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Responding to the allure and incoherency of transgenderism

Transgender ideology has powerful supporters, such as Amazon.com, but it is also weak.

(Image of phone: Christian Wiediger/Unsplash.com)

Of course they are banning books. If you missed it, Amazon has banned Ryan Anderson’s excellent book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. And, of course, the writings of some of history’s greatest monsters are still available on Amazon. The behemoth bookseller is fine with Hitler, Stalin and Mao, but it considers Anderson’s respectful, scholarly critique of transgender ideology too much.

In the short term, Amazon has brought attention (and brisk sales at other outlets) to Anderson’s book, which is good news for my friend and colleague. But as Abigail Shrier, whose books have faced similar cancelling, notes, the cancellers may succeed in the long run. Anderson’s book may do well now, but the next such book may never be written because few publishers will want to risk bringing out books that Amazon might exclude. Amazon’s dominant market share, combined with its opaque book-banning process, will deter writers and publishers from offending the orthodoxies of the ascendent cultural Left.

Indeed, their power, and that of their allies, is so great that banning books may seem like overkill. Supporters of transgender ideology dominate education, big business, finance, big tech, entertainment, the legacy news media and the Democratic Party—why bother trying to squelch one dissident book?

The obvious initial answer is to reverse the question: why not use power to punish enemies, as well as to reward friends? Why should bigots be given any quarter? This reasoning is natural, and no doubt the Amazon commissar who purged Anderson’s book took self-righteous pleasure in doing so.

But such people also feel impelled to preclude debate and silence dissension because of their position’s frailty. The (current) core claim of transgender ideology is that we are possessed of an innate gender identity that may not match our biological sex—as if we are gendered souls inserted into sexed bodies. We are told that mismatches are to be treated by allowing people to live as the sex they identify as, often with surgical and chemical treatments to remake their appearance to better match their identity. Dissenters, such as female athletes who object to competing against males, or abused women who do not want biological men to share a shelter with them, are labeled as bigots and told to shut up.

This ideology has powerful supporters, but it is also weak. The experiential reality of bodily sex is foundational to who we are. Most of us experience our male or female bodies as so intrinsic to our identities that we hardly even think about the matter. If we do reflect on it with any seriousness, we realize that to be the other sex would be to be a completely different person. The claims of transgender ideology are unsustainable; we cannot be born into the wrong bodies, for we are our bodies.

Furthermore, not only is the experiential reality of bodily sex woven through out our existence, it is what begets our existence. All of us were conceived through the sexual dimorphism of the human species. Even in vitro fertilization requires gametes from men and women; and the resulting human embryos can only develop inside a woman’s womb.

In addition to these experiential difficulties, advocates for transgender ideology have to contend with the obvious truth that much of the current transgender moment is the result of social contagion acting on vulnerable adolescents. Recent explosions in gender-dysphoria and LGBT identification, especially among young women, are socially driven—aided and abetted by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which has added gender transition to its abortion business. Theories about innate, immutable gender identity do not explain why entire cliques of teenage girls are suddenly declaring themselves to be transgender.

But there are some people who do experience deep and persistent distress over their sex, and wish for another, alternatively sexed, body. Those who experience such suffering need a sensitive and compassionate response, which Anderson’s book provides. To speak and write on these subjects with truth and kindness requires good judgment as well as good character. We must strive to be respectful while insisting that the culture should not celebrate transgender ideology and that the law should not enforce its dictates.

Understanding how we should respond to those suffering from gender dysphoria necessitates reflection on the apparent paradoxes of our existence. To be human is to be embodied, but our bodies may betray us. Thus, our bodies and bodily systems, including our reproductive systems, may be disordered, disrupted or damaged in ways that inhibit normal development and function. But these conditions do not produce alternatives to human sexual dimorphism, they merely deform.

The allure of transgenderism is in its promise, through transition, of release from the givenness of the body. Through scientific intervention and social engineering, the too solid flesh of a psychologically distressing body is reshaped via drugs and plastic surgery. The remaking of one’s body into a facsimile of the opposite sex holds out the prospect of becoming a new person. This may tempt some, but it is, as Anderson skillfully showed, an illusory hope based on an incoherent ideology.

