls that are susceptible to influence, are you talking about teenage girls that are confused? Why are there so many teenage girls that are going in this direction? What do you think is happening? So these are the same girls that would have been anorexic, they would have been bulimic, and they would have been, they are high anxiety, very precocious girls, but they don't really fit in. They come to high school and they don't have friends, they don't have a click for them, and they're so smart and they're so lonely because they're on the internet all the time and they're with mom all the time and they don't fit in at school. And this is a way to understand their pain, that they're really feeling, they're in pain, but they decide that their problem is that they're supposed to be a boy and the fix is testosterone. So you heard of this problem, you knew of people that their children were going through this, and how long did it take you before you decided to commit to pen to paper on this? So I spent maybe a month or so just hearing the reports of the parents and reading the original study. There's an original study that the book is, you know, jumps off from, which is the Lisa Littman paper at Brown University, she's a public health researcher who looked into this and she found that there was all of a sudden this huge epidemic in America of teenage girls deciding they were trans with their friends after social media emerging and pushing for hormones and surgeries. Have you had a conversation about this with someone who's a trans activist that says, well, maybe what's really going on, I mean, I'm just taking the argument of it, maybe what's going on is there are a lot of trans women and there would be more, or there's a lot of women who would turn trans, become a man, there would be more, but they never had had that door open to them before. And that maybe there's more trans people than we think. Amazing, amazing. So it's a great point and I thought about it because I've, you know, I tried to look, I'm a journalist. I like to look at ideas in both sides. I didn't have, like I did not have a dog in this race. So let me tell you three reasons I don't think that's compelling. Number one, when when Lisa Littman looked at the prevalence rate, she found that it's 70 times what we would expect within a friend group, which means it's highly concentrated in groups of friends. But there's two other reasons. So we wouldn't expect that if it were randomly distributed among the population. But there are two other reasons I don't think that's right. Number one, if we're just reverting to normal now that there's greater societal acceptance, right? We're just, say we're just reverting to a normal base rate of transgender women. Why are all the women in their 40s and 60s coming out as trans? They should be coming out, now's their time, now's their moment. We should see tons of women in their 40s and 60s and so on coming out as transgender. We're not seeing that. We're seeing the same population that gets involved in cutting, demonic possession, witchcraft. Anorexia bulimia convinces themselves there's a problem. And there's one, anyway, there's one last reason is that suicide rates are going up. But if these women who were living under a prior, you know, supposedly these, all these transgender, these real transgender people who were living under a more repressive regime and are now just finding themselves, this, you would think the suicide rate would be going down with greater acceptance. So when you're saying suicide rates are going up, you mean suicide rates with teens who turned trans? Both. The rate of trans, of suicide among this populate, first of all, among girls in general is extraordinarily high. This is just one part of the mental health crisis they're in. And second of all, we know that the rate that these kids, these trans identified kids have very high rates of suicide, suicidal ideation. It's really, you know, an area of real concern. Well, there's definitely an area of real concern as well with social media. Did you read Jonathan Hight's book, The Coddling of the American Mind? Yeah. And it was on your show that I really like this light bulb went on when I rewatched it because he talked about exactly this. He connects it to social media and he talked about on your show the huge rates we're seeing and anxiety, depression, all among these same girls and, you know, putting it together with Alisa Littman's research and the other investigation I've done, I think it's really pretty clear that one more manifestation of these girls who we know are involved in a lot of cutting and all kinds of self-harm, this is one form of self-harm for them. So there are, so let's essentially say there's young teenagers that are confused and they're looking for something that makes them feel whole or something that makes them feel normal or something that gives them some sort of an escape from this angst that they suffer from. And you're thinking that turning trans is one of those pathways that they gravitate towards, but it might not necessarily be a good idea for them. Yeah, that's exactly right. If these girls were transitioning to boys and they were living great lives and their mental health was great, like it is for so many transgender adults, I wouldn't have written this book. That's a great story. That's a happy story. So many transgender adults, because even in transgender adults, the suicide rate is very high. There's no question and that's a separate issue, but I do think that, yeah, I agree. I think that there are, I personally believe that there are transgender adults who've been helped by transition. But these girls are not being helped by transition. Just universally? I think as a population, yeah, I mean that's what Lisa Littman's study showed, but also through my investigation, I hear from, I interview a lot of