Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"The Danish Girl" prompts Witherspoon to trot out Walt Heyer

The Danish Girl
Image from The Danish Girl
I have not yet seen The Danish Girl but I intend to. According to IMDB, it is a “fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.” I don't know if professional “ex-trans” Walt Heyer has or has not seen the film. It probably doesn't matter since its very existence is sufficient for him to write: “The Danish Girl: People Aren't Born Transgender, But Playing Dress-Up Can Spark Psychological Problems.” He has a willing outlet in Witherspoon Institute's blog.

Things that I know and don't know about Walt Heyer:

Walt Heyer
  • He is about 75 years of age.
  • Heyer seems to be a devout Christian.
  • 33 years ago he had sex reassignment surgery.
  • He had his surgery reversed about eight years later.
  • I know virtually nothing about Heyer's educational background or work history.  However, he is not a licensed counselor of any type nor a health care professional.
  • Heyer has five books for sale on Amazon and may have more at other outlets. That seems to be his profession.
  • Pushing his books are no fewer than three websites.
  • Heyer is hard to pin down and contradictory. He tries to conform his narrative to what he thinks will get him appearances on cable TV in order to market his brand. He goes for avuncular love and concern while spouting what amounts to hate.
  • Heyer cherry picks research to support his anti-trans views (in order to sell his books).
  • Heyer asserts that many people regret having gender reassignment surgery which is at odds with most of the research.
  • Heyer's claim is that transgender people have other mental illnesses which cause the transgender condition. It is these that have to be treated. He cites the abstract of one study of ten patients in 2007.

Things I think I know about transgender people:

Life is more difficult for transgender people. This isn't a list because there is no paradigm. Trans people face enormous obstacles. Those obstacles can generate stress which causes some trans people to become anxious and depressed. These are the co-psychopathologies that Heyer is so intrigued with. However they are the result of, not the cause of, being transgender. My hypothesis is that the earlier in life people transition and the level of support that they enjoy is a good predictor of future happiness.

In other words a teen who transitions with not only emotional support from his or her parents but economic support for medical, counseling and drug therapies is likely to be a successful, happy and secure adult. If a kid has parents of limited means who keep telling him that he is defying God he is likely to be fucked up. Middle age transitions, like Heyer's, are probably the most problematic. It was presumably worse 35 years ago. If you lose your job, your wife and your entire support system you probably have some regrets. Caitlyn Jenner is not representative. She has an economic and social support system that very few people enjoy.

The single most important thing that we can do is to support the personal decisions of transgender people. Conservative Christians suggest that people wake up one day and decide to be a different gender. These are not impetuous decisions and they certainly lack spontaneity.

Witherspoon and their blog:

Witherspoon Institute represents the extreme fringe of Catholic orthodoxy. Its president is an Opus Dei numerary which means that he is a secular celibate. Robert P. George was a co-founder and Ryan T. Anderson edits the blog. The blog called Public Discourse is anything but. There are few dissenting opinions and no comment section. At this edge, the devout don't believe that transgender people exist. The incongruity between gender and sex is just confusion that can be healed with prayer.

I'll limit my quotes to Heyer's closing paragraphs:
In one scene of The Danish Girl, a specialist diagnoses Einar with paranoid schizophrenia. Before the doctor can come back with a team to lock him away, Einar understandably runs away in fear of the barbaric treatment awaiting him.

I look forward to the day when today’s practice of endorsing sex-reassignment surgery for all who express dissatisfaction with their birth gender is looked upon as equally barbaric.
Heyer's notion of sex reassignment on demand is utter nonsense. At least in this country patients are carefully screened before surgery is permitted. In most (if not all) cases, the patient is already living as their identified gender and has been on hormonal treatment for some time.

In other words, Heyer is being disingenuous in service to a larger point that transgender people are pretending to be their alternate gender because of other mental illnesses. He also wants to write things that will possibly draw attention to his websites and books. Mr. Heyer is a for-profit enterprise.

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