Earlier this month I read an essay by Robert George, “Transgenderism,'Marriage Equality,' and Liberalism’s Tragic Error”—an excerpt from his recent book Conscience and Its Enemies. It’s philosophical, but I think it’s relevant to issues we’re dealing with. Issues we shouldn’t, if we’re sane, have to be dealing with, but here we are.
The essence of the essay is that there are two warring beliefs about who we are as humans: we are either mental energy in a random physical body—George refers to this as “nonbodily persons inhabiting nonpersonal bodies,”—or we are made up of a mind and body together, “a dynamic unity: a personal body, a bodily self.”
The difference is important, he says, because, “Whether in the courts, on campus, or at boardroom tables, it significantly shapes the expressive individualism and social liberalism that are dominant among elites.”
Christianity in general has rejected the nonbodily identity, in a similar way that Aristotle veered from Plato on the issue. As George continues:
The living body, far from being our external instrument, is part of our personal reality. So while it cannot exist apart from the soul—which is its substantial form—the body is not inferior. It shares in our personal dignity. The idea of the soul as the substantial form of the body is orthodox Christianity’s alternative to the heretical conception of the soul as a “ghost in the machine.” One can separate living body from soul in analysis but not in fact; we are body-soul composites.
My religion has something specific to say on this as well: we are who we are from before being born in a body; gaining a body is progress in becoming more like our Father in Heaven. This is the second paragraph of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”:
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
George’s piece is about the liberal elite view of marriage—based on what the mind wants to create and be, rather than what is biological or real. He is a mentor of Ryan Anderson, and one of the best minds on marriage today.
But I’m going to use these ideas to talk about a different letter of the LBGT etc. alphabet: the T.
It is my belief that we are in this life who we were when Heavenly Father created our spirits, and this included our maleness or femaleness. It’s not a matter of which body we got randomly put into. It is part of who we have always been and who we will always be. God does not mistakenly put us into the wrong body.
That means that, if a person thinks they are a gender other than what they biologically and to the core of their soul are, then they have a mental problem, accurately called gender confusion.
It is not possible to change gender. Gender comes up in every cell of the body. Genetically a person will continue to have a Y chromosome or not. What can be done is chemical and surgical mutilation of a body that will continue to have in all its cells that Y chromosome or not.
With that reality in place, the question becomes, how do we treat people who claim to be a different gender than they are?
The human dignity answer is, treat them with kindness and dignity, but as who they really are when confronted. This would include allowing them the same natural rights as the rest of us, but ends at creating special rights that encourage their delusion or negatively affect the natural rights of the rest of us.
It could include better mental health science and research to help them in whatever way will lead away from self-harm and toward a fully functional human life of contribution and joy.
However, the politically dictated answer is, we go along with their delusion, no matter how that inconveniences the rest of us, and no matter how harmful to the gender confused person.
As I mentioned earlier this month, adults who have gone through surgical and hormonal reassignment suffer 20 times greater rates of suicide than those who don’t undergo a chemical and/or surgical change. Wouldn’t it be kinder—healthier for the gender confused person—to treat the mental illness, to help them come to terms with reality, rather than to indulge their delusion?
The American College of Pediatricians recently called it child abuse to submit children to gender reassignment, since 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty. Isn’t it kinder to deal with the child’s confusion as an error that can be corrected, rather than indulge the error and deepen the damage that could otherwise have self-corrected?
So, let’s start the “bathroom” question with the assumption that accepting the delusion is more damaging and less kind than indulging it.
We dealt with the bathroom question this past year in Houston. To remind you, the lesbian then-mayor of Houston had pushed through an ordinance, purportedly for “equal rights,” that imposed a demand on all places with public restrooms or locker rooms to allow self-identified transgendered people to use their choice of facilities. The people immediately gathered signatures to put the issue before the people on the ballot to repeal the bill. Mayor Anise Parker illegally threw out the signatures, but was overruled by the courts. She tried to intimidate local pastors by demanding copies, transcripts, and recordings of their sermons and communications so she could look for words against her agenda. Again the courts slapped her down. In November the issue was put before the people and her bill was repealed, in part because it was successfully accurately renamed “the bathroom bill,” rather than “equal rights.”
People in a liberal city that had already twice reelected a homosexual mayor did not want to force all businesses and public places to force women and girls to share intimate places such as bathrooms—and even more shockingly gym locker rooms--with “self-identified transgendered” men.
The worry has not been about transgendered people, who are not only rare, but are not necessarily sexual predators (are probably not—although they are likely to still be attracted to the actual opposite sex, whom they’re sharing these private places with). It is that there is no way to identify the difference, and it takes away the rights of women and girls to feel safe. The law should not label a woman as a bigoted lawbreaker because as a punishment for feeling uncomfortable or threatened by a man. It should be obvious that is an infringement of her rights, and a loss of her freedom—as well as for those who care about the endangered women and girls.
In locker rooms, where private parts are more likely to be exposed, women—and particularly minors in schools—absolutely should not be exposed to the naked opposite-sex body and have no privacy from that person. Many of us thought the most traumatic part of going to junior high was being forced to shower and change in front of others of the same sex. (I’m told guys never had this same issue, but I’m telling you it was a normal fear and feeling among females.) A person who feels such natural modesty should not be told they’re the mentally ill ones, while the gender confused or the blatantly lying predator is protected.
We will not eradicate gender confusion, any more than we’re likely to eradicate depression, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. While we can work toward treatment, we meanwhile want to live kindly among suffering people.
We’ve actually been dealing with “transgendered” men in women’s restrooms for a long time. If they are serious about looking like the opposite sex, mostly they have been tolerated in the opposite-sex restroom, without a law. And good parents have been taking precautions in all restrooms all along: women take young boys in the women’s restroom with them. Once their boys are too old to do that, the mom waits just outside, within hearing range, and makes sure not too much time has passed. And boys have been taught how to avoid predators in those spaces. It’s not as ideal as being able to magically identify all predators and quarantine them, but failing that it has sufficed.
But females are more vulnerable, biologically, to sexual predators. It makes no sense to increase the vulnerability and then to shame them for noticing.
It seems like a parallel universe, that we are needing to discuss this obvious truth: men and women are different, and being separate in intimately private settings is respectful and important for safety. But a decade or two ago it was unthinkable that we would redefine marriage as something in which maleness and femaleness was irrelevant.
The “nonbodily persons inhabiting nonpersonal bodies” believers have the media megaphone. They are shoving their ideologies down our throats. But we don’t have to swallow.
|The Emperor's New Clothes|
illustration found here
If we don’t speak up wherever we can, we lose our freedoms. We need more of the honest child who stands up and says, “The Emperor has no clothes!” In the Hans Christian Anderson story, once the child spoke the words, everybody else gave up their pretense and embraced the truth. We need that to happen.