Ryan Anderson on Gender Ideology and Taking on the “Woke Elite”

Ryan Anderson on Gender Ideology and Taking on the “Woke Elite”

Policymakers should do everything in their power to legally prevent the promotion of a harmful ideology, especially as directed to children. Just as citizens have rightly pushed back on critical race theory being mandated in K-12 schools, so, too, should we push back on the various transgender-ideology mandates taking place in public schools.

Last week a school district in Virginia passed a controversial policy mandating teachers use “transgender pronouns” in the classroom while the state of Texas moved to declare sex-reassignment surgeries for minors be treated as child abuse. This all comes on the heels of a federal court moving to block the Biden administration’s transgender mandate, protecting the rights of millions of doctors and nurses who are faced with violating their consciences. As the traditional family and our faith come under attack, it has become increasingly clear that we, as Catholics, must engage in war with these ideologies that are invading our homes and wreaking havoc on the minds of our children grappling with discerning the truth.

Catholic husband and father Ryan Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has been a leading advocate for biology and the truth of such matters, especially as it pertains to male and female, with his highly acclaimed, and recently banned, book, When Harry Became Sally. In an email interview, Anderson discussed with the Register the recent federal court blocking of the transgender mandate, the need for conscience protections, and how Catholics can be best equipped to take on the nonstop onslaught of gender ideology. He also discusses several projects of the Ethics and Public Policy Center that are in place to help promote and protect the traditional family from secular assault.

With the news last week of a federal court blocking the transgender mandate — it’s now the second court ruling blocking the mandate — what are your thoughts, and what role is the EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project playing in shedding light on these violations of conscience? 

There should be no transgender mandate. And thank God for [law group] Becket’s work in litigating these cases. They’ve now successfully stopped both the Obama transgender mandate and the Biden transgender mandate. Of course, in between, there was no Trump transgender mandate, thanks to the hard work of Roger Severino, who was the head of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS throughout the Trump administration. He rightfully saw that the transgender mandate was unlawful — because the word “sex” does not mean “gender identity”; that it was bad medicine — because gender dysphoria should be treated without radically transforming the body with puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and surgery; and that it would violate the civil rights of conscientious medical doctors who sought to follow the Hippocratic Oath.

And I was proud to bring Roger Severino to EPPC as my first hire as president to head up EPPC’s new HHS Accountability Project. EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project monitors the largest federal agency (by budget) to ensure its actions further the common good under law. Particular attention is given to respect for conscience, religious freedom, the family and human life from conception to natural death. Roger was instrumental in rolling back the original transgender mandate imposed under Obama, and he and his team at EPPC have exposed the Biden administration’s abandonment of conscience protections regarding transgender treatments and abortion as both bad law and bad policy through scholarship, advocacy in the media, coalition building and collaboration with members of Congress. They’re keeping tabs on various other violations coming from HHS, including most recently the Biden administration’s refusal to penalize a hospital that forced a pro-life nurse to assist in performing an abortion.

Your book, When Harry Became Sally, took on gender dysphoria in a compassionate way, but also called out gender ideology. As you succinctly state in your book: “Biology isn’t bigotry.” Why should we as Catholics be concerned about this full court press of the “LGBT” movement, and what can families do who are concerned about this infiltrating their own homes? 

All of us, and Catholics in particular, should be concerned with transgender ideology because it isn’t true, and it causes harm to those who get caught up in it. All of us, and Catholics in particular, have a duty to bear witness to the truth and to promote the common good in all of its aspects. That includes a sound understanding of sex and gender. My book was one contribution to that discussion, a discussion that Amazon and others would rather we not have. But it is vital that we refuse to be silenced. If we don’t speak up, who will?

Parents in particular need to educate themselves about what activists are promoting through the schools, media, entertainment — the teen world, especially social media, is saturated with messages and images promoting “trans” identity and “gender diversity” as normal and healthy, which means kids are consuming those messages all day long. It will have an effect on how they think about themselves, the body and relationships in ways incompatible with both science (reason) and faith.

In addition to my book, my EPPC colleague Mary Hasson has created an entire set of wonderful resources to help parents, pastors and educators better understand and respond to “trans” ideology. The Person and Identity Project at EPPC has exactly what Catholics need — Q&As, “toolkits” and recommended resources — to understand the Christian vision of the person and counter the lies of gender ideology.

Beyond educating themselves, parents need to realize that “LGBT” content is flooding the public schools, not just in coursework, but in the school culture. And there’s no “opting out” of school culture the way you might be able to opt out of a given sex-ed class. One public-school principal in Atlanta recently told a Catholic family, “It doesn’t matter what class or teacher your kids have, ‘LGBT-inclusive’ materials will be in every classroom.” Parents need to realize their kids need a Catholic education more than ever — whether at home, in a Catholic classical school or the parish school — which means we need public policy making educational choice a reality, something EPPC Fellow Patrick Brown wrote on just last week.

The American Association of Pediatrics recently told the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, comprised of more than 100 clinicians and researchers who doubt so-called transgender science and ideology, that they couldn’t set up an information booth at the association’s national conference. We have also heard from many voices who have transitioned regretting their decision. Why is the debate on transgenderism stifled on such a grand scale, it seems? Of course, this follows after the digital book burning you experienced with Amazon and other outlets. 

The silencing, shaming and censoring that we see on this issue is a sign of weakness from the left, not strength. Sure, it’s strength in one sense, that they control so many powerful institutions of American life — from the news media, to entertainment, to big business and big tech, to the major medical associations. But it’s a sign of weakness because they know their ideology can’t stand up to scrutiny, and that’s why they have to use their power to shut down discussion. We’re on the side of the truth, and we need to be faithful in bearing witness to it, and in using legal mechanisms to reduce the power of various “woke” forces in our culture.

For example, legislation is needed to prevent adults from interfering with a child’s normal, natural bodily development. As I’ve argued before, “gender affirmation” procedures violate sound medical ethics. It is profoundly unethical to intervene in the normal physical development of a child as part of “affirming” a “gender identity” at odds with bodily sex.

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