Ramaswamy Doesn’t Blink in Post-Debate Heat over Transgenderism
He may have a degree in Biology from Harvard, but that doesn’t mean the Left trusts Vivek Ramaswamy’s opinion on the scientific realities of men and women. The young entrepreneur lit up social media Wednesday night for affirming the basic facts of the sexes and declaring transgenderism, “especially in kids” as “a mental health disorder.” “We have to acknowledge the truth of that for what it is,” Ramaswamy insisted in the second presidential debate. But based on the Democrats’ reaction, some people simply aren’t ready to.
Former Barack Obama staffer Shasti Conrad called it “absolutely disgusting” for the 38-year-old candidate to make such a claim. Others tagged Republicans like Ramaswamy as “hateful bullies” who are “cruel and awful.” Another piled on that she felt sorry for “the transgender children in America who have to listen to Vivek Ramaswamy and the Republican presidential candidates telling them they have a ‘mental disorder’ and don’t know the first thing about their lives. Shameful demagoguery.”
Ramaswamy was undeterred. After midnight, when he sat down with Fox News’s Trace Gallagher, he was asked about his bold pronouncement. “A lot of people are saying maybe that’s not the best way to approach this,” Gallagher challenged. “You can say parental rights are key here, but saying this is totally a mental health issue among those who are transgender, a lot of people were saying, I wish he would clarify that.”
“Well, let’s be very frank about the truth,” Vivek replied. “The DSM-5 [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders] — until very recently — has classified gender dysphoria as a mental health condition. There are increased risks of suicide. So think about how these policies together make no sense. On one hand, we say that these kids require special care. Actually, the Americans with Disabilities Act was recently interpreted by courts to include transgenderism for disabilities benefits, right? So if the courts are saying that and activists are hailing it as a victory, it’s inconsistent [to disagree with] my position when I say the exact same thing.”
Family Research Council’s Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, told The Washington Stand that this is a pattern with trans activists. Vivek is absolutely correct, she explained, that gender dysphoria is “in the book.” “And just for context,” she said, “in 2013, they changed gender identity disorder — the emphasis being on ‘disorder’ — to gender dysphoria. This was the field’s attempt to destigmatize the whole concept of transgenderism. But at the end of the day, it is still in the manual for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Disorders. So either way you slice it, it’s there. Now, a lot of the trans advocates will say, ‘We need it in there for insurance purposes.’ That’s really the whole reason they haven’t pushed back on it as hard. [They] pragmatically need it for insurance reimbursement.”
But unfortunately, Bauwens pointed out, it’s become an opportunistic approach to a very serious diagnosis. Essentially, the thinking from the Left is, “When the means meet the end, then use it. If you don’t identify as having a disorder, don’t. But if you need to have a disorder for the purposes of getting the ‘gender-affirming care’ you want, go for it. That’s not to diminish the fact,” she was quick to stress, “that people are in distress. There are people who are struggling, but the way you look at how the ideology has been framed, it’s this constant moving target. … The trans camp would argue that not everyone has gender dysphoria, or that it rises to the level of causing clinical distress. That’s how they ride the fence.”
In the piles of post-debate fact-checking, The New York Times was quick to call Ramaswamy’s statement “false.” “Being transgender is not a mental health disorder,” the paper insisted. “Many transgender people experience gender dysphoria or psychological distress as a result of the incongruence between their sex and their gender identity. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis in the psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and can be given to children, adolescents or adults.”
Bauwens disagreed. “I wouldn’t say it’s false,” she said. “They’re trying to parse out the language and ride the line of transgenderism as a whole. They would bill it as not a mental disorder and only gender dysphoria is. Because according to them, not everyone who’s transgender necessarily rises to that clinically significant level of distress that’s outlined in the DSM-5. It’s splitting hairs.”
But here’s the irony, she continued. “The whole basis of fighting for ‘gender-affirming care’ is that it’s ‘life-saving.’ And the common line we hear is that this population is dealing with distress, and if they don’t get this ‘care,’ then they’ll commit suicide. Well, that’s basically characterizing the entire population as having a mental disorder.”
For his part, Ramaswamy wanted people to know, “I come from a place of compassion. When a kid says that ‘my gender doesn’t match my biological sex,’” he told Gallagher, then “yes. That means they’re probably going through some other struggle in their life. And we have to have leadership as adults to get to the bottom of what that is that’s going on. We have to be able to ask, ‘What’s going wrong?’ instead of hiding behind this culture of fear — to say that you’re transphobic for asking that question. I reject that. That is not compassion; that is cruelty.”
That framing of the issue, Bauwens told TWS, is very important. The other side’s logic is, “If we just reduce the stigma and give them the care they need, everything will be fine. The other side is really using the diagnosis for political means and for insurance reimbursement. That’s the bottom line.” And at the end of the day, “These kids aren’t getting treatment — they’re getting politicized. And I’m absolutely horrified by the malpractice.”
So is the young father of two boys, who told Gallagher, “I think it’s going to take a leader from the next generation to reach the next generation, and I think it’s also going to take somebody who speaks truth even when it’s controversial.”
That’s a reputation Ramaswamy has tried to maintain, even in hostile environments. As he said to NBC’s Chuck Todd, “When a kid is crying out for help, you’ve got to ask the question of what else is going wrong at home? What else is going wrong at school? Let’s be compassionate and get to the heart of that rather than playing this game as though we are actually changing our medical understanding for the last hundred years.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.