I had the joy of discovering Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier, published in June 2020 but becoming more relevant by the month.
Teenage girls have perhaps never been more socially awkward and insecure, especially after long, enforced COVID isolation. Now, on top of typical questions and anxieties, a new confusion has been put upon them: questions as to their “gender identity.” Irreversible Damage describes this present social contagion to which teen girls are proving uniquely vulnerable, and the book bases its views on an overwhelming amount of data, evidence and interviews.
Shrier found epidemic levels of gender dysphoria sweeping the U.S. and Europe among adolescent girls who usually spend a lot of time alone on the internet. As problems and questions pile up, they look to the so-called “transgender” lifestyle as a fix for feelings of uncertainty and isolation. With much data and research, the book demonstrates that the current wave of openness to suggestions of gender dysphoria among girls hitting puberty is not akin to the more naturally-occurring, temporary gender dysphoria, which has been recognized for many years in a tiny percentage of young children. Rather, this new contagion is often peer-driven and severely impacts an already highly vulnerable group of people.
In sections with titles such as “The Contagion,” Shrier lays out the unfortunate path these girls stumble onto. She describes “The Influencers” in culture who encourage gender-dysphoric thinking. She tells what families caught in this web suffer as children buy into an illusory reality and its resulting real-world consequences.
Many parents learn to steel themselves for battle because school staff and medical professionals are now trained to affirm any hint of gender questioning (see chapters on “The Schools” and “The Shrinks”). Conspiratorial affirmation by school staff, for instance, keeps parents purposefully out of the loop and treats them as obstacles to the child’s preferred sexuality and lifestyle, convincing young ladies that home isn’t a safe place. This drives a wedge between confused children and their parents precisely when they need their parents most. Constant affirmation also “confirms” girls’ fear that they really are males stuck in female bodies, and that is why they feel so awkward and self-conscious. With horrifying regularity, according to Shrier, gender clinics are making permanent, disfiguring changes to children, male and female, with fewer and fewer checks and balances on this radically intrusive — and irreversible — practice.
Many young women lulled by these influencers now tell stories of serious regret for “transitioning” as teens. (Search “detransition” on YouTube to see for yourself.) For every woman courageous enough to publicly admit she has made a terrible mistake and regrets her decision to permanently damage her body this way, there must be a thousand behind the curtain who feel the same way but do not have the confidence to admit it — to themselves, their families or the world. The bravery of women who speak out against this horrifying practice is humbling.
They are brave but also angry. Angry mainly at the “professionals” who conspired with them to make these decisions at such an early age. Shrier’s book confirms this with many interviews. These “experts” act as if they understand and can predict positive outcomes when, in fact, this is truly new territory, and no counselor or school staff member has any meaningful experience yet with actual outcomes. As data and stories multiply, the result is devastatingly clear. Chapter 10, “The Regret,” tells stories that illustrate real results.
Shrier’s book was an early alarm warning society that women are hurting themselves, disfiguring their bodies, scarring their souls and making it more difficult to discover their true identities. Many fail, for obvious reasons, to find intimacy in a meaningful relationship. Suicide rates among those pursuing gender dysphoria as a lifestyle are sky-high.
The book also warns parents who may be tempted to let this happen. Confronting an angry teenager can be difficult and painful — but it is a mother’s and father’s job to protect and care for children going through the difficult teenage years. Love with commitment, common-sense rules and mercy go a long way to keeping young women from making disastrous lifelong decisions of such a radical nature. Helpfully, Shrier writes about what other parents have done to bring their teens back to a healthy place, body and soul (in chapter 11, “The Way Back”).
Irreversible Damage remains a great encouragement, helping parents and even teenagers understand the threats to them and their future well-being, giving guidance and hope — and equipping families to navigate tough seasons together with grace and successful long-term outcomes.