When I reflect on current conditions and issues in our Church, our culture/country or the world at large, I always try to focus on what is the truth and facts of the issue. If a false narrative is being projected or out and out lies are being spun, I naturally get irritated and at times irate. I seek ways, usually through writing letters to the editor or essays such as this to confront the falsehoods and misinformation. Such has become the case with the gender-identity movement.
When it started to be publicized in the media, my first reaction was to shrug my shoulders and shake my head. Who would ever think up such a crazy idea that we can self- identify as a male or female based on our feelings and not on biology. I was sure that it was just some fad that would go by the wayside. I thought that someone wanting to self- identify as one of the opposite sex was being illogical but it is their business and that it didn’t affect me, my family or for that matter the culture at large. Unfortunately, that assumption has been proven false. The issue is not just the notion of gender identity per se but also of the consequences that are occurring when there is a cultural, educational and legal push to accommodate to the self-identity movement. Many of these consequences, I have found, have implications for religious freedom.
Gender Basis on Biology or Feelings
The term “transgender” can refer to different kinds of persons. There are individuals who have what is called intersex biology that are born with abnormalities by which they could be considered either gender, however, that is a very small number. In turn, there are individuals who get the full sex change (reassignment) surgeries. That is also a small number with an estimated 15 people per year getting such treatment (to transform male and female genitalia) in the United States or .05% of all plastic surgery for altering one’s sexual appearances (approximately 3000 per year). However, even with the outward physical changes the DNA and chromosomes remain as their original gender. This is reflective of the science of biology showing that there are only two genders – male and female.
The self-identification of gender that has gained such notoriety and is what the majority of the gender-identity movement is about is different from the examples cited above. It is whereby an individual self-identifies as a particular gender based solely on his/her feelings at a given point in time. In turn, the individual wants to be treated as the other gender with or without any hormone treatments or surgery to look like the other sex. Being just a feeling it can change and can be temporary.
Where this all becomes an issue is when government, the media, education and now the culture accommodates to those individual’s feelings to demand that the rest of us go along with their sentiments about self-identity. The media has been reporting the fallout and consequences of accepting individuals self-identifying themselves as anything they want to be that can only be described as anything from strange to bizarre.
First, was the bathroom issue that a boy or girl claiming to be a girl (or vice versa) could use the other sex’s room and shower. Some states and schools have allowed and promoted that concept. Boys claiming to be girls are competing in girls’ athletics events. In Connecticut, boys self-identifying as girls won some of the girls’ track events in the state championship and the state high school sports authority allowed it. Many schools have banned to use of male-female pronouns out of concern for offending anybody who is transgender. Some schools have integrated gender ideology into health education curriculums as just another normal sexual expression over the wishes of parents. Several states now have no gender on birth certificates because when a child grows up they may want to choose which to be. Associated with that is the notion that on birth certificates the parents do not have to be identified by gender. Most recently, in France, the Catholic Church has “caved” to cultural pressure and does not list the genders of the parents on baptismal certificates. Social media platforms such as face book have up to 58 different genders that an individual can self-identify themselves and will allow users to select between three pronouns: “him,” “her” or “their.”
Impacts are being seen in many religious freedom contexts. For example, Catholic and other Christian private schools have come under fire for having “anti- LBGT” policies because they teach Gospel and Catechism principles of sexuality. A bill has been proposed in the Florida state house to forbid private schools from participating in state scholarship programs because of what the schools teach about sexuality. In turn, two major banks withdrew support for that state scholarship program for some participating Christian schools that were deemed not sufficiently “inclusive” of LGBT students.
The list of consequences could go on and on. At the core of all this is an obvious disregard of our human nature as seen in the natural law and God’s creation as accepted throughout human history. In many respects the gender identity movement reflects the extreme desire for individual freedom of choice. Transitioning has been called “a new kind of liberty”. If such an expanded freedom of choice is considered the ultimate in liberty then being able to change one’s gender (not based on biology) could be seen as the ultimate achievement.
