Disconnected balances cultural critique with a compelling narrative of ‘detransition’ – Catholic World Report

A discussion of “Dysconnected,” held at the film’s Oct. 8 premiere, included (from left) Erin Brewer of Advocates Protecting Children, therapist Pamela Garfield-Jaeger, Daisy Strongin, activist Chris Elston and filmmaker Don Johnson. (Image: Courtesy of the author)

The new documentary from filmmaker Donald J. Johnson, Disconnected: The real story behind the transgender explosion, had its world premiere on October 8 at the Freed Theater on the campus of Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. A welcome gala where members of the public were able to meet some of the film’s interviewees preceded the film’s premiere. An in-depth discussion and questions from the audience followed the first screening.

Offline is Johnson’s latest feature-length documentary. As he explains in a recent CWR Maintenance, the film’s title is a riff on “disconnected” and “dysphoria, as in gender dysphoria.” It follows Unprotected: The Untold Story of the Sexual Revolution and Convinced, the latter being Johnson’s study of various individuals journeying to reception in the Catholic Church, including his own. All three were produced by Johnson’s production company, Runaway Planet Pictures. Ignatius Press is the executive producer and distributor of Offline.

In addition to producing and directing, Johnson has also written and edited Offline. Her goals in the film are lofty: The structure stems from Johnson setting out to travel the country speaking with real-life human beings experts who lay out cases against the transgender movement’s propaganda machine. It is a machine, according to the documentary, that has weaponized the medical and mental health professions, the education system and the pharmaceutical industry, and hijacked the ubiquity of social media to advance its cause. And, as the film notes, there’s quite a bit of money to be made with gender ideology.

Using mixed media such as clippings, news footage and social media content, Johnson balances these observations on the cultural impact of transgenderism with the compelling story of “detransitioning” Daisy Strongin, whose journey is the anchor and the emotional core of the film. Strongin, now married and the mother of little Gabriel, was among the interviewees who joined Johnson on stage. In OfflineDaisy’s testimony is described both in interview form and in Daisy’s ongoing vlog documenting the process.

Other guests for the post-film discussion were billboard activist Chris Elston, therapist Pamela Garfield-Jaeger and Erin Brewer of Advocates Protecting Children.

Johnson interviews a number of well-known personalities in Offlinelike Ryan T. Anderson, author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment; Theology of Christopher West of the Body Institute; Abigail Favale, author of The genesis of the genre; and Carl Trueman, whose latest book is strange new world.

Johnson also narrated the film, and he walks viewers through a comprehensive examination of various factors and effects that experts believe are driving the rise of transgender: “the autistic factor”, “the cool factor”, ” the porn effect”, “the trauma effect”. and the mentality was “I want people to know I exist”. Anderson, for example, compares the modern fixation of youth gender dysphoria to the goth movement among teens and young adults in the 1990s – the difference being, of course, that those who went goth didn’t have resorted to mutilating their bodies.

She particularly touched the girls. Offline suggests that around 40,000 girls or young women have GoFundMe accounts to raise money for gender reassignment surgery.

Heartbreaking footage shows how trauma, including sexual assault, is grounds for requesting a sex change. When those in the film advocate compassion for individuals caught up in gender dysphoria, Offline emphasizes that a kind of trauma hangs over those who embark on the transition.

Johnson draws heavily on the insights of Dr. Patrick Lappert, an Alabama-based plastic surgeon who offers a wealth of personal experience. Lappert is particularly eloquent when talking about the biological realities of the human body, which transgender advocates ignore in favor of psychological and therapeutic affirmation. Clandestine support for gender change in classrooms without the knowledge of parents is particularly frightening.

But more so, the notion of gender dysphoria as a cult. As Johnson explains in his interview with CWR:

It’s a cult. They do everything cults usually do. They cut you off from other sources of authority, bind you to charismatic leaders and a group in which you are appreciated, and if you ever dare to walk away, you are excluded entirely. As detransitioners will tell you: I was a star, then I started asking questions, and I was out. Love and acceptance were gone.

As Offline shows through its media integration of Instagram and TikTok accounts, there is little room here for the role of family, church and community as a whole – all of that is channeled into the movement. Once someone leaves, the film says, the doors close forever.

Johnson isn’t afraid to push boundaries where others might shy away. Ultimately, what propels Offline is its explanation of the human person in the light of Catholic belief and tradition. This conclusion is given primarily to Christopher West, who lays out the theological implications of gender dysphoria and mentions a prescient quote from Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Benedict XVI) in the 1985 bestseller. The Ratzinger Report. Ratzinger predicted the disbanding of male and female as we know it in the not too distant future:

Man? Female? These are questions that some consider today as obsolete, insane… The answer of today’s conformism is predictable: ‘whether we are a man or a woman does not matter to us, we are all simply human’. This, in fact, has serious consequences even if at first glance it seems very beautiful and generous. This means, in effect, that sexuality is no longer rooted in anthropology; this means that sex is seen as a simple role, interchangeable at will.

Offline encompasses a wide range of materials and covers a lot of emotional ground as it exposes the movement’s fundamental flaws. These deep and dangerous flaws devastate the young, disenfranchised and traumatized, disconnecting them from their own God-given identity, family ancestry and calling to love. Offline is both unwavering and deeply loving in its approach, offering a wealth of facts while pointing the way to redemptive, God-centered wholeness.

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