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How Do We Protect Gay Youth? Start Telling the Truth.

Gays and lesbians are being harmed. It's past time more of us spoke up.

In February, a gay man named Jeff Cleghorn testified before the Georgia Senate during a committee hearing on a bill titled the “Parents and Children Protection Act.” Cleghorn, an Army veteran and retired lawyer who once served on the board of directors for Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal, spoke in favor of the legislation, which would require teachers to obtain parental consent before discussing controversial theories about gender with their students.

“This is about much more than helping kids with gender dysphoria, most of whom will grow up to be gay or lesbian if left alone, according to every study ever conducted on the subject,” Cleghorn said. “This is about indoctrinating kids into a belief system that is not real.”

During his testimony, Cleghorn mentioned the huge spike in trans identification among young people, the troubling proliferation of gender clinics, and the heartbreaking stories of detransitioners who now face “sterility, loss of sexual function, early onset osteoporosis, and vaginal atrophy.” He implored the committee, “Do not let schools teach kids to keep secrets from their parents.”

Here's how the LGBTQ online news magazine, Queerty, titled its article about Cleghorn’s testimony: “This self-hating gay man is spearheading Georgia’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ initiative.”

There are a lot of things wrong with that title. First is the claim that Cleghorn hates himself for being gay. A few weeks ago, I got to speak with Cleghorn, who lives near Atlanta with his husband, whom he married in 2014. Cleghorn, now 61, attended his first gay bar when he was 26. He has been involved in gay rights activism since the 1990s, when he began working for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the nonprofit organization responsible for the first major gay rights legislation in American history, the 2010 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Before that, no other gay rights legislation had ever passed through the U.S. Congress.

Second is the implication that the Georgia legislation is antigay. In his testimony, Cleghorn argued the exact opposite. His concern, which he shares with so many other gay and lesbian adults who vividly remember their own gender nonconformity in childhood, is that young people are being taught that if they don’t conform to gender stereotypes, they need to be medicalized. Cleghorn’s claim that most kids with gender dysphoria (what used to be called “gender identity disorder”) will grow up to be gay or lesbian if they’re allowed to go through puberty unharmed is true. Thus, this legislation, which Queerty compared to a Florida bill that activist organizations shrewdly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to galvanize liberal opposition to it, might actually protect gay and lesbian young people from severe psychological and medical harm.

To put it more bluntly, the legislation could thwart the propagation of an ideology that attempts to “trans away the gay.”

Cleghorn is unperturbed by the LGBTQ media’s misrepresentation of him. If anything, he’s grateful for the media coverage. “The more folks who hear about us speaking out against this ideology, the better,” he said. His main concern is with the truth. After all, “telling the truth” is how the gay rights movement succeeded in America, he said. “We changed hearts and minds through our work, our advocacy, and our example. Not by threatening and bullying, or trying to reorder reality and society.”

Today, Cleghorn believes that perhaps the biggest obstacle to the truth is the ongoing failure of the media and legacy LGBT organizations to distinguish between trans-identified homosexuals and autogynephilic, trans-identified males.

What Cleghorn is referring to is the psychological typology of transsexualism developed by sexologist Ray Blanchard in the 1980s and 1990s. Through his research, Blanchard identified the two most common types of male transsexuals: the homosexual transsexual (HSTS) who feminizes with hormones and surgery to blend into homophobic society as a “straight woman,” and the non-homosexual, autogynephilic transsexual (AGP), whose trans identification is motivated by his sexual arousal at the thought of being female. Surprisingly, it’s the latter group that makes up the overwhelming majority of the trans-identified male population.

Blanchard’s typology still holds up over three decades later, and yet trans activists, many of whom are themselves AGP, create a culture of fear around the topic by publicly smearing anyone who dares to bring it up. Their aversion to acknowledging the reality of their identification is likely both personal and political: they are unable to cope emotionally with any disagreement that they’re “actual women,” and they suspect that public support of their political goals (e.g., males in women’s sports and gender self-I.D. legislation) will wane if the sexual nature of their identities becomes widely known.

It's clear why understanding this distinction matters when it comes to litigating single-sex spaces, especially as it pertains to protecting the rights of women and girls. But why does it matter so much for gays and lesbians?

Because today, AGP trans people stand at the helm of what is now called the “LGBTQ+” movement. These male adults, who were not gender-nonconforming children and often transitioned after marrying women and having families of their own, are spearheading the push for the social and medical transition of gender-nonconforming young people—who, again, would likely grow up to be gay adults if left alone—in an attempt to validate their own identities as women. If “trans kids” exist and “transwomen are women,” then they, too, were once trans kids, which means that they have always been female. Gender-nonconforming gays and lesbians are nothing more than sacrificial lambs for their cause.

The obvious consequence of all of this is that young people are falling victim to irreversible medical harm. Another concern is that the movement is now working in direct opposition to gay liberation, which was about creating more space in society for gender nonconformity. It was about understanding that homosexuals, while atypical, are natural and valid variations of their sex. It was about making it OK for some boys to be effeminate and some girls to be butch.

And that, dear reader, is why we need brave gay people like Jeff Cleghorn to speak the truth, no matter how controversial it is. It also is why we need the LGBT Courage Coalition, which will continue to challenge authoritarian activist organizations that have lost their way. Our very future is at stake.

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