Four essential books for understanding the transgender movement

By Jonathon Van Maren

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is about the transgender movement. Where did it come from? How did it grow so fast? How did it achieve cultural dominance so swiftly? When my first book, The Culture War, was published in 2016, I included only a page or two about the new movement. Now, it would require an entire chapter at minimum.

I’ve covered the movement here on The Bridgehead for the last five or six years (as well as in The American Conservative, First Things, and elsewhere) and so I won’t review all of that material here. But for those interested in getting a more comprehensive view of the movement’s origins, progress, and goals, I’ll recommend a few books to get you started.

  1. Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier

Shrier’s book is the work of a journalist, and she interviews de-transitioners, researchers, and the parents of transgender children. She also details the side effects of hormone therapy; reviews the extent that the trans movement has infiltrated the education system; and provides helpful advice to parents raising kids in this crazy culture. This is easily the most readable and accessible book on the issue to be published thus far. For a summary, you can check out my interview with Shrier:

  1. When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson

When Harry Became Sally recently surged in sales once again with the news that Amazon had banned it. Anderson’s book is comprehensive and extremely helpful in methodically responding to transgender claims, from assertions that denial of sex change surgeries will increase suicidal ideation to the more fundamental claims that men or women can know that they are “trapped in the wrong body.” I’ve used this book, one of the first full-length treatments of this relatively recent movement, to inform my own presentations and reporting on the subject.

  1. Love Thy Body: Answering the Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality by Nancy Pearcey

Pearcey is one of America’s most important evangelical thinkers, and in Love Thy Body she tackles not only transgenderism, but homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia, as well. Pearcey takes on the growing hostility to biology and towards the bodies we were given, and as a former agnostic, she makes the case that Christianity provides the answers that our culture so desperately needs. For a summary of her work, you can check out my interview with her on this book:

  1. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman

This will be a tougher read for some, as it is a 400-page, philosophy-heavy exploration of our evolving understanding of “the self” in the West. The transformation of moral mores may have reached a catalyst in the 1960s, but Trueman lays out why this was actually a culmination of changing perspectives on the self—which would eventually lead to a culture in which the phrase “a man trapped in a woman’s body” actually makes sense. For a short, succinct review, check out Tim Challies’ summary here; if you’d like to engage with the book in essay format, you can read Trueman’s brief overview over at First Things.

3 thoughts on “Four essential books for understanding the transgender movement

    • Éamonn Gaines says:

      Hi Brenda,

      Amazon (and various other sites that they own or control) have refused to list Ryan Anderson’s book but I found it by searching They aggregate the results of multiple sellers and so get around boycotts like Amazon’s. Just to be clear I am not an employee of Bookfinder, just a customer, so my recommendation is just that of one reader to another.

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