Ryan Anderson: Sex is Determined at Conception

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 17, 2021 | 3:41pm EDT
Ryan Anderson (Screen Capture)
Ryan Anderson (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) - Ryan Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, discussed his best-selling book, “When Harry Became Sally,” and Amazon’s removal of its from its online bookselling platform in an interview with CNSNews.com.

“It’s not assigned at birth,” Anderson said of a human being’s sex in the interview that took place on March 9. “It's recognized as a reality, an in-built reality of how an organism is organized with respect to sexual reproduction.”

His best-selling “When Harry Became Sally” was removed by Amazon just four days before the U.S. House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the Equality Act. That act, which did pass the House, would equate “gender identity” to sex and race in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, making it an illegal act of discrimination to do such things as prevent a biological male from playing on a girls’ sports team or using a girls’ locker room.

In the interview, Anderson--who has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a doctorate from Notre Dame--recounted how he discovered that Amazon had removed his book.

“So, out of the blue on a Sunday afternoon a potential customer reaches out to me to say: ‘Hey, I just tried to buy your book on Amazon and I can’t find it anymore,’” said Anderson. “So, I assumed it must be some technical glitch. So, I pull up my Amazon app, and I can’t find the hardcover. I can’t find the paperback. I can’t find the Kindle. I can’t find the audio book. I can’t even find a used copy.

“They entirely erased the book from their platform,” said Anderson.

“The timing of this was suspicious,” he added. “This happened on a Sunday and that Thursday the House of Representatives was set to vote on the Equality Act, which would write gender ideology into our civil rights law. I am one of the most outspoken critics of the Equality Act.”

“This a bad development for anyone who cares about a robust market in book writing, publishing and then ultimately reading,” Anderson said.

“It’s not just big government that can undermine liberty and the common good,” he said. “So, too, can big business when it has such an outsized market share, when it controls so much of an e-commerce, or of a book publishing and buying market.”

Here is the full transcript of the interview with Ryan Anderson:

Terry Jeffrey: “Hi, welcome to this edition of Online With Terry Jeffrey. Our guest today is Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Ryan has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a doctorate from Notre Dame and is founding editor of Public Discourse, the journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton University. He is also author of the best-selling book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement,” which has been removed by Amazon’s online book venue.

“Ryan, one of the cliches of modern liberalism is that we should look to science, we should trust science. That is a principle that I actually believe in. Two plus two equals four. If you argue that two plus two is five, you’re crazy. Or three plus three is 129, you’re just wrong. It’s an objective fact that two plus two is four. So, one of the scientific facts you discuss in your book “When Harry Became Sally” involves the chromosomes of human beings. If someone inherits an X chromosome from their father, what does that mean; and if someone inherits a Y chromosome at conception from their father, what does that mean?”

Anderson: “Sure, I mean, so this is more or less in 99.9 percent of cases, how you can determine the sex of a human being. If you inherit a Y chromosome from your father, if that Y chromosome has the SRY gene, if your body can respond to androgen--meaning you don’t have androgen insensitivity syndrome--if all those conditions hold, then you’re going to develop as a male.

“The SRY gene on the Y chromosome initiates male development in utero so that you develop along a distinctively male pattern of development. That Y chromosome leads to the development of male sex organs that produce male sex hormones, that produce male reproductive organs, and male genitalia, etc. etc. So that by the time you have a live birth, actually by the time you have a 20-week ultrasound, you can tell that the organism is organized in a distinctively male way. And then if you don’t have a Y chromosome, or you don’t have the SRY gene, or you can’t respond to androgen, you’re going to develop in a distinctively female way.”

Jeffrey: “And that fact literally was determined at the moment of conception by the chromosome you inherited from your father?”

Anderson: “Well, it’s a little bit more complicated than just the chromosome. That’s why I was also stressing that it’s going to be the chromosome, you need to have the right gene on that chromosome, you need to have the ability to respond to the hormone that that chromosome initiates. But when all those conditions hold--and 99.9 percent of the people it’s going to hold, just if you have the chromosome--the developmental trajectory is going to be happening in utero. It’s not assigned at birth. It's recognized as a reality, an in-built reality of how an organism is organized with respect to sexual reproduction.”

Jeffrey: “So by the time the baby is fully formed in the womb it has a clear sex?”

Anderson: “Clearly discernible. So, you are exactly right in saying that a sex is determined at conception. It may take, you know, outside observers a little bit longer to discern what that sex is, but you’re not assigning a sex.”

