Prominent conservative figure Ryan Anderson delivered a talk titled, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement.” The address has compelled students, faculty and members of Dallas’ LGBT community to participate in a discussion about one of today’s most divisive topics.
The talk was based off of Anderson’s book of the same name, wherein he emphasizes the importance of embracing what he describes as the truth about one’s body and reality instead of turning to transition therapies and hormonal treatments.
Johnny Boucher, a local LGBT activist, organized a “peaceful protest” against the talk on Thursday, according to the Dallas Voice, a media source for LGBT Texas groups. After Anderson gave his talk, he invited the audience to ask questions, and many activists eagerly responded.
Jayla Winters, a lawyer, scholar and self-professed “out and proud” member of the trans community has worked for transgender advocacy throughout the years, especially regarding “bathroom bills”. She explained the motivations for the pro-transgender presence at the talk.
“We were concerned that the information provided by Mr. Anderson to his audience would be very biased,” Winters said. “We wanted to be there in part just to show the attendees that we are real people, decent people and that not everything they are told about us is necessarily accurate.”
Winters also wanted to be present to speak with attendants who might have had questions following the event, as well as to see what conservative speakers like Anderson were saying about her community, “while not inviting us to the conversation at all.”
Anderson provided biological, psychological and philosophical arguments for his message, focusing on the idea that the transgender movement is focused on the perpetuation of strict gender roles and assumptions, such as the idea that all girls play with dolls or that all boys are rough.
Some attendees of the talk, such as Jayla Winters, argue that Anderson’s religious convictions are entirely responsible for his political work rather than biological or psychological research, which is a point that Anderson himself would perhaps contend with.
“Mr. Anderson’s position on transgender rights is motivated entirely by his religious beliefs,” Winters said. “I find this problematic because he is trying to influence legislation in the United States of America which is home to many types of believers and non-believers. It is my absolute assertion that an individual’s religion should in no ways whatsoever influence the laws that govern the lives of others in this great nation.”
Clearly, there is still work to be done in finding a common ground on which to discuss how to address the transgender movement.
In his talk, Anderson used several real-life examples to illustrate the fact that many people, especially children, struggle with acceptance, which oftentimes is what moves people to transition using hormonal therapies and treatments. This shows that compassion and respect for one another is central to this dialogue.
“It is my strong opinion that the “transgender movement” should be embraced,” Winters said. “We should be accepted and loved for who we are. We are not monsters. We are not out to harm anyone — or society in general. We are not a threat to ordered society, the sanctity of family, religious freedoms, etc. We are people.”
Many students at the University of Dallas, especially those who have kept up with Anderson’s recent work for the Heritage Foundation, were open and receptive to the message that he conveyed.
“I thought that Dr. Anderson did a really good job,” said sophomore Rose Safranek. “He succeeded in presenting a sound and understandable case for the traditional understanding of sex as binary, as an unalterable biological fact and of the traditional understanding of gender dysphoria as a true disorder. He also was able to maintain a charitable and open-minded dialogue, although it was thoroughly tested by several dissenting questions.”
“I think that the talk opened my mind and also the minds of the students and faculty here to the fact that this open minded internal dialogue is necessary, and that an argument from the standpoint of human nature is a really very compelling and very cogent argument and I hope that one day we can succeed in making manifest the truth of human sexuality,” Safranek said.
The division on these sorts of issues is clear in our nation, and as of last Thursday, it was clear on the UD campus. This talk has sparked an ongoing dialogue with avid supporters on both sides of the issue, and perhaps the clearest place to start is to work to understand one another and to find common ground on which to continue the dialogue.