|NIH Clinical Center, where I was a patient in 1962|
OK, the 2018 book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by Ryan Anderson, runs 251 pages in hardcover and was published in February 2018 by Encounter books. I had to pull figurative teeth – log on to Goodreads through Facebook and allow friends to see I was looking for it, to find the name of the publisher, just to write this post. It is said to be a “best-seller”.
The book was characterized at first by the Washington Post as labeling transgenderism as a “mental illness”. When the author complained, the Post corrected the story.
Then in February 2021 Amazon suddenly delisted the book, almost after three years, saying it would not allow books that claimed LQBTQ people were mentally ill to be listed. Amazon also ignored the Washington Post’s own retraction. The author explains in a WSJ article, and the WSJ follows up with an op-ed (paywall, unfortunately). Compare the author’s account of his work with, say, ThinkProgress or NCRegister. Sunday night, July 25, Fox News told this little story again on its "Canceled in the USA" news series.
The theory was offered that the delisted was a political ploy to encourage Congress to pass the Equality Act as is. There are still some controversies, like transgender and women’s sports, with that legislation, and the HRC insists they have been resolved. Some reviewers call Ryan a “social conservative”.
But the idea that a book must not “frame LQBTQ identity as a mental illness” is superficial and deceptive itself. First, the group encompasses many different “identities”. The emotional world of a cis gay man is very different from that or a trans person. By definition, a transgender person would need medical treatment to transition, although that does not define mental illness, but in that sense, yes, biological gender at birth “matters”. A gender fluid or non-binary person would not need such attention however, so, yes, the claim that it is not a medical issue is credible. Anderson talks about gender dysphoria as needing therapy or counseling, at least, and apparently advocates that parents and kids should wait on physical intervention like with puberty blockers or surgery (the latter will be irreversible). None of this is, he claims, the same as “mental illness”.
Gender dysphoria is not the same as body dysphoria, which actor Reid Ewing talked about a lot a few years ago.
The book is still available at Barnes and Noble’s website, and there is an “Summary” still on Amazon by “Fireside Reads”, free by Kindle or inexpensive by paperback. I read the Kindle free on my desktop (this works if you have a regular Amazon account), and the explainer presents an outline (like Cliff Notes) and then quiz questions, like a course handbook. There is even an explainer of its being delisted. The style of the handbook reminds me of two books in the mid 1990s with buttons using my own "do ask do tell" title written in the style of persuasion handbooks for lay people or students than in the form of a formal non-fiction book (like mine, with footnotes and endnotes). It's important to remember that when presenting the history of any GLBTQ person or subpopulation, the "mental illness" classification was accepted until 1973, so accurate history has to describe this past, however unpleasant for activists today. It was certainly applied to me in 1961-1962.
Amazon should restore this book to normal purchase.
(This article is a rewrite/update of a more fragmentary story on February 2, 2021.)