But that does not mean that there is no hope. In asserting the truth that we are made male and female, Christians must also declare the Gospel’s promises of liberation from the suffering, disorders and decay of our bodies. Christians, of all people, should understand what it is like to struggle with the flesh, and to hope for its regeneration into new life. In these Lenten weeks we are especially called to mediate on our sin and Christ’s sacrifice, thereby preparing ourselves for the celebration of Easter and Christ’s triumph over death and sin.

At the heart of these contemplations are the mysteries of the Incarnation and Resurrection. The first contains the scandalous declaration that the divine Word (logos) became flesh (sarx). The second assures us that Christ’s resurrection prefigures our own. Transformative renewal is available for everyone in Christianity. Our bodies, as well as our souls, are redeemed and raised again in glory through Christ’s atonement. The proclamation of this truth shall prevail even against the gates of Hell. It shall certainly not be vanquished by the machinations of an overgrown online bookstore.


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About Nathanael Blake 11 Articles
Nathanael Blake, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His primary research interests are American political theory, Christian political thought, and the intersection of natural law and philosophical hermeneutics. His published scholarship has focused on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre and Russell Kirk. He is currently working on a study of J.R.R. Tolkien’s anti-rationalism. He writes from Virginia.

24 Comments

  1. Basically a decent article, but once again I am compelled to appeal to the author of this article and all other people of good will and a sound understanding of God’s creative order to approach this issue in the following manner:

    In writing, ALWAYS use quotation marks with “transgender” to signify that it is a faux term since nobody can change their genders. Do the same with “trans” when writing in this context. Also, there is no “transgenderism,” and nobody has ever “transitioned” from one gender to another one, so quotation marks should be used for these terms as well. In conversation, be sure to make it clear that the faux terms are not accepted and won’t be acknowledged for the same reason. Don’t ever give in on this, even for so-called politeness reasons.

    Many years ago the late, great Reverend William Smith frequently advised that “all social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering.” The more we give in to the use of such malevolent and false terminology (no matter how many doctors, psychologists, church leaders, and so on believe otherwise), the more we help to normalize the abuse of properly recognizing God’s creative order of male and female.

    • Thanks so much DV. My thoughts re.language also. When we adopt the language of a movement we enable and legitimize it.
      People don’t “transition “, they are chemically and surgically castrated.

      Parents shop at Whole Foods to avoid having their families consume beef with minute traces of estrogen, lobby for the rights of their “transitioning “children to consume massive amounts of puberty blocking hormones. They’ve simultaneously bought into the “Clean food” and “transgender ” social allures.

      Eugenics and other passing madnesses like the current ones we face have their own language created to give them weight and legitimacy.We shouldn’t lend any verbal aid to that.

    • Youa re quite right, DV. To be fair, though, the author uses the word only in the context of “transgender ideology,”and doesn’t apply the word ot a person.

      What I think needs to be stopped is the use of the phrase “biological men.” That implies that in some other way there are men who are not biologiaclly so, and there are in fact none.

      It would also help if people stopped using the word “gender” and used the word “sex.” Unless referring to grammar, gender and sex are synonymous. They have been so for centuries – at least until people who are either extremely confused or evil liars came up with the idea that one’s gender can be unrelated to one’s sex.

  2. Yes, we have many problems facing us, many challenges confronting the Church, much darkness closing in on the minds of men and society as a whole. We are great about pointing out this crisis of faith and truth and righteousness; but how do we solve it? What steps does the Church need to take, from top to bottom, to reverse the tide of darkness and bring light to the world? Or do we just continue to go on pointing out the obvious, surrendering to the whims of a world blinded by sin and bent on completely silencing the Church Militant? How dare we call ourselves the Church Militant!

  3. Grew up with Bruce Jenner on the Wheaties box. Between drugs, surgery and lots of media and political propaganda, I guess we’ll soon be able to engineer the human with “no cross to bear?”

  4. Are TG people really evil? If one’s head is not on straight a Chiropractor could be needed. If a TG person’s head is not on straight one may need a surgeon. And, if both heads are on straight we could raise a stein.

