‘When Harry became Sally’ & ‘Irreversible Damage’ – Recommended reading

I read these a while ago so I apologise for the delay in posting but here are two books that I’d like to recommend. Both are ‘Jaw-dropping’ to read. I didn’t take any notes. The first by Ryan Anderson I ‘read’ as an audio book. The second by Abigail Shrier, I also read without taking notes. I’d like to simply make a few observations about them both in this post.

I’ve now read these two books and Douglas Murrays book (Here’s my post on that) so I’m in a slightly better position now to continue reading Carl Trueman’s book (which I will eventually get round to reading and review).

When Harry became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson

I believe the author is a Christian (RC I think). I didn’t really know what to expect with it being banned by Amazon. But if you were expecting a book full of scriptural references, you’d be wrong. I can’t recall one reference. In fact, I’m not sure I remember any reference at all to the Christian faith.

The book is a devastating critique of the Transgender moment (or movement) and its ideology. The book demonstrates how utterly illogical it is for a man to become a woman (and vice versa).

It’s important to say that it isn’t a nasty book, rather it is written in a respectful manner. I thought it was well written with detailed research. He neither approved or reproved but he does present the facts (which is probably why it is banned). The anatomical details of the changes and the surgery required are quite tragic (as well as quite detailed) and demonstrate the awful lengths to which people will go.

The key to whole movement, I think, is in Chapter 2. I’ll provide the actual quote because I think it’s really important to grasp this. It’s more than Harry becoming Sally. Harry is Sally. And so the body has to be brought in line with the brain and not the other way round. The body must conform to what is the (claimed) Ontological reality. So any criticisms of Transgender people (or the movement) is a direct assault on their being. This is why any criticism is taken as a direct assault on the person – from their perspective that’s what it is. This is in complete opposition to the real reality – if I can put it that way. That is, in reality this is opposition to God and his created order. It’s rebellion at the deepest level. And it isn’t cheap rebellion either. I’m not talking cost in pounds or dollars but deep, very deep, personal pain – mentally and physically. Utterly tragic. And so for many that are caught up in this it isn’t a conscious rebellion because young people especially are being manipulated to satisfy the ideology of the Activists. They are being used. That’s the bottom line. Here’s the quote then from Chapter 2 under the heading Transgender Ontology:

‘People say that we live in a postmodern age that has rejected metaphysics. That’s not quite true. We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative meta-physics. At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person – in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, not merely a girl who identifies as a boy. It’s understandable why activists make these claims. An argument about transgender identities will be much more persuasive if it concerns who someone is, not merely how someone identifies. And so the rhetoric of the transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be. That’s the claim.’

However, some have realised the mistake of going the route of surgery based on what is a false and extremely dangerous ontology – ideas have very powerful consequences, and not all good (That’s an understatement by the way). And so in Chapter 3 we are given a series of testimonies that would advocate caution – at the very least. The claim to being Transgender is still accepted.

I do have a view on this, but I can’t work out why politicians of mainly the left, but the right as well, are sanctioning something that is so obviously damaging. Just the onslaught of logic ought to be enough to convince anyone that there’s something not right here.

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

Again, this is a jaw dropping and tragic read. More tragic actually. Abigail concentrates on how this Craze is affecting young people and especially teenagers. NOTE: She is using the word ‘Craze’ in a sociological sense not as a pejorative. It does capture something though. Abigail is not a Christian, so in a few places she does use language some might find offensive – try not to let that put you off though.

Honestly, if you are the parent of a girl, especially a teenage girl, you should read this book. Your child might just breeze through her bodily changes and all will be well. But she might not. Writing as a woman with daughters herself is helpful. She isn’t a philosopher or theologian, but she is an investigative reporter (on this anyway). And she’s a good one as well. We need people like her.

To be forewarned, is to be forearmed!

There are some shortcomings with the book which I think we need to realise. This came through with an interview she did with the two guys on their Triggernometry YouTube channel – worth watching. The shortcoming is this: Her worldview (and theirs) is self defeating. This isn’t a huge problem (for now) but we do need to be aware of it. As I write it makes me wonder if this is why Ryan Andersons book has been banned and this one by Abigail hasn’t. (Although there were those that wanted to ban her book as well – see Abigails article here.) Ryan’s book is grounded in a Biblical Worldview – this one isn’t, or not deliberately so anyway. Truth comes from God. Truth has to come from somewhere, and if not from God (the bible) it has to come from somewhere else. I’m grateful that there are still people like Abigail that can write and research from within a Judeo-Christian worldview (I think she is Jewish) but it isn’t the same as being grounded in a Christian Worldview. Don’t get me wrong I’m very thankful for her. She is most definitely our friend, in this, as is anyone that supports Free Speech. But by supporting same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism she just, for now, draws the line in a different place to others in the culture.

