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‘Gender-Affirming Care’ and the Modern Religion of Moloch
Or, how ‘be kind’ can be cruel
Pathetic and very terrible is the long history of cruelty and torture, of degradation and human sacrifice, endured in the hope of placating the jealous gods: surely, the trembling believer thinks, when what is most precious has been freely given, their lust for blood must be appeased, and more will not be required. The religion of Moloch—as such creeds may be generically called—is in essence the cringing submission of the slave, who dare not, even in his heart, allow the thought that his master deserves no adulation. Since the independence of ideals is not yet acknowledged, Power may be freely worshipped, and receive an unlimited respect, despite its wanton infliction of pain.
- Bertrand Russell, “The Free Man’s Worship,” 1903
The following piece includes my two brief spoken testimonies, a commentary, and the LGB United endorsement for 2023 South Dakota Legislature House Bill 1080.
On Tuesday, January 31, I gave a brief testimony before the House in support of 2023 South Dakota Legislature House Bill 1080.
Here are my remarks, what I had time for in under one minute:
My name is Donovan Cleckley. I am here today on my own behalf, but I am involved with an organization called LGB United that is concerned with the negative impact of transgenderism on lesbians and gay men, especially youth. Our concern here is that the medicalization of sex-role stereotyping harms minors struggling with same-sex attraction, including those with autism and underlying mental health conditions. Learning from medical violence in the past, such as forced sterilization and the lobotomy, we desperately need a renewed commitment to medical ethics—doing no harm to the most vulnerable.
Then, this past Wednesday, February 8, I was set to give an updated version, at two minutes, to the Senate. Due to time constraints, I could not do so. Here is the two minute version, which I tweeted:
My name is Donovan Cleckley, and I am here today on my own behalf. I have been involved with an organization called LGB United that is concerned with the negative impact of transgenderism on lesbians and gay men, especially youth. Our trouble here is that what has been termed ‘gender-affirming care’ does harm to minors struggling with same-sex attraction. This harm extends to those with autism and underlying mental health conditions. Once again, the harm of medical overreach has been defended as ‘progress.’
I have been reflecting on medical violence seen in the past. Examples include eugenics with its forced sterilization of those deemed ‘unfit’ and the lobotomy to ‘cure’ depressed and suicidal patients. I particularly take issue with the repeated use of suicidal ideation to position ‘gender-affirming care’ as beyond critique. In the case of the lobotomy, in 1949, The New York Times celebrated how ‘would-be suicides found life acceptable.’ This practice found widespread acclaim, including the Nobel Prize in medicine, for ‘curing’ mental health conditions. Families and health professionals became unknowing, sometimes even knowing, accomplices in cruelty mistaken for compassion.
Now, with ‘gender-affirming care’ for minors, we have good reason to pause—and think again. Puberty blockers have been called ‘fully reversible,’ in the U.S., but the National Health Service (NHS), in the U.K., has already reversed its position on their full reversibility. There have been disclaimers added on how so little remains known in the long term. To date, the few studies on detransitioners, especially youth, indicate a variety of factors in the mind-body split. Critically, I ask that we do not forget the past and chart our course accordingly.
A few days ago, I saw that the bill passed both the House and the Senate.
Apart from the testimonies I gave, I submitted an endorsement of the legislation. This piece of legislation would place restrictions on the medical transitioning of minors. Contrary to what the opponents alleged during their testimonies, it does not outlaw psychotherapy. Interestingly, opposing testimonies cited from the recent WPATH (World Professional Association of Transgender Health) Standards of Care like the Bible. These newer standards happen to be the very ones that legitimize “eunuch individuals” as part of “gender diversity.” Genevieve Gluck reports that WPATH actually cited a castration fetish site called The Eunuch Archive in its guidelines. If you do not believe us, then simply refer to S88-S92 of the WPATH SoC, version 8.
