No Way Back

Dissident Voices on the Left Blow the Whistle on “Gender-Affirming Care”

Questioning “gender-affirming care” is not limited to conservatives or Christians. A growing number of dissident voices on the Left are questioning it too. No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care, a documentary produced by a core group of self-identified “life-long, west coast, liberal Democrats,” dismantles the lockstep trans narrative marching through the institutions. Towards the documentary’s close, journalist Lisa Selin Davis notes, “it’s up to us on the Left to ask our politicians, the medical associations, the schools, to walk this back, and to be honest about the complexities of it.” Davis represents a growing number of political progressives with serious hesitations about gender ideology—which makes for some interesting possible alliances.

Left-leaning voices who so much as question gender-affirming care or medical transition are taking a risk, and many of them have paid for it dearly. All of those involved in No Way Back deserve credit for their willingness to speak the truth publicly. Could this be a small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, new coalitions can transcend stale Left-Right categorization and move beyond today’s exhausting social and political polarizations? Can this issue somehow deescalate from all-out culture war to actual conversation? It’s happened in other countries, and if No Way Back is any indication, we might be one step closer to that conversation.

The film takes on the sacred cows of transgender ideology and pulls no punches. Its no fluff, no frills approach lets the truth speak for itself—no glitz, no glam, thank you very much. I found this tact fitting for the gravitas of the topic. I’d say the same regarding the film’s artwork, which is disturbingly powerful—eerie, yet beautiful.


Taking center stage throughout the film are a small group of detransitioners who have come to see that medical transition was not the magic bullet they were promised. The firsthand stories are gripping; at times I was near tears, at other points I was angry at what has been done to these young people. What could be better counterevidence to the trans narrative than real human beings who can tell their stories? They add a gut-level impact that elevates the issues beyond matters of logical argumentation or biological anatomy—these are living men and women who have been experimented on.

As each aspect of transitioning is addressed, doctors, psychologists, and other experts provide the context, which is then brought to life by the stories of Joel, Cat, Lauren, David, Michelle, and others who endured gender-affirming care and medical transition and lived to tell about it. Using this approach, the film tackles everything from the ideological capture of American medical institutions to the growing gap between European and American standards of care; from the role of social media and trans influencers to the false sense of euphoria during the “honeymoon” stage of transitioning.

Highlighted throughout is reality’s way of biting back. Despite the immediate euphoria after each new gender-affirming intervention, the trans influencers’ portrayal of a post-transition paradise proves not to be true. Side effects set in: heart palpitations, nausea, weight gain, bone loss, stronger manifestations of gender dysphoria, and much more. British psychotherapist Stella O’Malley summarizes it this way: it’s like “fighting against the onslaught of nature…like putting diesel in the petrol tank.”

On this front, detransitioner Laura’s comments were especially moving. “I now have an absurd body,” she said. “It doesn’t look female, but it also doesn’t look male. …I view it as surgical scars…a form of mutilation…unnecessary medical carnage.” Michelle also shared about her transition and watched a video of her own top surgery while on camera. She cried. And so did I. The post-surgical pictures are showstopping. My stomach twisted seeing the pictures of scars across now-flat-chests of young women who had undergone voluntary double mastectomies. Commenting on this, psychotherapist Lisa Marchiano called such interventions modern-day lobotomies.

The film not only lets detransitioners tell their stories, it deconstructs the ideas and practices at work behind the scenes. Dr. Julia Mason explains that teens can walk into Planned Parenthood facilities and seamlessly begin treatment because of the “informed consent model, [which] allows clients to access hormone treatments and surgical interventions without a mental health evaluation or referral from a mental health specialist.”

Policies of informed consent, in conjunction with policies of gender affirmation officially adopted in 2017 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, create an environment ripe for malpractice. Therapist Stephanie Winn notes that affirmation is a “departure from the standard of care for any other diagnosis.” It simply is a “mirroring and reflecting” of what the patient says they want “without using any of our clinical discernment.”

