“Courage is moving beyond fear; it is having the strength to venture and persevere.”
Sometimes intellectual and moral courage makes you an object of scorn and derision. Galileo experienced that. So did Martin Luther King Jr. But scholars and thinkers who pursue the truth know they will sometimes face headwinds. The Core Virtues nominee for intellectual and moral courage this month is Stephen B. Levine, M.D. of Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Levine, an American psychiatrist, is renowned for his five decades of work in human sexuality and gender dysphoria (discomfort in the sex of one’s birth). His expertise is of great relevance currently.
In the past fifteen years, we have seen a huge uptick in pre-pubescent and teen girls who are experiencing what has been termed “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Two decades ago, gender dysphoria was extremely rare – afflicting approximately one in ten thousand children. Those afflicted were generally little boys who identified as girls, eighty percent of whom outgrew the disorder by age eighteen. But since 2010, the incidence of gender dysphoria claims has sky-rocketed, and the fastest growing segment is pre-teen and teen girls. One in five 13–17-year-olds are identifying themselves as transgender, and the vast majority are girls who showed no sign of gender confusion in their early childhood. One Core Virtues school reported that four of their fifth-grade girls had recently declared themselves “trans” in class. These are eleven-year-olds who believe their identity and future does not lie in adult womanhood. They are changing their hairstyles, names, and pronouns, and thinking about binding their budding breasts. Do they know the next step in this journey is puberty blockers, then eventually cross-sex hormone treatments, which will lead to sterility?
Many schools are struggling with how to respond to what appears to be a phenomenon driven by social media and peer groups. Dr. Levine’s work in the field of transgender care is extensive and exemplary. His presentation to the Pennsylvania State Legislature, which was considering funding for youth transgender care, is a clear-eyed and courageous presentation of what we know and what we don’t know about transgenderism and best treatment. He is taking a lot of heat for it. At a time when many physicians are accepting patient self-diagnosis and providing (lucrative) “gender-affirming” treatment even for minors, Dr. Levine takes a hard look at the evidence. He urges respect and compassion, but cautions against social affirmation as the best response for those under 18, and believes this may trap vulnerable young people in a life of diminished prospects. Bravo to him for the courage to speak truthfully about a profoundly troubling national phenomenon.
Mary Beth Klee
NB: Dr. Levine's presentation constitutes the first 52 minutes of this 1:27 minute hearing and constitutes the key material.
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