It was early autumn in 1933 Glasgow and the old Scotsman was furious.
The target of his ire was young James Herriot. Freshly enrolled in Glasgow Veterinary College, an introductory animal husbandry lecture on the points of a horse earlier that day had stuffed young James’ eager brain with colourful terms like withers, stifle, hock, and poll. His professor had shrewdly animated the new vocabulary with a string of equine ailments: “splints”, “curb”, “windgall” and the like.
James strode proudly down the street after class let out, stethoscope slung around his neck, bursting with knowledge and feeling every inch the veterinary surgeon. When he spotted a coal horse tied up at the side of the street he stopped to appraise the animal confidently through the lens of his newfound expertise, before stepping forward to pat him knowingly on the neck.
Quick as a snake the horse dipped his head and seized young James by the scruff of his coat. There he hung, wriggling helplessly before a growing crowd of snickering pedestrians, when the horse’s owner came upon the scene.
The coalman gave his horse a mighty bash in the ribs. “Drop him, ye big bastard!” he shouted angrily. The big horse complied immediately, dumping James unceremoniously into the gutter. He clambered to his feet and slunk down the street, the old man’s parting cry ringing angrily in his ears:
“Dinna meddle wi’ things ye ken nuthin’ aboot!”
I remembered that vignette, from Alf Wight’s classic If Only They Could Talk, earlier this year amidst the turbulent aftermath of my blog posts on gender “fluidity”. The tornado of criticism that funneled my way had roughly the same spin as that grizzled Scot’s derisive put-down: “Don’t meddle with things you know nothing about!”
I share a veterinary connection with James of yore. I completed a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree twenty-eight years ago as prelude to five years of veterinary practice, before adding a Doctor of Medicine degree, a residency in pediatrics, a fellowship in emergency medicine, and fifteen years of toil as a pediatric emergency medicine specialist. I’m a tad more seasoned than poor James was at the time of his equine suspension, I think it’s fair to say. I know a thing or two, if only by dint of having been around for so long. I’ve earned some license to “meddle”.
Meddling in the gender debate, however, was like closing both hands on a high-tension power line with my feet firmly planted on the ground. In the dim view of those who took umbrage with my remarks I was, to put it mildly, a dangerous, unlettered oaf.
It was my own fault, to some extent. I embroidered my writing, as is my habit, with amateur humor and irreverent anecdotes. I’m philosophically on board with Mark Twain:
“(Humanity) has unquestionably one really effective weapon – laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution – these can lift at a colossal humbug – push it a little – weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
Without question, in saner times the notion that males can become females, and vice versa, would have been met with unanimous societal hilarity.
But humor bleeds easily into impertinence, or outright hyperbole, if one isn’t careful. Threading humour into my commentary was perhaps unwise in tackling an issue so politically supercharged and darkly unfunny. That may be, in part, why my comments were construed in some corners as snarky, flippant and disrespectful.
Snark, flippancy and disrespect are quite opposite to the tone I intended to strike, mind you. The legitimate trans community exists uncomfortably at the margins of society, for too long misunderstood and denied non-judgmental care and support. Our gender-conflicted friends and neighbours and sons and daughters have been dealt the crappiest of hands. They need and deserve empathy and respect. What I wish for those beset by gender dysphoria is what we all wish for ourselves: the very best chance at living the best lives possible. We only get one kick at the can.
But good lives can’t be constructed on foundations of lies; and modern trans-radical ideology teeters atop a footing of falsehoods. Claims are being made and actions taken in open contradiction to scientific fact and in flagrant violation of bedrock medical ethics.
Burgeoning numbers of troubled individuals beset by gender dysphoria, a disturbance rooted in an assortment of psychological distortions and unhappy circumstances, are being fed a smorgasbord of half-truths and outright lies, and hoodwinked into destructive, permanent, changes to their lives and bodies.
Trans-radicals shape the shards and splinters of fragmented psyches into snares, baiting their traps with the lie that the impossible is possible: that males can become females and females can become males. Dysphoria is celebrated as a signpost on the road to euphoria, transition pitched as the key to Nirvana. The lie is swallowed, and the trap is sprung - and to wriggle free is next to impossible.
First poisoned by toxic trans-radical ideology, tormented individuals are offered, as antidote, a solution even more poisonous.
I referred to trans-radicals as “activists” in my previous essays - but I don’t think that’s the best way to view them. I have no beef, generally, with activists, individuals who thoughtfully and diligently advocate for their rights. Radicals are extruded from a different mold - they tolerate no dissent and zero debate. Just as psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple observed to be true of communist societies, trans-radicals aim “not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate”.
I remain broadly supportive of the trans community, as must any caring and ethical physician. But ethical support provides thoughtful counsel, unwavering empathy, and constructive, evidence-based remedies. Ethical support gives a wide berth to dangerous nonsense. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” warned Voltaire.
Atrocities are indeed being committed, and the medical profession is sadly complicit. Consider, as prime example, leading American transgender physician Johanna Olson-Kennedy (JOK), who scored a $5.7 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health (!) to oversee the explosion of transgender youth she is recruiting to her California clinic. She administers cross-sex hormones to kids as young as eight and refers girls as young as 13 for mastectomies. Not a big deal, that last bit, in JOK’s book - she was recorded casually dismissing the amputation of perfectly healthy breasts: “If you want breasts at a later point in your life, you can go and get them.”
She thought she was being amusing, perhaps. But the damage she is doing to children is deadly serious.
History will judge Johanna Olson-Kennedy harshly.
But the medical community that has allowed her, and others like her, to freely experiment on our children will be judged the most harshly of all.