Review: When Harry Became Sally

Image from Encounter Books.

Author: Ryan T. Anderson

Publisher: Encounter Books

I became aware of this book recently because of the controversy surrounding it. I think maybe I might have heard of it before, but I didn’t think much of it. Most of the subject in this book, besides genetics and family dynamics, is not among that which I typically read about. But once the controversy blew up, I thought, “Well, what’s all the hubbub about?” So after waiting weeks and weeks for it to become available at my library, I finally got to listen to Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally.

Despite the tongue-in-cheek title, this book is not antagonistic. In fact, besides the fact that it does contradict the current politically correct beliefs about sex, I can only think that those who hate the book so much simply haven’t read it. If they did, and really, if everyone did, I think we all could have a much more open and honest conversation about the realities and policies surrounding sex. In When Harry Became Sally, Anderson seeks not to dehumanize transgender people or trivialize the subject, but instead, he seeks to educate those who wish to understand transgenderism, and ultimately, to help those suffering from gender dysphoria.

As the subtitle indicates, this is a book about transgenderism. And yet, When Harry Became Sally is much more encompassing than that, as I believe the title implies. Anderson reviews the history of views on sex, what is currently happening in our culture, the stories of activists and detransitioners, the science behind it all, the necessity of defining our terms, and the politics and religious beliefs (and I’m not just talking about Christianity) behind different sexual movements (and moments). This is an all-encompassing book. It would be an understatement to say that I learned so much in the book.

Now Anderson is clear about his mission. He cares for people, and he wants to truth about this current culture’s sexual movement to be known by all. He contrasts the activists’ message with the stories of those who have detransitioned. He Defines the differences between men and women and puts that reality up against “identify” and sex “reassignment.” He shows how some things are just childhood misunderstandings and other things are an actual psychological problem, or the result of trauma. By getting to the root of all these issues, even to genetics itself, he helps the reader understand the people who struggle with gender dysphoria, those who have detransitioned, and how to best help people on an individual basis. In addition, he also hopes to prevent further trauma to all people, and especially children.

Some of the best parts of the book were the sections where Anderson provided stories of those who speak out against transgenderism, especially for children, but have been ignored because they oppose the narrative. He gave voice to several people who have tried to detransition, people who feel voiceless because the culture is pushing the agenda of transgenderism and those opposing the culture are not always kind to those who once bought the lie. These people largely feel betrayed by the leaders of the transgender moment. More or less, they feel that they were surrounded by enablers rather than those who wanted to truly help them. One woman who transitioned laments the lack of effort by those who claimed they wanted to help her for failing to get to the root of why she felt the way she did, feelings that stemmed from her childhood. They never said it was ok to be a little rougher around the edges, and that it didn’t mean that she was a man. She had no real support, just one solution: conform to the new norm of testosterone.

Anderson also gave a voice to those who have underlying trauma and were pushed into transitioning. And that is a real tragedy. These people transition, but their underlying pain is never dealt with, so they end up feeling worse than when they began. It is not kind or loving to give people only one option and see things only through the lens of transgenderism. There are other options and ways to help, many of which may be better and get to the root cause of their dysphoria. Anderson explains that many people have been told that their only options are either suicide or transition. Such people have been failed by healthcare professionals and society.

Another great section of the book is where Anderson explains, and in no uncertain terms, that male and female are not just any two of a number of sexes. Maleness and femaleness and a certain social purpose are defined by each other. One sex cannot be explained without referencing the other. He describes in decent detail the scientific definition and processes of sexual differentiation and development, starting at conception. Furthermore, the human body is a complex matric of integrated systems, and a normal natural order exists. The words disorder and ordered are used for a reason, for biological development distinguishes purpose and function. Removing these definitions negates science and healthcare. After all, we don’t treat other disorders the way we treat gender dysphoria. Would we say that a heart that doesn’t pump properly or lungs that don’t process oxygen properly are just different? Of course not! They are disordered, and we treat the patient to their benefit accordingly. Would we encourage someone struggling with anorexia, who truly thinks they are obese, to continue starving themselves? Of course not. By negating these truths, and definitions, we neglect to properly help people concerning sexuality.

But then, like anorexia, there is still some underlying cause for the symptoms, be they thoughts, actions, desires, or otherwise. What even causes gender dysphoria? Many factors play into it. Recognizing that there is likely an underlying issue at play helps us get to the root of how to help people. First, what some people call gender dysphoria or transgenderism, could simply be kids going through a natural stage of puberty or who are struggling to understand their changing bodies and other’s way of interacting with them. For some, there could be trauma, sexual or otherwise, that presents itself as wanting to transition. For others, it could some other physiological or psychological problem entirely. The key is to find out the issue before jumping straight to the process of “transitioning.” For as mentioned above, there are distinct differences between men and women that start at conception. Much of what is done to “transition” is physiologically or psychologically irreversible, and suppressed puberty is not safe. And I appreciated that he pointed out the insanity of this reality: that we are taking cues from children about the nature of the world. Children need our guidance, our help. They do not know what is truth or fantasy, what is good or evil. By denying them the knowledge of reality, we are harming our children.

Anderson criticizes not only the activists who are suppressing the truth and full consequences of the transgender ideology, but he also calls out the media for their lack of transparency and due diligence. They ignore, or even suppress, those who refrain from transitioning and those who have “detransitioned”. Worse, they ignore the consequences of the policies they push that sexual predators will exploit. Those who advocate against such policies are not necessarily concerned about transgenders using these facilities, like in regards to bathroom policies, but for people who will be or have been harmed by sexual predators, not to mention those who feel uncomfortable in such a private space. Many victims of sexual predators are not given a second thought, and their voices are also silenced. It is fair to give both sides of the story, providing a balanced view of these subjects, and allow those who feel they have been harmed to at least warn individuals and parents of the harm that can come from fully embracing transgender ideology.

And what is transgender ideology? It is a philosophy rooted in what is now called Gnosticism and Marxism, ideas whose roots are quite old but have been recently influencing the culture through feminism and gender theory. In this ideology, the family must be destroyed first. Mothers must be liberated from children, fathers from their masculinity, and children from their parents. Some beliefs of the true adherents resemble a very Brave New World. Anderson goes into much more depth on these subjects in his book. It was all quite fascinating.

Anderson provides a wealth of information in this book. I think to fully comprehend it all, I will need to buy the book and read it again. I learned so much, both intellectually and emotionally. Anderson really helps the reader to kindly engage with people suffering from gender dysphoria. Parents can learn how to best help their children who are either showing normal childhood curiosity or actually suffering from GID or trauma. He helps the average person understand the topic as a whole and how to love and support the people around them. I strongly suggest ministers wishing to reach their congregants to read this book especially. In spite of the controversy surrounding this book, I encourage you to give When Harry Became Sally a chance. While Anderson minces no words, he is kind in his approach. His goal is to inform people so that they might be able to make the best decision for themselves or their family, that they might better understand those around them. I think he achieved that goal in his book. So don’t let him, or the people he has given voice to, be silenced.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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