Skip to main content

Filmmaker Don Johnson is unafraid to push into boundaries where others might shy away, but what ultimately propels Dysconnected is its explication of the human person in light of Catholic belief and tradition.

James Day

Originally published by The Catholic World Report

The new documentary from filmmaker Donald J. Johnson, Dysconnected: The Real Story Behind the Transgender Explosion, had its World Premiere on October 8th at Freed Theater on the campus of Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA. A welcome Gala where audience members could meet some of the film’s interviewees preceded the premiere of the film. An in-depth discussion and questions from the audience followed the premiere screening.

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

In addition to producing and directing, Johnson also wrote and edited Dysconnected. His goals in the film are ambitious: the structure stems from Johnson setting out to travel the nation to speak with experts on the reality of the human person who lay out cases against the transgender movement’s propaganda machine. It’s a machine, the documentary argues, that has weaponized the medical and mental health professions, the education system, and the pharmaceutical industry, and has 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 from gender ideology.

Utilizing mixed media such as press clippings, news footage, and social media content, Johnson balances these observations on the cultural impact of transgenderism with the compelling story of “detransitioner” Daisy Strongin, whose journey is the film’s anchor and emotional core. Strongin, now married and mother to little Gabriel, was one of those interviewed who joined Johnson on stage. In Dysconnected, Daisy’s testimony is depicted both in interview form and Daisy’s ongoing vlog documenting the process.

Additional guests in 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 figures in Dysconnected, such as Ryan T. Anderson, author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment; Theology of the Body Institute’s Christopher West; Abigail Favale, author of The Genesis of Gender; and Carl Trueman, whose latest book is Strange New World.

Johnson also narrated the film, and he guides viewers through a comprehensive examination of various factors and effects experts believe are behind the rise of transgenderism: “the autism factor,” “the cool factor,” “the porn effect,” “the trauma effect,” and the mentality summed up as “I want people to know I exist.” Anderson, for instance, likens the modern fixation of gender dysphoria among the youth with the Goth movement among teens and young adults in the 1990s – the difference being, of course, that those who went Goth did not resort to mutilation of one’s body.

It has particularly affected girls. Dysconnected suggests around 40,000 girls or young women have GoFundMe accounts to raise cash for gender reassignment surgery.

A wrenching sequence is on how trauma, most notably sexual assault, is a motive for one to seek gender reassignment. When those in the film advocate compassion for individuals caught up in gender dysphoria, Dysconnectedemphasizes that some kind of trauma looms over those who embark on transitioning.

Johnson draws deeply on the insights of Dr. Patrick Lappert, an Alabama-based plastic surgeon, who offers a wealth of personal experience. Lappert is particularly eloquent speaking about the biological realities of the human body, something advocates for transgenderism ignore in favor of psychological and therapeutic affirmation. Particularly chilling is clandestine support for gender change in classrooms without parental knowledge.

But even more so is the notion of gender dysphoria as cultlike. As Johnson explains in his CWR interview:

It is a cult. They do all the things that cults typically do. They cut you off from other sources of authority, tie you into charismatic leaders and a group into which you are endeared, and if you ever dare to step away, you are entirely excluded. As detransitioners will tell you: I was a star, then I began asking questions, and I was out. The love and acceptance were gone.

As Dysconnected shows through its integration of media from Instagram and TikTok accounts, there is little room here for the role of family, church, and community at large – all of that is funneled into the movement. Once someone leaves, the film says, the doors shut forever.

Johnson is unafraid to push into boundaries where others might shy away. Ultimately, what propels Dysconnected is its explication of the human person in light of Catholic belief and tradition. This conclusion is given mostly to Christopher West, who expounds on the theological implications of gender dysphoria and mentions a prescient quote from then-Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Benedict XVI) in the 1985 best-selling book The Ratzinger Report. Ratzinger predicted the dissolution of male and female as we know it in the not-too-distant future:

Male? Female? They are questions that for some are now viewed as obsolete, senseless … The answer of current conformism is foreseeable: ‘whether one is male or female has little interest for us, we are all simply humans.’ This, in reality, has grave consequences even if at first it appears very beautiful and generous. It signifies, in fact, that sexuality is no longer rooted in anthropology; it means that sex is viewed as a simple role, interchangeable at one’s pleasure.

Dysconnected encompasses a wide breadth of material and covers much emotional ground as it exposes the movement’s fundamental flaws. Those deep and dangerous flaws are devastating the young, the disenfranchised, and the traumatized, disconnecting them from their own God-given identity, family ancestry, and vocation to love. Dysconnected is both unflinching and deeply loving in its approach, offering a wealth of facts while also pointing to the path to redemptive, God-centered wholeness.