parents, I also interview transgender youth and they'll tell you their anxiety is a mess, their depression is a mess, transition's not curing these girls. They drop out of school, they cut off their families. They're not living a great life. It's such a strange call, right? I mean, I don't mean strange in a negative way. You're dealing with hormones in a human body. You're taking a woman and you're injecting hormones into her body and you're saying that these exogenous hormones are what's going to fix her. And I never understand that. This is my argument about this. How do we know? How do you know that that's what's going to do it? And when you are doing that, what damage is being done? It's one thing if someone's a 25 year old woman and they say, I have always wanted to be a man and I think I'm a man. I think I'm born in the wrong body. But when you're going through this developmental cycle from 17, 18, 19, 20, there is a lot of chaos. A lot of hormonal chaos. There's a lot of confusion. I don't think there's anything specifically that you can point to that could say some sort of an intervention chemically, some sort of a, if you just step in now and start injecting this body with male hormones, it's going to fix all your problems. But yet it's really popular to do that. It's really popular. These girls are getting it on their own diagnosis. So they're just going in and self-diagnosing. Nobody questions it. We now have informed consent, which means you walk into Planned Parenthood, you sign a waiver, you decide you have gender dysphoria, you walk out that day with testosterone. Planned Parenthood is doing this? Yeah, it's one of the biggest distributors. So you don't have to have some sort of a long, some sort of transitional therapy session with a... You can get your breasts removed with no therapist note. Whoa. So you could be a confused 18-year-old girl and walk into a Planned Parenthood self-diagnosing with no therapy at all, and they'll prescribe testosterone and you can get your breasts removed? Absolutely. You sign a form. Oh, wait, wait, wait. You can't even get your breasts removed at Planned Parenthood though. Sorry. No, no, no. You didn't say that. You can also get your breasts removed from... Yeah. So some of them require a therapist note. I interviewed them in my book, Some Who Do Not, and there are both kinds. Jesus. That's a big decision, right? That's a decision that you can't really come back from. What did a surgeon... Have you talked to surgeons about this? Yes. What do they think? They think that... Obviously, we're generalizing. Right. So they think a couple of things. I mean, obviously, there are a lot of surgeons who refuse to do it, so I interviewed them as well. You don't destroy the biological function. I didn't become a doctor to destroy someone's biological function for something that they've decided they have without even any oversight. But the ones who do it say, look, this population is really desperate for surgery. It's a civil rights issue. If I'm giving them what will seem to bring them comfort, seems to bring them comfort. The problem is that there's no follow-up to see how their mental health is afterwards. The surgeon is basically a mechanic, right? They just remove the tires and send you on your way. Yeah, the problem is we're not cars, right? It's all connected. So unfortunately, very often, the mental health deteriorate. I mean, I talked to one young woman, Desmond, who's amazing, and she decided in high school, she was trans. She got celebrated everywhere. Her teachers, her therapists told her, yeah, you're definitely a man. You're supposed to be a man. Affirmed her everywhere she went. She got on testosterone, and it caused uterine cramping, which can happen. It's one of the many bad side effects of testosterone. She had to have a hysterectomy. So at 21, she wakes up with a hysterectomy, and she realized this whole thing had been a giant mistake. Her mental health had not improved at all, and this was a huge mistake and path she had gone on. And then, all of a sudden, she didn't know what to do. There was no one cheering her on anymore. Why do you think people get cheered on for this decision? I think in America, we have a weakness for anything that gets cloaked in civil rights, and part of that is very noble and good. Obviously, the civil rights movement was extremely important in our country and extremely valuable and valorous, but now anything that gets called a civil rights issue, you can't question. So, I interview parents, and they'll tell me they're almost all politically progressive. Most of the parents that call me are politically progressive, and I interviewed almost five dozen of them now. And they'll tell me, like, I support LGBTQ, but I really am not sure this is right for my daughter. Like, I don't think she's really gender dysphoric. She's getting worse. Like, what is going on here? And I'll say to them, would you take away her binder? You know, binders, that compression garment, they wear it to flatten their breasts. And they'll say to me, oh, I can't do that. I mean, I support LGBTQ and whatnot, and I'll say to her, you know, sometimes I'll say to them, would you give her cigarettes? Why don't you give her cigarettes? Because a binder will deform breast tissue. It can cause rib cracking. It can cause shortness of breath, you know? I wasn't aware of these binders. So this is something like corset. Yeah, but, yeah, right. So it makes them look like a man. So it's got to squash. And if you're a big-breasted woman, it's going to squash even harder. I mean, it's going to really try to flatten you to give you the physique, you know, the appearance of a male physique. But it's just an appearance thing? Or is it? So that's just an appearance thing. They usually, 16-year-old girls don't usually go straight to top surgery. They start with a binder.