Breaking the Bubble of Transgender Groupthink
There is something about the transgender movement that has struck many people as fundamentally cultish.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about cults: “Specific factors in cult behavior are said to include manipulative and authoritarian mind control over members, communal and totalistic organization, aggressive proselytizing, systematic programs of indoctrination, and perpetuation in middle-class communities.”
One need not look any further than social media sites like TikTok to find evidence of “aggressive proselytizing” and a “systematic program of indoctrination.” There, transgender “influencers” post video after video, often targeting young teens and children, painting in the rosiest hues things like undergoing double mastectomies for no other reason than that one “feels” like a boy or pumping oneself full of enormous doses of synthetic hormones.
Rather than soberly walking their viewers through the pros and cons of these drastic medical interventions, which come with permanent, life-altering side effects (including permanent infertility) these transgender enthusiasts instead tell their young audience that these things are perfectly normal, purely positive, and often morally brave and essentially praiseworthy.
Experts and Public Figures Speak Out
Another one of the fundamental characteristics of a cult is that it cannot withstand questioning, since that would risk exposing the emptiness of its claims. And so, cults rigorously clamp down on any hint of doubt, vigorously purging from their ranks anyone who persists in questioning despite the warnings.
Consider the case of Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Despite being a leftist feminist who has repeatedly affirmed her support for transgenderism, Rowling has become one of the main targets of transgender activists. Why? Because she believes that biological sex is real, is concerned about the practice of rapidly putting young people with gender dysphoria on pathway towards irreversible medical interventions and thinks that we should protect women-only spaces and sports. For many social leftists, Rowling is now a persona non grata who must be shunned from polite society. Ironically, many advocate boycotting her books, arguing that children should have no contact with Rowling, lest their minds be poisoned with “anti-trans” ideas by such an association.
The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – ie, to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
However, Rowling’s refusal to back down seems to be a bellwether for a new trend: people with influence and expertise who are deciding to ignore the threats and the noise of the LGBT activists, and to break the bubble of cultish groupthink by forthrightly speaking obvious truths, regardless of the consequences.
One of those who has demonstrated such courage is Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, 58, who serves as the chief psychiatrist in the department of adolescent psychiatry at Finland’s Tampere University Hospital. In a recent article, Dr. Kaltiala recounts her own journey as someone who has participated in some 500 assessments of adolescents suffering with gender identity confusion and seeking transgender medical interventions.
As Dr. Kaltiala explains, the practice of subjecting young patients to hormone “therapy,” or to body-mutilating surgeries, began largely following the publication of a paper in 2011. The authors of that paper argued for what became known as the “Dutch protocol.” Under this protocol, younger patients, typically boys who had long shown signs of gender confusion, were given procedures to help them “present” as women earlier, with the goal being that their so-called “gender transitions” could be more convincing than if they received such procedures later in life.
When such procedures were introduced into her clinic, Dr. Kaltiala was tasked with assessing her patients and making treatment recommendations. What gave her pause, however, was how few of her patients resembled the picture painted in the 2011 “Dutch protocol” paper. Instead of adolescent males with a long history of gender identity confusion, and who were otherwise psychologically high functioning, she found that many of her patients were girls who, while claiming to be transgender males, clearly suffered from a variety of serious underlying mental illnesses or disorders.
Dr. Kaltiala writes:
Some came from families with multiple psychosocial problems. Most of them had challenging early childhoods marked by developmental difficulties, such as extreme temper tantrums and social isolation. Many had academic troubles. It was common for them to have been bullied—but generally not regarding their gender presentation. In adolescence they were lonely and withdrawn. Some were no longer in school, instead spending all their time alone in their room. They had depression and anxiety, some had eating disorders, many engaged in self-harm, a few had experienced psychotic episodes. Many—many—were on the autism spectrum.
What also surprised her is that few of the girls had histories of gender identity confusion. Instead, their gender dysphoria had developed rapidly, often after some authority figure or LGBT activist had suggested to them—or, quite often, their mothers—that their personal problems were related to their gender identity. Often it followed after the girls had seen something about transgenderism online.
Dr. Kaltiala began having serious misgivings about the pressure that was being put on her by her superiors and the transgender activists to quickly push these patients through the Dutch protocol. “We were being told to intervene in healthy, functioning bodies simply on the basis of a young person’s shifting feelings about gender,” she writes. “Adolescence is a complex period in which young people are consolidating their personalities, exploring sexual feelings, and becoming independent of their parents. Identity achievement is the outcome of successful adolescent development, not its starting point.”
