Family Research Council uses Deception and Junk Science to Bolster Anti-Transgender Policies

Family Research Council on Transgender policy
Family Research Council on Transgender policy

The right-wing Family Research Council (FRC) recently published a position paper to critique and describe the transgender movement and ideology as they perceive it (June 19, 2015).

The opening sentences of “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement” pronounce, “In recent decades, there has been an assault on the sexes.” This is only the beginning of the academic problems used to construct the document. The words were written not about the transgender community, but rather, were written in 1977 in response to “the steady encroachments of radical feminists.”(1)

Part I of the document, written by Dale O’Leary, “addresses the psychological and medical issues involved. It will debunk the idea that some people are ‘born in the wrong body,’ that gender dysphoria can only be indulged and not overcome, and that such indulgence is an effective solution to the problems that transgender persons experience.”

So, who is O’Leary? A trained and licensed therapist, or perhaps a certified medical doctor? No, she is a simply a freelance journalist and writer who graduated from Smith College in the early 1960s.

O’Leary, harkening to past assumptions about why people were gay, now reapplies those same debunked theories to the transgender population. She asserts a transwoman’s gender identity results from of a lack of “masculine” authority in childhood, and an unhealthy attachment to mothers. This “lack” makes “these people covet something [femininity] that they don’t have and can never get.”(2)

Dale O'Leary
Dale O’Leary, freelance journalist

O’Leary believes the desire of a transgender person to transition is both selfish and uncaring, calling transgender people “pathological narcissists” who disregard the impact of their choices on those around them. O’Leary is the “expert” voice FRC used as foundational to “debunk the idea that some people are “born in the wrong body,” that gender dysphoria can only be indulged and not overcome, and that such indulgence is an effective solution to the problems that transgender persons experience.”(3)

And their arguments get worse from there.

In the paper, FRC quotes Dr. Marc Dillworth, a 2002 conference speaker from National Association for the Repair and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization whose findings have been dismissed by every major medical association in the US.  Subtly dismissive of the now-medically accurate term “gender dysphoria,” FRC insists on using “gender identity disorder” (GID) throughout the paper with an implied emphasis on disorder. Dillworth’s suggested treatment model for boys with GID is proposed:

  • Encourage Father/Son Bonding
  • Mother’s Distancing Themselves and Affirming Father’s Masculinity
  • Extinguishing Feminine Behavior and Play
  • Positive Encouragement for Gender-Appropriate Behavior
  • Encouraging Same-Sex Friends, Play, and Activities (4)

Hello, hello, Dr. Dillworth, Ms. O’Leary and FRC, the 1940s through 1970s would like their thoroughly debunked junk theories to remain entombed where they will no longer harm and demean LGBT children and their parents. 

FRC, defending its transgender policy, conveniently dismisses the occurrence of intersex babies by using studies conducted before best practices were created in 2005.(5)

Artfully, O’Leary and FRC promotes author and speaker, Walt Heyer, as an expert on what it means to be a transman. Ironically, Heyer himself, in his book, reports his core problem as schizophrenia, not gender identity.

Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement, in an attempt to undermine the overwhelming success of transitioning, uses a 1975 quote by psychiatrist Robert Stoller: “there is never a day free from fear of discovery or from the struggle with managing the process of passing.”  My goodness; we were only beginning to understand what it meant to be gay or lesbian in 1975 and had scant concept of what it meant to be transgender!

Using outdated assumptions and opinions is not deceptive enough for FRC.

They use a 1989 study on the emotional and physical problems suffered by transwomen as if it the findings were current today.(6) To prove “successful” attempts to overcome “gender identity problems,” Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement cites a 1979 article about one 17-year-old boy.

FRC, Peter Sprigg
Peter Sprigg, FRC

Part II of Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement, entitled “Public Policy Implications of the Transgender Movement,” is authored by ordained Baptist minister and FRC Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, Peter Sprigg. Apparently as ill-informed as O’Leary, Sprigg states, “There is no rational or compassionate reason to affirm a distorted psychological self-concept that one’s “gender identity” is different from one’s biological sex.”

One could not expect rational, scientific, or empathetic responses to those who are transgender if O’Leary findings are treated as the authority.

Sprigg’s “ideal approach” to policies concerning transgender person “would be to forbid government recognition, in any way (whether on birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, or any other government-issued identification) of any change in an individual’s biological sex as identified at birth.”(7)

Sprigg adds, “We believe that governments should not recognize any change in sexual identity from that identified at birth (with the exception of the rare cases in which a biological disorder of sexual development can be diagnosed), and the law should not force any private entities to grant such recognition.” (8) FRC’s suggested policy intends to “protect teachers, pastors, counselors, and medical professionals from being required to mar natural and immutable sexual traits, under the false pretense of restoring mental health.”

Kathy, with her dear friend Lisa Salazar
Kathy, with her dear friend Lisa Salazar

Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement is grounded in myth, outdated studies, and old assumptions which bolster a completely non-scientific view of human sexuality and gender identity. Family Research Council has an over three decade history of distortions of any family structure outside the “traditional” model, non-heterosexual orientations, and variations of gender identity.

With marriage equality clearly on the immediate horizon, FRC, in order to maintain the last visages of their cultural relevancy, has turned its full vitriolic focus on the transgender community.

Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement is nothing short of 42 pages of outdated findings, wholly dismissed assumptions, deceptions, propaganda, and scientific ignorance.



2. “Sandy Rios in the Morning” radio show, July 8, 2014.

3. Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement, Family Research Council, June 2015, p 9.

4. FRC, p 4.

5. Walking the Bridgeless Canyon, Kathy Baldock, p 200.

6. FRC, p 20.

7. FRC, p 28.

8. FRC, p 36.


This piece originally appeared on


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KATHY BALDOCK, Executive Director of, is a heterosexual Evangelical Christian who has transitioned to a fully affirming advocate over the past ten years. Understanding the language and issues on both sides of the dialogue, Kathy is able to foster the mission of Canyonwalker Connections: to educate, engage and encourage. It all began with a hiking relationship with an agnostic lesbian.

You may also find her on Facebook.