National Commentary

Anything But Straight: Dr. Phil’s Poison Pill




In 38 years, I’ve only once dressed in drag.

It was my senior year of high school and my friend Alex’s father was out of town. While gone, he placed Alex in charge of his clothing shop, which was in a small hotel mini-mall. I swung by one evening to keep him company. Business was slow and we were looking for creative ways to pass the time.

Finally, one of us had the harebrained idea to replace the female mannequins stiffly posing in the large plate glass window — with ourselves. Dressed in women’s clothes, we stood completely still and patiently waited for unsuspecting customers. When they unassumingly meandered in front of us -we came alive, startling these poor window shoppers.

This evening of adolescent mischief was the extent of my dabbling in the world of the opposite sex. Although this path was not my destiny, I never found drag queens at gay bars or transgender people weird or threatening. To anyone paying attention, it is clear that we live in a world of infinite and wondrous natural diversity. There is an obvious spectrum of human possibility that is in front of our eyes. Yet, supposedly educated people still act surprised and unnerved that transgender Americans exist. The truth is, it would be far more shocking to not have such people, considering the literally billions of prospective combinations and potential outcomes for each individual.

I’m confused as to why people are still “confused” about transgender Americans. For years, they have said that the birth sex on the outside does not match the opposite sex they believe is on the inside. Modern science confirms that sexuality has as much to do with what is inside our heads as what is between our legs. This concept is not rocket science, nor is it difficult to understand. There is nothing homogeneous about our species, and this includes sexuality and gender.

Unfortunately, talk show hosts are still using this issue for cheap laughs or to boost ratings. The latest example is the annoying and supremely talentless Dr. Phil. The talking (very large) head had an opportunity to educate the public by presenting the latest science. Instead, he shamefully chose sensationalism over professionalism by offering a platform to notorious anti-gay activists who used his show to promote quack theories with no scientific standing. Dr. Phil actually had the nerve to refer to Glenn Stanton, who is affiliated with Focus on the Family, and the laughable Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, as “experts” on gender and homosexuality.

Dr. Nicolosi is the same “expert” who believes gay men can become more masculine by drinking Gatorade and calling friends “dude.” Stanton is tied to Focus on the Family, an organization that has been accused by scientists throughout the world of distorting their work.

Of course, none of this mattered to Dr. Phil. Instead of exploring this issue in-depth, “the mouth of the south” sunk to new depths. On the show, he exploited Toni, a loving mother of a transgender child, by ambushing her with the aforementioned disreputable hacks.

Toni explained how she and her husband reluctantly decided to let her son transition into a girl after unsuccessfully forcing strict gender roles on the child. Such efforts backfired and her son tried to jump out of a window. Even after hearing such a real life story, Nicolosi and Stanton argued that Toni should have continued a “treatment” that nearly lead her child to suicide.

Dr. Nicolosi tried to humiliate Toni on national television, blaming her parenting skills for causing her child to be transgender. Nicolosi said that her child was transgender because the father was detached and Toni was overly “enmeshed.” But, Toni’s response undermined Nicolosi’s unproven and dubious hypothesis.

“Dad wasn’t there after the transition…my son, I wasn’t close to at all,” Toni replied. “I wasn’t enmeshed with him, so I think your theory sucks.”

Having their bizarre and outdated ideas effectively rebutted, Stanton chimed in to save face, glibly stating, “No human being is cookie cutter.”

The truth is, the entire program of Nicolosi and Stanton is predicated on baseless cookie cutter ideas that support their extreme beliefs. It is disingenuous to say otherwise when the very heart of their work is confusing stereotypes with science.

I question why Dr. Phil offered a platform to men so at odds with every respected medical and mental health association in the country? And why didn’t Dr. Phil inform viewers that these men were considered fringe religious figures with peculiar views on sexuality?

It really isn’t hard to “get” the transgender issue. But, for your average American, it can be difficult to get accurate information, when real experts are juxtaposed with jokers who offer rubbish as genuine research. I suggest Dr. Phil dress up as a female mannequin if his goal is shock value. He’d hurt less people and would not come across as Jerry Springer when he sprung nasty surprises on innocent guests.

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