Someone said ‘Support Trans Kids.’ Frankly, giving in to this ideology is NOT supporting Trans kids, at all. What it does is damage kids. Often it is exactly that: Irreversible damage.

Here’s another terrifying article (When the State Comes for Your Kids) by Abigail that shows the sort of things that are happening in some States in the US. Make no mistake, the ‘activists’ will take your kids if they can. Thankfully, the Government in the UK, for now, is opposing plans to make changing gender easier. I say for now because the ‘activists’ will not stop. See here for more on the UK situation.

Finally, I’ve shared this before but it’s such an important interview that I’m including it here as well. This is an interview with a transgender man, Scott Newgent (he admits to actually being a biological woman), who shares with us the reality of what changing is really like and what happened to him, and about the opposition he is encountering because he is speaking out. Go here for the interview with Dan Crenshaw.

It should go without saying that we are to be loving towards transgender people, whatever stage they are at. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree with it. But we need to lovingly and graciously disagree. That is almost impossible by the way if any disagreement is seen as an attack on their being, not their belief. We have to try though. I won’t bore you by saying more, but I do urge you to read these two books especially if you have teenage, or younger, girls.

‘The Madness of Crowds’ by Douglas Murray – Recommended reading

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, Douglas Murray, Bloomsbury, 2020. This is the updated & expanded edition.

Have you ever seen the 1963 film ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’? It’s a totally crazy film with big stars in it all searching for buried loot under a ‘Big W.’ It’s a comedy and is hysterical. It’s very funny.

This book by Douglas Murray plunges us into a mad, mad, mad, mad world as well. There’s a lot that’s hysterical. But it isn’t funny. At all. There is a ‘Big W’ though. And an elusive prize.

I didn’t take any notes. I simply wanted to read it. I think the book will make a good companion to Carl Trueman’s latest book (started but not finished).

On the cover of the book is the line: The Sunday Times Bestseller. This is rather surprising because, I assume then, someone is buying it. I did. Presumably lots of people are buying it – not sure if they’re reading it though. Murray was initially encouraged by this. But in the afterword of this edition he’s rather more pessimistic. The frightening aspect of the book is that you can be anything you want to be by ticking the appropriate ideological box. And this is the message: we (that is, most people) are being coerced (or simply marinated) into an ideology. We are being forced further into an ideology that divides. You capitulate or else. In fact, it works the other way as well. You can be told what you are as well. So a black man can be a white man if he doesn’t get with the program. The whole idea of black, white, man, woman, boy, girl is an utter mess of confusion and cancellation. Murray has provided us with enough evidence (all cited in the end-notes) to convince anyone, that wants to step back and see, that what is going on is complete madness.

The Chapter Titles are: 1. Gay. Then an Interlude – The Marxist Foundations. 2. Women. Another Interlude – The Impact of Tech. 3. Race. Interlude – On Forgiveness. 4. Trans. Conclusion. Then an Afterword for this edition.

The chapter on Race is the longest – just. The chapter on Trans is the saddest. The whole book is fairly tragic though. At the beginning of the book he explains the difference between what he calls a Hardware or a Software issue. It recurs a few times through the book.

‘…. the contemporary world has begun to settle on a morality which roots itself in this dispute and which may be viewed as a hardware versus software question.
Hardware is something that people cannot change and so (the reasoning goes) it is something that they should not be judged on. Software, on the other hand, can be changed and may demand judgements – including moral judgements – to be made. Inevitably in such a system there will be a push to make potential software issues into hardware issues, not least in order to garner more sympathy for people who may in fact have software, rather than hardware, issues.’ p.29.

I do think there are some conditions that might be described as a ‘Hardware’ issue simply because we live, according to the Bible, in a fallen world. We should expect to find things that don’t fit. For example Murray gives some figures for people with Intersex (formerly Hermaphrodite) that might be a ‘Hardware’ issue. I’m not convinced surgery is the answer though. It’s all very sad. Help is definitely needed but it’s coming from the wrong place. Everyone has an inherent worth and dignity because we are all  made in the image of God our creator. Everyone. Just like me they need the love and grace of God not an ideology.

‘It has been estimated that in America today around one in every two thousand children is born with sexual organs that are indeterminate, and around one in every three hundred will need to be referred to a specialist.⁷’

I wasn’t sure quite how to read those figures but according to one website I looked at there’s about 1.4 million intersex people in America. That sounds like an epidemic to me. But it depends where you are on the trajectory and also on who decides where you are. Some of the people that decide, frankly, should be prosecuted for child abuse. It’s not science or health care, it’s ideology. It’s all in the book if you can stomach it. 

I’ll quote below a couple more sections from the conclusion to give you a flavour of the book.

