Billionaires and Big Pharma Are Bankrolling the Transgender-Industrial Complex

a boy holds up cut outs of a man and a woman, looking confused as he chooses between them.

Many Americans are absolutely flabbergasted by the sudden rise of the transgender movement. Immediately after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), Olympian Bruce Jenner was calling himself "Caitlyn" and activists were preaching a new understanding of gender that rejected age-old wisdom and basic biology. By 2016, Barack Obama was foisting this ideology on broad swaths of American society, as his Justice Department threatened North Carolina for protecting the privacy of women in public restrooms.

Last week, Jennifer Bilek shed some much-needed light on the situation in a tour-de-force article published in First Things. As it turns out, the transgender movement did not come out of nowhere. In fact, this juggernaut has been bankrolled by the heir to a massive medical device fortune and helped along by veterans of notorious liberal billionaire George Soros's Open Society Foundations. Rich LGBT activists allied to turn a state blue and collaborated with the U.N. to foist transgenderism on countries across the world.

Bilek noted that people who identify as LGBT have long been the underdogs in a majority heterosexual culture. Yet the LGBT movement today "looks nothing like that band of persecuted outcasts... Its advocates stand at the top of media, academia, the professions, and, most important, Big Business and Big Philanthropy."

She drew attention to Jon Stryker, grandson of Homer Stryker, the orthopedic surgeon who founded the Stryker Corporation. That corporation sold $13.6 billion in surgical supplies and software in 2018. Jon, the heir to the fortune, is gay. He created the Arcus Foundation to serve the LGBT community. Between 2007 and 2010 alone, Arcus gave more than $58.4 million to pro-LGBT programs and causes. Stryker himself has given more than $30 million to Arcus in that three-year period, through his stock in Stryker Medical Corporation.

Jon's sister Ronda Stryker is married to William Johnston, chairman of the wealth management firm Greenleaf Trust, where Jon Stryker served as a founding board member. Ronda is also the vice-chair of Spelman College, which received a $2 million Arcus grant for a queer studies program. Johnston and his wife have given Spelman $30 million overall, the largest gift from living donors in its 137-year history. Ronda is also a trustee of Kalamazoo College, which received a $23 million Arcus social justice leadership grant in 2012, and a member of the Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows.

Pat Stryker, another sister of Jon's has worked closely with gay megadonor Tim Gill. In 1999, Gill sold his stakes in his computer software company Quark and went to work running the LGBT group the Gill Foundation in Colorado. Along with Pat Stryker and two other wealthy philanthropists, the four launched a strategy to turn Colorado from red to blue. It has enjoyed stunning success. They poured half a billion dollars into small LGBT groups.

Tim Gill's most notorious statement — that he would "punish the wicked," referring to social conservatives like Jack Phillips who refuse to lend their artistic talents to celebrate same-sex weddings — dates to the 2015 GLSEN Respect Awards. He introduced Jon Stryker, saying that he and Jon have "plotted, schemed, hiked, and skied together," while "punishing the wicked and rewarding the good."

In her expose, Bilek drew attention to Stryker's efforts to push transgender ideology — dating long before 2015. The Big Pharma heir donated millions to small and large pro-transgender groups. He sent hundreds of thousands to ILGA, an LGBT organization for equality in Europe and Central Asia, and Transgender Europe, an organization in Europe and Asia that has funded smaller organizations in specific countries.

In 2008, Arcus founded the Arcus Operating Foundation to organize conferences, leadership programs, and research. At one meeting that year in Bellagio, Italy, twenty-nine international leaders committed to global philanthropy to support LGBT issues. Michael O'Flaherty, one of the rapporteurs for the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, attended the event with Stryker. The Yogyakarta Principles planted the seeds "to bring in and attach gender-identity ideology to our legal structures," Bilek explained.

O'Flaherty has been on the United Nations Human Rights Committee since 2004. United Nations member countries formed the LGBTI Core Group to push LGBT issues at the U.N. Group members include Arcus-funded organizations like Outright Action International and the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Core Group member countries include Albania, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and the European Union, as well as the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Also at the Bellagio meeting, Arcus created MAP, the LGBT Movement Advancement Project, to track advocacy and funding promoting transgender ideology in culture.

Transgender initiatives press into political activism, law, religious liberty, education, civil rights, and many spheres of influence. Bilek listed the Arcus-supported organizations pushing transgender activism: Victory Institute, the Center for American Progress, the ACLU, the Transgender Law CenterTrans Justice Funding Project, OutRight Action InternationalHuman Rights WatchGATE, Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), The Council for Global Equality, the U.N., Amnesty International, and GLSEN.

"The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), in partnership with Advocates for Youth, Answer, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), has initiated a campaign using a rights-based framework to inform approaches in reshaping cultural narratives of sexuality and reproductive health," Bilek added. "Sixty-one additional organizations have signed a letter supporting an overhaul of current curriculums."

In 2013, the Arcus Foundation named as director of its international human rights program "Adrian Coman, a veteran of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (a driver of transgender ideology that has begun initiatives to normalize transgender children)." Two years later, "Arcus worked closely with and funded NoVo Foundation programs for transgenderism. NoVo was founded by Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett."

These programs push transgender ideology by backing faith organizations, cultural associations, police department training, and educational programs at all levels — grade schools, middle schools, high schools, universities, and medical institutions. Arcus funds guide the American Psychological Association (the leading psychological organization in the U.S.) to develop guidelines enshrining transgender identity and undermining any therapy that might resolve unwanted gender dysphoria.

As Bilek wrote, "Psychologists are 'encouraged' by those monies to modify their understanding of gender, broadening the range of biological reality to include abstract, medical identities."

This web of powerful donors helps explain how the transgender movement seemingly captured the commanding heights of American culture overnight. For instance, while endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in hormone glands) like Dr. Michael Laidlaw have warned that transgender "treatments" like so-called puberty-blockers and opposite-sex hormones actually introduce a disease into the bodies of healthy children, the medical establishment has rushed to embrace these "treatments" as "best practices."

Tragically, the medical establishment arguably benefits from the transgender movement, as transgender ideology creates a demand for expensive hormone "treatments" and surgeries. This may create a perverse cycle entrenching dangerous standards in transgender medicine. While donors like Stryker may have begun this process with the best of intentions, it has arguably become something of an industrial complex, rushing people through experimental "treatments" when they really need therapy to help them accept their biological sex.

While it is good that Americans have become more understanding of LGBT people in recent decades, this rush to embrace transgenderism has been horrifying — and not just to conservatives. Many liberal radical feminists have spoken out against it as well, even in the face of threats to their safety.

Jennifer Bilek deserves immense credit for drawing attention to the muscle of LGBT philanthropy, and conservatives should join with feminists in mustering their charity to counter this dangerous force.

Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.