What is Transgenderism, and Why Should We Be Concerned?

by Daniela Ellerbeck
26 January 2018

By Michael Swain, Executive Director of FOR SA

For those who believe in unicorns, understanding the complexities of the transgender issues that are currently making headlines across the world will be a walk in the park.  For the rest of us, this issue has come out of nowhere in the past two years and was put firmly in the spotlight when former Olympic gold medallist Bruce Jenner reinvented himself as Caitlyn Jenner and was subsequently voted as “Woman of the Year” in 2015.

In South Africa also, we are receiving reports of “gender reveal parties” where children as young as ten years old are “re-introduced” – typically by another name (e.g. Louis instead of Louise) and personal pronouns (e.g. he instead of she, or gender-neutral pronouns such as “they”, “ze”, “per”, etc) that more closely correlate with his/her new chosen gender – to teachers and friends, who are then expected to address the child by a new name and pronoun or face sanctions.

We therefore need to take the trouble to understand what transgenderism (which is the “T” in LGBT) entails and the radical ideology that undergirds it.


It is important to begin by saying that the condition known as “gender dysphoria” is very rare and occurs in less than one in 20 000 people.  This condition is where an individual identifies with a gender other that his/her biological sex and feels that he/she has been trapped in the wrong body.  For many years this has, medically, been understood as a mental illness  – and rightly so since people suffering from gender dysphoria are ten times more likely to attempt suicide than the average person.  There is no clear-cut reason for this condition, which may be caused by a number of different factors, both physical and social. What is true, however, is that when the child passes through puberty, social science shows that as many as 95% come to identify with their biological sex and outgrow this condition.

Gender dysphoria has long been treated as a psychiatric condition because it is evidently in conflict with physical reality, as well as the medical science and biological evidence. These disciplines hold that a person’s sex is decided at the moment of conception and that every chromosome in a person’s body (ironically with the exception of the male sperm) is either male or female.  In fact, there are 6500 genetic differences between men and women, not to mention their reproductive organs and obvious physical differences which become more apparent after puberty. While puberty blocking treatment, cross-hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery may alter the appearance of someone suffering from gender dysphoria, nothing can alter the underlying biological fact that they remain 100% either a man or a woman.

Dr. Paul McHugh, former Chief of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, has studied transgenderism and sex reassignment surgery for 40 years.  His experience is that there is little change in the psychological condition of those who have had sex reassignment surgery.  Instead, these people continue to experience “the same problems with relationships, work, and emotions as before.”  In fact, far from solving the problem, sex reassignment treatment and surgery tend to exacerbate the underlying psychological condition, as evidenced by the fact that the rate of attempted suicide almost doubles again post-surgery when the attempted suicide rate is 20 times greater than that of the average person!


These facts and statistics are rejected out of hand by LGBT activists, many of whom do not suffer from gender dysphoria themselves.  They claim that although an individual may have the body of a man or a woman, his/her internal sense of gender trumps their biological sex.  Gender is therefore a completely fluid concept or social construct which every individual has the right to define (or not) as they see fit.  In other words, sheer say-so makes it so.  They further contend that since gender is entirely predicated upon how someone feels, regardless of how they may appear physically, it is wrong to impose a male/female label on anyone and all traditional relationships are therefore invalid as a societal norm.

Gender has been redefined as something which is completely subjective and to which every objective standard must yield. Instead, a person’s chosen gender must be both accepted and affirmed, especially as a failure to do so may exacerbate suicidal tendencies.  As such, every assistance – through the creation of so-called “safe spaces” (where people are safe from potentially offensive thoughts and ideas), the provision of medical services etc. – must be given to confirm and approve a person’s choice.

This new definition of gender must also be taught to children as young as three years old before they can be indoctrinated by their parents with (typically) more traditional views.  The success and ascendancy of this view can be seen in how many Western governments in particular have raced headlong to ensure that policies are adjusted and resources allocated to this end.  Compulsory sex education (CSE) in schools is being used a primary way of enforcing this revolutionary and unsubstantiated concept on an unsuspecting generation.  Facebook has aligned with this view and currently offers users a choice of 71 gender descriptions, including “two-spirit person”, “pangender” and “neutrois”.

The tragedy is that simply because something is politically correct does not make it factually correct or a valid treatment option, and it should therefore be challenged – particularly when vulnerable human lives are at stake.  Very young children suffering from gender dysphoria are often at the centre of this, whose parents are typically terrorised with the high rates of attempted suicide of people with this condition and then guilted into agreeing that the only way to deal with it is to recognise and accept (even celebrate) this delusion at the earliest opportunity.  As a result, the current recommendation is to give the child a new name, pronoun and wardrobe and to treat him/her in every way as though he/she were in fact their chosen sex.

The next phase is to administer strong puberty blocking drugs, which were never intended for this purpose and which have serious known side effects. This “treatment” also has the effect of locking the person into a permanent condition of gender dysphoria.  It is typically reinforced by aggressive cross-hormone therapy from the age of 16 to catalyse the development of secondary (opposite) sexual characteristics.  The final stage is sex reassignment surgery to remove (or add) relevant physical characteristics.  However, in the words of Professor McHugh, “surgical alteration to the body of these unfortunate people [is] to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.”

Given the very real dangers to the well-being of those who suffer from gender dysphoria, as a society we should be very cautious before we rush headlong to follow ideologically driven international trends.  To sacrifice highly vulnerable people on the altar of political correctness is simply wrong, yet this is the current situation in many nations.  The real danger occurs when ideology becomes policy, and policy becomes law, which coerces both speech and action.  This is beginning to take root in South Africa, particularly on the campuses, so we need to watch this carefully and be prepared to stand up for the traditional values which have undergirded and supported society for generations.

Michael was raised in England, graduating from the University of Bristol with an honours degree in Law before immigrating to South Africa in 1983. He has been a successful businessman as well as having spent over 30 years in ministry in South Africa, Europe and the USA. He serves as the Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).

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