Jeffrey: “Right. So, yeah, that’s one of the clichés of liberals nowadays pushing their agenda in terms of transgender individuals, is that people are assigned a sex at birth, which is incorrect. But it serves their purposes to perpetuate that incorrect perception.”


Anderson: “Right. I mean, so this is the idea that some external authority--a doctor--is merely assigning something to you rather than recognizing a natural reality, an in-built reality, that given the type of creature you are, you are a male or a female. No one externally is just assigning that to you.”

Jeffrey: ‘In your book you discuss specific stories of some people who began and some people who completed a gender transition process overseen by medical experts, allegedly. Tell us about those experiences those people had.”

Anderson: “So, one set of voices that the mainstream media seems to want to discount, to ignore, to silence, sometimes some of these individuals are even attacked for sharing their stories, but the people who we don’t seem to be interested in talking about are the people who have transitioned and then de-transitioned. Now, one of these individuals just won a major court battle in the United Kingdom. Just, I think it was in December of last year. Her name is Keira Bell and as a teenager she had transitioned and gone on high doses of testosterone and then as an early twenty something she realized that she had made a mistake. She regretted it, she de-transitioned. She went to court and now the court system in the UK is going to require explicit court permission before any minor can have their puberty blocked or be placed on cross-sex hormones. We have nothing like that in America.”

Jeffrey: “In your book, some of the cases you talk about, these are young people. They are not adults. And a number of them, as I recall, complain about not getting sufficient information or explanation from their doctors about what they were going through.”

Anderson: “Many people report feeling like it's a one-way ratchet. That if you go to a gender clinic saying you know, ‘I am experiencing discomfort with my gender identity, I feel discomfort in my own body,’ what they are told is that: Oh, the problem’s with the body and the solution therefore is cross-sex hormones and surgery.’ The really, really, really tragic situation is when parents are told: ‘You’ll are better off having a live son than a dead daughter.’ And they are using the threat of self-harm as: ‘Look, if you don’t place your child on puberty- blocking drugs your child may one day commit suicide.’ So, it’s a form of psychological manipulation here to kind of guilt-trip parents into such a drastic choice.”

Jeffrey: “In your book you talk about the high incidence of suicide among people who go through this experience. Tell us about that. How does the rate of suicide in that community compare to the general community and what do you think is precipitating that?”

Anderson: “Sure. So, the best studies we have on this show that somewhere around 41 percent of adults who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. And, so, that’s a ten-times greater likelihood than the general population for suicide attempts; and then also the most rigorous data we have shows a 19-times greater likelihood of dying as a result of suicide for adults who have had sex-reassignment surgery. The best studies we have also show there is no mental health benefit to either hormonal or surgical transition. It’s not what the mainstream media tells you, but just last year the American Journal of Psychiatry was forced to issue a correction to a study they had put out claiming that surgical transition benefitted patients and then they went back and they said actually when we fixed our data analysis it shows no benefit and on two factors it actually showed a decrease in mental-health status.”

Jeffrey: “So is there a better outcome for individuals who are counseled to make peace with their actual biological sex?”

Anderson: “Well, they are still studying that. This is where the sad reality here is that this is largely being done on non-evidence based science. A non-evidence based medicine. What we have is a patient population who is suffering and is not getting the therapy and the help that they deserve to be able to feel comfortable in their own bodies. And so what this means is that doctors, scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists need to be developing better therapeutic techniques to help individuals feel comfortable as the beings they are.”

Jeffrey: “You talk about in your book Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University, who has been very candid about this issue. Has his candor helped him?”

Anderson: “Ha-ha, no. So, Dr. McHugh has paid a price. Activists had targeted him. For people who don’t know his story, Dr. McHugh was an undergraduate at Harvard, he then went to Harvard Medical School, he was then recruited by Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medical School. So, the most elite medical institutions in America--Hopkins and Harvard. He eventually became psychiatrist-in-chief at the hospital and the chair of the Psychiatry Department at the medical school, and in the 1970s he shut down the sex-reassignment clinic at Hopkins.

“Hopkins was one of the first--I believe it was in the 1960s--they opened a sex reassignment clinic and then in 1979 McHugh shut it down after having commissioned studies of what were the long-term outcomes of the patients who had this surgery at Hopkins. He said, look, we are not actually benefiting patients because the problem is not with their body, the problem is with their thoughts and their feelings. So we need to direct therapy not at their bodies, but at their thoughts and their feelings.”

Jeffrey: “And that was unpopular in some circles?”

