Daring to Ask, is Trans-Surgery the Answer? (Review of Paper Genders)

Like to know more about transgenderism? Even the not-pretty parts? AffirmingGender would like to showcase an important book for our time. It is honest. It is knowledgeable. It scores some thought-provoking points. It is called Paper Genders (2011), by Walt Heyer.


Mr. Heyer does not minimize the seriousness of gender dysphoria, the experience of distress of over the sex of one’s birth, or the plight of what are called “transgender people,” those who want to change or have changed their bodies to identify with the opposite sex. He cites the statistics, hardly controversial, of their suicide rate. At minimum that rate is reported as ten times greater than that of the general population (1.6%). One survey of over seven thousand transgender people done in 2010 found a 41% suicide rate. This is more than twenty-five times the general population rate. Laura Amato, of Laura’s Playground website (www.lauras-playground.com), dedicated to preventing suicide among these troubled folks, said in 2011: “Based on 9 million users and 2 million emails, I’d say the transgender mortality rate is 60 to 70% (conservative). Over 50% have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.”


These numbers might sound shocking, but they are no secret. Mr. Heyer asks the simple questions with this book: wouldn’t these numbers suggest a deeper problem? And are drugs and surgery that amends one’s otherwise healthy body really going to fix it?


Besides helpfully reviewing the history of trans-surgery advocates, and its unsavory practitioners, Mr. Heyer outlines the features that cast suspicion on the practice. One fascinating chapter argues a chilling comparison with frontal lobotomies! When was the last time you heard of a frontal lobotomy being recommended for depression? But Mr. Heyer reminds us how not so long ago a few celebrity doctors and a fawning media made it all the rage. No scientific evidence supporting lobotomy was ever found but for 40 years (1936-1986), over 40,000 people were given frontal lobotomies to treat depression. Yikes! How could such a thing happen?


Today approximately two dozen surgeons around the country perform transgender surgery. In spite of—to put it mildly—questionable efficacy, laws are now in place restricting psychologists in the advice they may give to patients: they are legally prohibited from saying anything to discourage patients from electing the surgery!  Mr. Heyer helpfully shows the establishment supports a cycle of these $25,000 to $70,000 procedures. Follow the money.



At the end of the book (*spoiler alert*), we learn that Walt Heyer is not just an observer of some of the tragedies (travesties?) described, he is a living embodiment of them. He himself was guided down the path to try to change his birth sex, a path many are now being advised to take, and found it to be a dead-end. And he’s come back. A trans, and now a re-trans.


I am happy to say that his is a story of the resurrection of a body, appropriate for today.   A body that was not supposed to come back came back, with the additional benefit to us of this brave book.


We thank you very much, Walt, as we are thankful for Christ!


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