Also debunked is the suicide myth—the frequent warning that if parents don’t support a child’s transition, the child will commit suicide. Dr. Michael Biggs argues that such a claim misrepresents the available data on suicidality and transgenderism. Biggs has done large-scale evaluations of the Tavistock Gender Clinic in London (the largest gender clinic in the world, though now shuttered), and concludes that the data is inconclusive.

Digging Deeper

The fact that the documentary avoids going any further, makes no religious claims of any sort, and is created by self-identified liberals means it might have a chance of not being quickly dismissed as “conservative” or “right-wing” propaganda. On some points, I would have liked it to go further by deconstructing not just the trans narrative, but other aspects of the sexual revolution. Of course, this is beyond the scope of the documentary and does not represent the views of the producers and experts involved in it.

But it is worth raising the question – can one consistently just oppose the extremes of gender-affirming care while upholding the rest of the LGB revolution? If our male and female bodies matter, and their inherent design and ordering towards each other mean something, then that does raise some questions about the sexual revolution—whole cloth.

Abigail Favale recently noted how the sexual revolution has brought about “a collective forgetting about what sex is for, that it has a clear teleology around which our bodies are organized.” If a primary critique of gender-affirming care is that the body matters, perhaps the body’s telos and design should be considered in all matters related to sexuality.

It isn’t just religious people who are reclaiming this. Take Louise Perry (The Case Against the Sexual Revolution) or Christine Emba (Rethinking Sex). Both question aspects of the revolutions in sexuality and gender we are witnessing, though they aren’t necessarily sure just how far to go. Favale suggests a way forward:

a better place to anchor the discussion is procreative potential—this is a matter not simply of discrete body parts, but rather the organization of those parts: the totalizing structure of the body as a whole.

When the unified structure of the body is understood as a wholistic design, ordered towards human flourishing with its complement and the new life that emanates from that union, a set of more logically consistent and elegantly compelling positions emerge, though they are admittedly even less popular than speaking out against gender-affirming care.

Male/female differences are not performative acts, nor are they biological accidents. They reveal something profound about what it means to be human. This is reflected in any relationship, but especially in the self-giving relationship of marital love, which profoundly expresses and intimately engages male/female embodiment and brings forth new life.

Similarly, experiencing the other sex is not achieved through modifying our own bodies or acting out stereotypically opposite gender norms. It is found in meaningful relationships of care and love with one another. And the one-flesh union of holy matrimony brings male and female into a profound and mysterious experience of the other in a way that allows erotic love full expression and directs eros towards its ultimate destiny in agape (sacrificial love towards each other and towards new life).

What Next?

The final part of the documentary hints at what is a looming question for the coming years: what to do with those who have transitioned and have come to regret it. Where can they turn—for love, for healing, for wholeness? As Lisa Marchiano puts it, riffing on Jung, they are “shadow people.” Detransitioner David laments, “I didn’t just live a lie, I became the lie; I was the lie.”

As David and others find the truth, we could find ourselves with an opportunity to serve those who are coming out of the long and dark shadows cast by transgender ideology. We can serve them with heartfelt care, and with the hope of the gospel of forgiveness, restoration, and the resurrection of our bodies made whole. And this is a task that needs all hands on deck, no matter your political affiliation.

No Way Back will have a one-day theatrical premier on June 21 at 4:30 and 7:30 PM in AMC Theatres in thirty states across the country (check online for tickets and locations). Then on July 2nd, the film will become available online and via DVD worldwide. For more information, including resources for schools, parents, and religious leaders, visit


is a classical educator, furniture-maker, and vicar at All Saints Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Charlotte, North Carolina. He also taught high school history for thirteen years and studied at Messiah College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Winthrop University. In addition to Salvo, Josh has written for Areo, FORMA, Front Porch Republic, Mere Orthodoxy, Public Discourse, Quillette, The Imaginative Conservative, Touchstone, and is a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. Radio Show/Podcast.

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