Anderson: “Yeah, and then he has been attacked by activists. An analogy that he uses that I use is to say that if you had a high school girl struggling with an eating disorder or a body image problem, a high school girl with anorexia, you wouldn’t prescribe liposuction, because again there is nothing wrong with the body. So, liposuction isn’t going to be addressing the underlying cause. But what you would do is try to figure out why does this high school girl has anorexia. Is it an eating disorder, a struggle with control with respect to food? Is it a body image problem? Is it a result of other girls bullying her? Is it a result of a boyfriend or an overbearing parent? Who knows. Right, there are lots of different causes and good medicine seeks out the particular cause for this specific patient and addresses the therapy at the underlying cause.”

Jeffrey: “You write this book “When Harry Became Sally” that lays out these points and arguments that are very sympathetic, actually, to people who have gone through this experience. It’s sold on Amazon for three years as a bestselling book and then what happened?”

Anderson: “Sure, so out of the blue on a Sunday afternoon a potential customer reaches out to me to say: ‘Hey, I just tried to buy your book on Amazon and I can’t find it anymore.’ So I assumed it must be some technical glitch, so I pull up my Amazon app, and I can’t find the hardcover. I can’t find the paperback. I can’t find the Kindle. I can’t find the audio book. I can’t even find a used copy. They entirely erased the book from their platform. The timing of this was suspicious. This happened on a Sunday and that Thursday the House of Representatives was set to vote on the Equality Act, which would write gender ideology into our civil rights law. I am one of the most outspoken critics of the Equality Act, so the timing was suspicious. The timing was also suspicious that they had sold the book for three years while President Trump was president, while Josh Hawley was in a Senate majority position, while Barr was the attorney general, and once those individuals no longer had any position of authority, they seem to make this decision. When there’s no possible legal oversight, or legal consequences. So who knows?

“Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world, and the largest e-commerce entity in the world. So, when Amazon removes a book, you know individually in the short term, it helped me. My book sales shot through the roof. The publisher is printing tens of thousands of copies as we speak right now to fulfill all of the demand from other entities. But we need to think about what the long-term consequences are. This will have a chilling effect on the entire book industry because a future author is going to think twice about writing a book that Amazon might not carry, a publisher is going to think twice. And, therefore, you and me as readers, we’re not even going to know about the books that never get written, the books that never get published, and many books that Amazon might remove from authors who aren’t high profile enough for you and me to hear about them.

“This a bad development for anyone who cares about a robust market in book writing, publishing and then ultimately reading.”

Jeffrey: “That’s an excellent point. Now, so obviously you were surprised to learn that your book had been removed from Amazon. Since then have you had any communications with Amazon? Have they offered any explanation? Are they going to put it back up? What’s going on there?”

Anderson: “The only thing they will say is that the book violated their content policy, and they won’t say anything more about that. They won’t say what aspect of the content policy the book violates. They won’t say what page of the book, you know, commits the offense. So we have no idea how to get the book reinstated, because we don’t know what’s wrong with the book. They won’t tell us what’s wrong with the book. And I think that also, that arbitrary nature of the decision, the lack of any sort of transparency or due process. It’s not just big government that can undermine liberty and the common good, so, too, can big business when it has such an outsized market share, when it controls so much of an e-commerce, or of a book publishing and buying market.”

Jeffrey: “Excellent point. And it came four days before the vote on the Equality Act in the House, which of course passed, and has been sent up to the senate. It’s the second time that bill has passed the House. What does the Equality Act do, or what would it do if it became law?”

Anderson: “Sure, I mean the simplest way to think about this is the Equality Act takes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that congress passed to combat racism, and it says that if you believe we are created male and female, and that male and female are created for each other, you will now be the legal equivalent of a racist. But it gets worse, we are also going to broaden the scope of the entities that are regulated under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and were going to explicitly exempt this law from the Religious Freedom of Restoration Act. So, we are going to regulate more Americans, we’re going remove certain religious freedom protections, and if you believe basic truths of philosophy, theology, and science, that we’re male and female, and that male and female are meant for each other, you’re going to be the legal equivalent of a racist.”

Jeffrey: “So, by removing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act--which interestingly was originally sponsored by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, once upon a time--a Catholic school, for example, would be subject to the strictures of the Equality Act.”