Let us keep in mind that, until 2007, WPATH was once called the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA). Benjamin, its namesake, opposed psychotherapy in favor of hormonal and surgical intervention for transsexualism. In fact, Benjamin writes the following in The Transsexual Phenomenon, published in 1966:
Psychotherapy with the aim of curing transsexualism, so that the patient will accept himself as a man, it must be repeated here, is a useless undertaking with present available methods. The mind of the transsexual cannot be changed in its false gender orientation. […] Since it is evident, therefore, that the mind of the transsexual cannot be adjusted to the body, it is logical and justifiable to attempt the opposite, to adjust the body to the mind. If such a thought is rejected, we would be faced with a therapeutic nihilism to which I could never subscribe in view of the experiences I have had with patients who have undoubtedly been salvaged or at least distinctly helped by their conversion. (p. 90)
This passage by Benjamin—notably his dismissive attitude toward psychotherapy—has been highly influential on the field itself. His work fixates on the exterior, in the form of cosmetic alterations presumed to “adjust the body to the mind,” rather than the interior. Thus, logically, one could very well omit deeper issues, namely child sexual abuse and underlying mental health issues. Benjamin’s work does not give necessary attention to these other issues that influence one’s sense of body and mind. It would be likely that gender dysphoria being resolved, over time, would fall under “curing transsexualism.” Who, then, is actually opposed to sufficient mental health assessment here?
Among the testimonies, most professionals opposing the bill alleged that there are extensive waiting times across the board. They essentially argued that mental health assessment before medical transitioning is always done thoroughly. One professional claimed puberty blockers are entirely reversible, allegedly based on the existing research. Another said that “gender diversity” was just a natural and normal part of human existence, not a pathology—that it is so “natural” that it needs “life-saving” medicalization. Most testimonies used the threat of suicide as a hammer to attack even the mildest critique of “gender-affirming care.” This kind of rhetoric has become very typical.
There are those who endorse, if not ignore, the harm being done as helping the vulnerable. They say that even mildly critical voices do not speak for them, presuming that transgenderism does speak for them. I am a gay man, who has done extensive research into this issue, and I respond by saying that this strain of reactionary activism does not speak for me. At minimum, it must be acknowledged that it violates the Nuremberg Code. WPATH, which is led by activism and ideology rather than science, does not even support the health and wellbeing of trans-identifying people.
Eli Coleman et al., “Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People, Version 8,” International Journal of Transgender Health 23, no. S1, S1-S258, https://doi.org/10.1080/26895269.2022.2100644.
Genevieve Gluck, “Trans Health Authority Cites CASTRATION FETISH Site in Guidelines,” Reduxx, December 6, 2021, https://reduxx.info/trans-health-authority-cites-castration-fetish-site-in-guidelines.
Genevieve Gluck, “Top Academic Behind Fetish Site Hosting Child Sexual Abuse Fantasy, Push To Revise WPATH Guidelines,” Reduxx, May 21, 2022, https://reduxx.info/top-academic-behind-fetish-site-hosting-child-sexual-abuse-fantasy-push-to-revise-wpath-guidelines.
Harry Benjamin, The Transsexual Phenomenon (New York: The Julian Press, Inc., 1966).
January 30, 2023
We of LGB United endorse the 2023 South Dakota Legislature House Bill 1080 against the social and medical transitioning of minors. Though coming mainly from the left, in the traditional sense, we recognize the necessity of cross-partisan work against the medical harm currently being done to children and young people. Such necessary action on behalf of the vulnerable does not seem like it will come from liberals, who, unfortunately, have confused human rights violations with human rights.
Many on the left once understood—or, at least, seemed to understand—that medicalizing lesbians and gay men was harmful. Recently, in The Guardian, former staff Governor at the Tavistock David Bell has written of his concerns about this issue, as he has done over the past few years. Lesbians and gay men have good reason to be concerned, given that so many of the youth presenting at gender identity clinics experience distress over being homosexual. “Many suffered from confusion in relation to same-sex attraction,” Bell says, adding, “when I investigated GIDS, this was largely ignored.” A diagnosis of so-called “gender dysphoria” would encompass such confusion, which would present itself as a sense of distress. There is something else that has been largely ignored, that so-called “progressives” have refused to confront: their own complicity and collaboration in the very oppressions they claim to be against. Misogyny and homophobia factor into the medicalization they dogmatically champion as “life-saving,” which, even in our time, enforces the most rigid sex-role stereotyping.