What disturbed Dr. Kaltiala was the grandiose promises that were often made to these supposedly “transgender” teens about how transitioning their gender would somehow alleviate all of their psychological or social problems. “Of course,” she states wryly, “there is no mechanism by which high doses of hormones resolve autism or any other underlying mental health condition.”
A Widespread Pattern
Initially, Dr. Kaltiala thought that perhaps there was something unusual about the Finnish population that she was treating.
However, in conversation with experts at other hospitals, she began to realize that what she was seeing was occurring all over the developed world. Huge numbers of adolescents were suddenly deciding that they were “transgender.” And thanks to the politicization of the issue, health experts were being pressured promptly to put these adolescents on a path towards drastic, irreversible medical interventions with little screening, and almost no efforts to resolve other, underlying psychological problems first.
Even worse, the “treatments” that Dr. Kaltiala and her colleagues were dispensing clearly were not improving the lives of their patients. “The young people we were treating were not thriving. Instead, their lives were deteriorating,” she writes. “They were withdrawing from all social activities. They were not making friends. They were not going to school. We continued to network with colleagues in different countries who said they were seeing the same things.”
At this point, Dr. Kaltiala began raising the alarm. In 2015 she published a paper exposing the fact that so many “transgender” patients suffered from so many diverse mental disorders. However, she was dismayed that the momentum only increased, particularly in the United States, where the number of transgender “treatment” centers exploded.
Even worse, her clinic, and others like hers, suddenly started experiencing the phenomenon of groups of girls from the same school or town all suddenly claiming to be “transgender.” What was obvious, she recounts, is that these girls were communicating with one another, and with transgender activists, about how to obtain “treatment.” In other words, because it had become “trendy” to be transgender, and because these girls had been told that transgender interventions would improve their lives, they were systematically finding ways to game the system to get the procedures they desired.
However, even as American transgender clinics were popping up all over the country, and subjecting vast numbers of children and adolescents to life-altering medical interventions, something was changing in Dr. Kaltiala’s own Finland, as well as in neighboring European countries.
In 2016, Finland’s pediatric gender clinics began proactively treating their patients’ other psychological disorders, rather than immediately pushing them through gender transitions. Then, in 2020, the national medical body in Finland, published the results of a study of adolescent gender transition. They found, as Dr. Kaltiala writes, that “studies touting the success of the ‘gender-affirming’ model was biased and unreliable—systematically so in some cases.”
That government report warned that transgender procedures are “experimental,” that adolescents should be sternly warned of the serious, life-long effects of those procedures, and that many adolescents simply lacked the capacity to consent to such significant, life-altering interventions.
Since then, the UK and Sweden have followed suit, making dramatic about-faces on the issue. Instead of fast-tracking children through “gender transitions,” health services in these countries are finding ways to treat the underlying psychological disorders.
Meanwhile, more and more of the adolescents who were subjected to drastic medical interventions, are coming to realize that their bodies have been permanently mutilated, and their chances of ever living normal, healthy lives as members of their sex have been stolen from them. Their stories, recounts Dr. Kaltiala, are often devastating. Many of them recount that they lied or misled therapists during the transition process, to get the desired outcome.
Breaking the Groupthink
As Dr. Kaltiala warns in the concluding lines of her piece, “Medicine, unfortunately, is not immune to dangerous groupthink that results in patient harm.” She concludes, “[G]ender transition has gotten out of hand. When medical professionals start saying they have one answer that applies everywhere, or that they have a cure for all of life’s pains, that should be a warning to us all that something has gone very wrong.”
In other words, when medicine stops being guided by science, and by fundamental ethical norms, and instead is led by ideology, then it has become a cult. And the way to destroy a cult, is to break through the weaponized “groupthink” that prohibits those with concerns from speaking up, lest the collective punishment they face crush them.
It is the Dr. Kaltialas of the world who are beginning to turn this ship around. The transgender activists are loud and are often merciless in how they go about demanding punishment for heretics. However, in the end, health providers with a conscience can only watch so many lives being destroyed before they realize that there is only one correct course of action: to defend their patients by speaking the truth, regardless of the consequences.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.