Because the most extreme claims keep getting heard, there is a tendency for people to believe them and their worst-case scenarios. p.242

Final quote:

‘With each of the issues highlighted in this book the aim of the social justice campaigners has consistently been to take each one – gay, women, race, trans – that they can present as a rights grievance and make their case at its most inflammatory. Their desire is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn. In this again the last part of a Marxist substructure can be glimpsed. If you cannot rule a society – or pretend to rule it, or try to rule it and collapse everything – then you can do something else. In a society that is alive to its faults, and though imperfect remains a better option than anything else on offer, you sow doubt, division, animosity and fear. Most effectively you can try to make people doubt absolutely everything. Make them doubt whether the society they live in is good at all (and it’s working – my comment). Make them doubt that people really are treated fairly. Make them doubt whether there are any such groupings as men or women. Make them doubt almost everything. And then present yourself as having the answers: the grand, overarching, interlocking set of answers that will bring everyone to some perfect place, the details of which will follow in the post (in other words there is no answer – my comment)’ Pp. 247-248.

Given the hot-button topics I thought the book is written quite sensitively. It’s not an aggressive book, but unfortunately what Murray can’t give you, and to be fair he doesn’t try, is any hope, or an objective truth claim to base that hope on. I don’t think he’s saying there’s no such thing as truth, I’m fairly sure he would say there is, but he can’t base it on anything. If there’s no God of truth, there can’t be any truth. The Lord Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ And so as Christians our hope is in God – the God of the Bible. But we do have to reach people with the Gospel of Christ; a world that is perishing and drowning in its own particular madness. This book describes the world, or some of it anyway, that desperately needs the Gospel.

‘The Creaking On The Stairs’ by Mez McConnell – A Recommendation

This is an absolutely brilliant book – I need to say that right from the start.

‘The Creaking On The Stairs’ Mez McConnell. Christian Focus, 2019.

This isn’t merely another testimony book. Please don’t think of it that way. It’s not a ‘things were really awful, but now  everything is wonderful’ book either. And, be prepared, it’s a harrowing read – in places it is utterly horrific! Mez’s life has been turned round  and ‘upside down’ in the most extraordinary way by the Lord Jesus Christ. But, and this, I believe, is very important to understand – it is NOT a book only about recovering from child abuse. It is about that. And that is amazing. But there’s a wider application as well.

If you have suffered any form of abuse this book will hopefully be very helpful. He writes TO the reader, especially to the abused reader. If that’s you – please read it. And to the abuser as well. And if that’s you – please read it! And if you’re wondering what Christianity is all about or has to offer – then you need to read it. As you can tell, I’m blown away by this book.

A brief word then about the book. There are 49 chapters, which given the content, are mercifully short, Mez doesn’t shy away from stating things as they are (and were). He’s brutally honest. I’m sure things were actually much much worse than he describes them but we, the reader, get the picture full on. He’s also honest about how he feels now.

Alarming perhaps to our Christian sentimentalities, but the honesty is shocking yet devastatingly refreshing.

It’s written really well. I like the way he’s structured it. It works. It’s easy to read as a book (the content is quite gruelling though). The book is full of Reformed theology. It’s not cold and lifeless. It’s warm and life-changing. Creation – Fall – Redemption. The reality, the factualness of sin, of the sinful nature and the cost of Redemption, the love of God in Christ, the Cross is all here. It’s a book of HOPE. Mez has been delivered by Christ the great deliverer. But the fact is we all need that deliverance. Respectable sinners are still sinners and just as lost as the drug addict, the abused, and the abuser.

If ‘The Problem of Evil’ is a problem for you then you may well find this book to be very helpful indeed. If you want an answer, you won’t do any better than to read this book. People are looking for answers. Especially about why the world and their lives are the way they are. Some say there are no answers. But there are. This book is one. The real problem is people don’t like the answers. The answer means handing authority over to another. And we won’t have that at any price, even if that means our own lives suffer. Sin is such an awful master!

In case you wondered, there’s no redemptive merit in what Mez suffered. There’s no balancing of the universe. But, unlike in a humanistic system, it isn’t without purpose either.

I like the way he’ll take a subject based on his awful experience and then contrast it in the following chapter with the suffering of Christ which is redemptive – for and on behalf of sinners, not himself. This, I think, works really well. For example he does this with chapters on humiliation, rejection and pain & suffering. Christ is humiliated. Christ is rejected. Christ undergoes pain & suffering.

Every chapter was either Jaw – Dropping in its description of evil or in the Amazing Grace of God in Christ.

These chapters stood out to me: Hell on Earth; The Glorious Wonderful Reality of Hell; The Terrible Reality of Heaven; The Bittersweet Pill of God’s Sovereignty.

Like I said this isn’t ‘merely’ a testimony book so at the end there is a section of Helpful Resources:

  • Worshipping with the enemy? – Interview with a child abuser
  • Interview with the Pastor of a child abuser
  • FAQs from Child Abuse Sufferers
  • A Response to this Book from an Abuse Sufferer
  • Next Steps

I was going to put loads of quotes in but instead I will end with a plea to read it. If you are a Church Officer, Elder or Pastor / Minister you MUST read it. I hope you will.