For girls, feminism once made clear the possibility of being “free to be,” not having to conform to stereotypical femininity—but not needing to deny being female. Dating back to the nineteenth century, the earliest women’s movement stressed the unnaturalness of binding and pressing down the female body. As far back as the late 1800s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, speaking about girls, recognized what she referred to as “the violence done Nature in the small waists and constrained gait and manners of all we meet.” While corsets have largely gone out of fashion, breast binders have become new tools for young women to find “the true self.” At the same time, girls see men performing the worst stereotypes associated with womanhood—and, unsurprisingly, “flee womanhood like a house on fire,” to quote Abigail Shrier. Given the option of “transitioning,” the teenage girl formerly diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, or having body dysmorphia, would be “transitioned” in “treating” her “gender dysphoria.” Misogyny today, in a new form, presents the body, especially the female body, as what needs to be changed to “match” the mind—in reality, the stereotypes.
Another variation of homophobia extends from the faulty premise that the flesh itself needs to be subordinated to sex-role stereotyping. Lesbians and gay men, especially young people, have become targets of a new homophobia in medicine. We can find evidence in the most prominent cases of “trans kids,” where gender-nonconforming behavior has, once again, been pathologized as a medical condition.
Think about Jazz Jennings, who “hardly ever played with trucks or tools or superheroes,” preferring to play with “princesses and mermaid costumes.” He has been medicalized on the basis of toy and clothing preferences, because he liked “girl stuff.” It included subjecting him to puberty blockers and, then, so-called “vaginoplasty” at seventeen, with added surgical complications due to a lack of sexual development.
Think about Kai Shappley, whose mother Kimberly Shappley looked at her three-year-old son and thought “this kid might be gay.” “Prayers turned into googling conversion therapy,” she said, “and how can we implement these techniques at home to make Kai not be like this.” Kimberly says that she and her husband punished Kai, including spanking him, for playing with “girl toys.” He, too, has been medicalized on the basis of toy and clothing preferences.
Think about Jackie Green, the son of former Mermaids CEO Susie Green, whom his mother flew to Thailand at sixteen to have so-called “bottom surgery.” As Green said herself:
My first child, two years old, and I was starting to think that perhaps my child was gay as they were so different to the other little ‘boys’ as the things they were drawn to were largely seen as for girls.
Susie Green oversaw the largest “trans kid” charity. Like Kimberly Shappley, her view of her young son being “gay” factored into whether she saw him, later, as better off a “straight woman” than a gay man. Again, we see the most rigid sex-role stereotyping being the basis for a medical diagnosis and corresponding medical treatment.
Liberal defenders of the social and medical transitioning of minors have falsely equated these contemporary practices with human rights, as if castration over toy and clothing preferences actually preserves humanity. They position so-called “trans rights” as the logical extension of women’s rights and gay rights, but it constitutes an effective backlash against the gains we have made. Example after example illustrates the reality beyond the fantasy sold to us. With these issues in mind, we must support legislation that places constraints on this medicalization that causes so much harm in the name of helping patients in need. Laws banning conversion therapy have too long ignored placing necessary limits on what should be referred to as “sex conversion surgery.” Medical ethics requires an unflinching look at these issues, especially how ideology has been prioritized over the health and wellbeing of children and young people. Present conditions demand a renewed commitment to a Hippocratic understanding of medicine and what it means to treat patients, especially minors, seeking care: “Do no harm.”
A recording of the audio from the testimonies can be listened to at the following link:
My statement appears at 1:01:57-1:02:39.
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