Consequences for Youth
Some of the more serious consequences are what is occurring to teenage and younger youth. Some pediatricians go along with wishes and feelings and are prescribing hormones to delay puberty and/or to alter one’s biological sex. The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks that accommodating to a teen or parent wishes for these treatments is appropriate while the American College of Pediatricians think it is child abuse. There was a Texas court case where the mother wanted their six-year-old son to undergo the hormone treatment and the divorced father did not. Most recently the state of Utah made a regulation that a mental health professional could not apply any therapy approach to help a child accept his/her biological sex but must go along and accept their “feelings” of gender. All these examples illustrate that there is a strong pressure to endorse transgenderism and that it should be accepted and even encouraged.
I can remember adolescent psychology courses discussing that those years can be ones of confusion and questioning about many things including ones gender and sexual makeup. In other words, it can be quite normal to raise such concerns by a teenager. However, to go along with and accept a feeling can be extremely harmful by prescribing hormones and/or accommodating to perceived feelings that deny one’s gender reality. This is especially an issue when youth are changing their minds on issues almost on a daily basis. The concern over the hormone treatments and accommodation to subjective feelings is especially alarming in light of research being conducted by several experts noting that 73-98% of youth with such feelings grow out of them after puberty and accept their biological gender. Likewise, there is considerable opinion that social and peer influences are a major cause of transgender feelings and that the biological link (body is one gender and the brain another) has not been established.
The Denial of Truth
The emphasis on accepting transgenders as they identify themselves and the fear of offending feelings and sensibilities masks the ultimate consequence of accommodating to the movement, which is to deny reality. We are being forced to accept and go along with a false narrative. To confront it risks being called a transphobic. Yet, the simple reality shows us that (with the exception cited earlier) we are what we are biologically. The acceptance of a false narrative about gender identity change sets the stage for accepting false narratives in other areas. We are being asked to accept reality based on feelings not empirical biology. It is an allusion.
At the same time it is important to recognize that gender dysphoria (the distress a person feels due to a perceived mismatch between their gender identity and their biological sex) can be a serious cause of suffering for an individual. This is especially the case for teenagers who have identity concerns to begin with as part of puberty. In that respect, those seriously having those perceptions need to be helped and shown concern. A common statement heard is that they just want to be free to be their true selves. However, it does not make sense and could actually do harm to make rules and regulations to accommodate to an individual’s subjective feelings by joining in the affirmation to reinforce their misplaced allusion of gender as “helping” them. As John 8: 32 proclaims “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Whatever help and support that is provided should first be based on truth.
The phenomena of going along with the gender-identity narrative reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”. When the Emperor parades around in his invisible clothes nobody says anything either because they cannot see anything and think they are stupid or wrong headed for not believing it, or they are afraid to call out the truth. The farce continues until a small child yells “The Emperor has no clothes”.
Recognizing God’s Design
Defining one’s gender because one feels that he/she is a different sex is an example of setting oneself up as your own creator and is reflective of the broader sexual revolution of unlimited sexual expression. Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church provide ample evidence of God’s design for humans as man and women. Most recently, Pope Francis has weighed in on this issue of gender theory with forcefulness, quoting Pope Benedict’s XVI previous statement that allowing children to pick a gender is “an epoch of sin against God the Creator.” It goes against God’s will. Pope Francis, in turn, called gender identity a “global war out to destroy marriage” and transgender theory as evil. Their concerns clarify why there should be an alarm over an agenda that forces a blanket acceptance of gender definition not based on God’s design. From a personal perspective, I worry about my grandchildren being indoctrinated into a false narrative of who we are as human persons created by God.
Medical, psychological, political, religious and cultural debates will continue over the many interpretations and consequences of the self-identity movement. However, from an uncomplicated perspective, perhaps we need to just be like the little child in Andersen’s fairy tale and simply state the obvious truth. By always stating the truth we might be able to start developing a common sense view and approach to this issue.
However, from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female (Mark 10:6).