Anderson: “That’s correct. And what’s important to highlight here is that the religious liberty aspect is very significant. What with this mean for Catholic schools, for Catholic hospitals, for Catholic adoption agencies, for Catholic homeless shelters? But it’s not just religious Americans who are at risk. If you are a secular high school athlete, and you’re a girl, you do not want to be losing tracks competitions to your boy classmate, who identifies as a girl. If you are a woman staying at a battered women’s shelter, you do not want to have a man who identifies as a woman. It doesn’t matter whether that athlete is religious or not religious. It doesn’t matter whether the woman staying at a shelter is religious or not religious. This is going to have implications all across American society, for the devout and for the irreligious, for liberals and conservatives, and it makes no sense to me why this would be railroaded so quickly, unless your party has been captured by an ideological movement. I mean, that’s what this is. This is not something that voters are clamoring for, this is something that special interests and the ideological wing of the party is clamoring for.”

Jeffrey: “Now Joe Biden on his first day in office, as he had promised in his campaign, although the press has not publicized this campaign promise, signed an executive order that said all schools receiving public funding, federal funding, will have to allow people to play on the sports teams, and access locker rooms, restrooms, and dressing rooms that accord with their gender identity. Now, he issued that as an executive order. But, as I understand it, the Equality Act goes beyond that because would it apply to institutions that aren’t funded by the federal government?”

Anderson: “Yeah, that’s correct. So this would govern all our employment law. That’s Title VII. It would cover all private business that are now classified as public accommodations. That’s Title II. It would cover any institutions that receives federal funding. That’s Title VI. So it takes all the titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then it adds sexual orientation and gender identity too, and it exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and what’s I think the most important distinction from just an Executive Order, is that if this becomes a law--if the Senate were to pass it and Joe Biden signs it into law--then a future president can’t simply undo it. You know, Obama had issued executive orders on gender identity. Trump had undone some of those policies. Biden has reinstated them. If Congress acts, it would now take another act of Congress to undo it. And who knows how long before you have it lined up so that the House, the Senate, and the presidency are all controlled by a party that is opposed to the Equality Act.”

Jeffrey: “So, literally under this bill, if it became law, a boy who claimed to be a female, or identified as a female, could join, could walk into a girl’s locker room at a high school and take a shower in there.”

Anderson: “That boy would have a civil right to do so under this law.”

Jeffrey: “And it would be discrimination on part of the school to try to prevent it.”

Anderson: “That’s correct.”

Jeffrey: “So the whole world is turned upside down in that aspect.”

Anderson: “Yeah, I mean what it does is it says that rather than actually protecting equality based on sex, which means when our sexual differences make a difference, we give each other privacy. That’s why schools had to create both boys’ and girls’ locker rooms. Both boys’ and girl’s athletic competitions. This does turn things upside down by saying the boy who identities as a girl now has a civil right to go to the girl’s locker room to shower there, to compete on a girls’ sports team. And this is why you see, you know, people on the left—J.K. Rowling, Andrew Sullivan--you see people, who are in favor of gay marriage, but not in favor of some of the transgender ideology. People who are card-carrying Democrats, who think the Democratic Party has just lost its way on this issue. You don’t need to be a conservative you don’t need to be religious, to see the problems with this.”

Jeffrey: “Given that it expressly gets rid of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in so far as this particular law would be concerned, would there be an issue around this country, there’s a lot of all-male, and all-female schools, particularly religious schools. I went to an all-male Jesuit high school in San Francisco, at the time. Could the government then try and force those schools to accept someone who actually was biologically of the other sex?”

Anderson: “Yes. That’s going to be an interesting lawsuit waiting to happen. Cause I think what they’re going to say is that yes you can have an all-boys school, and an all-girls school, but you have to define boy and girl, based on gender identity, not based on biology.”

Jeffrey: “Could be a lot of lawsuits. Fortunately, this has not yet passed the Senate. Ryan let me just close. You are now the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Tell us a little bit about what the Ethics and Public Policy Center does.”

Anderson: “Sure, so EPPC was founded in our bicentennial year. So, 1976 is was when EPPC started. It’s you know kind of the nation’s premiere think-tank dedicated to the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the American tradition, and how those traditions intersect, how the Judeo-Christian tradition was kind of vital to the American Founding and what it all means today when it comes to public policy and public life. And so we have scholars working within the Catholic and the Evangelical tradition at the highest level of thought. We have scholars dedicated to the Supreme Court. We have scholars working on some the gender-identity issues, some of the religious liberty issues, a scholar devoted full-time to watching what’s going on at HHS under the Biden Administration. EPPC wants to be the think-tank where biblically orthodox Americans can find resources for navigating the uncertain terrain that lies ahead of us.”

Jeffrey: “Excellent. Ryan Anderson, thank you very much.”

Anderson: “Thank you.”


MRC Store