    I don’t drink beer, but it surely is intriguing that a TG person could “fake” their gender identity and be sane to commit to major surgery.

    May God forgive the insane!

    • Dont be silly, morganB. If someone’s “head was not on straight” and he thought he was a peacock or an elephant, do you think a surgeon should maim that person’s body in order to match the body to a mental illness?

      And if someone’s “head was not on straight” and believed that he was a doctor, should we be required to agree that yes, indeed, because he thinks he is one he is one, and therefore we must allow him to practice medicine on us?

      And if someone’s “head was not on straight” and believed that he was an all-powerful emperor, should we be forced to bow down before him?

      “Transgenderism” and its supporters are just one more attempt to pretend that reality and truth do not exist.

  5. Similarly, “husband”, “wife” for so-called same-sex “marriage” participants and a number of other pseudo-terms currently in vogue.

  6. Very good point about the use of quotation marks when someone’s or something’s authenticity is open to question. How about these: Joe Biden is a “Catholic” or “Faithful” Catholics who voted for pro-abortion Joe Biden.

  7. And never use gender when the correct term is sex. People have a sex: male or female. Gender is a property of language.

  8. Nathanael Blake gives us a correct account of the most significant moral aberration affecting Mankind. Gender dysphoria is elective, a behavioral disorder initiated by a Godless culture bent on individual sensual fantasy fostered by Planned Parenthood, the UN, and the liberal Left. Theologically it may be confidently held to be driven by the Diabolic. A moral sea change meant to marginalize Catholicism and destroy humanity. The Vatican is making a tragic error addressing this moral digression as if it were somehow inherent to human nature. That of itself contradicts our traditional understanding of God’s ordering of nature to wit human nature. Assignment of advocates for normalization of homosexuality cardinals Vicente Paglia, Timothy Farrell to key Dicasteries on the Family, culture, biology inviting Jeffrey Sachs a world renowned secularist proponent of abortive means to control population, entrenched in liberal ideology, gay rights advocate fosters the opinion especially the vulnerable youth that sexual aberration from our biologic identity is justified. Family, the nucleus of a cohesive moral society and central feature of a Christian culture is the target of this evil. As it continues to burgeon especially with Church complicity we are assured of final moral collapse, and with that Apostolically warned Finality.

    • Father, with all due respect… you sound like a politician on a mission. If TGs are not inherently evil could they (all) be a toxic part of a “Godless cult”. “Gender dysphoria is elective”? How interesting. Some psychiatrists agree and say LGBTQ is an “illness”. Other professionals say it is a mutant gene, while some say it is the fault of early childhood depravations. Marcus and Michelle Bachman own a “clinic” that uses the slogan “pray the Gay away”. Their methods have been called into question as to whether they are causing permanent damage to their clients. With all due respect, seems like you paint with a broad brush. I try not to use all and none. True LGBTQ folks are an aberration since they go against God’s plan for his flock. However, God is the final arbiter… not us! Again, with all due respect, frivolous labels could be a sign of insecurity of intent. Lets remember “there are “good people on both sides”… maybe.

      I cannot imagine that any person would choose a scorned and socially ostracized lifestyle and commit to major and uncertain surgery would be sane.

      May I say “all” people should pray that our all omniscient and loving God will restore humanity to his plan.

      • “Father, with all due respect… you sound like a politician on a mission.”

        Unlike, say, Biden? Good grief.

        • Been thinking about the morally schizophrenic and rosary-toting Biden, celebrating as he does Our Lady of Guadalupe while at the same time imposing the replaced Aztec mindset across his own realm by codifying Roe v. Wade…

          Maybe it’s not about the need for better evangelization. Instead, here’s Biden, the hood ornament for a Party and for an entire generation or two that no longer get the non-demonstrable first-principle of rational human thought–that two genuinely contradictory propositions cannot both be true.

          There’s even a science about this acquired disability:

          A recent study completed at University College London and using MRI technology (magnetic resonance imagery) strongly implies that a habit of lying tends to suppress the part of the brain (the amygdala) that responds emotionally to a “slippery slope” pattern of small and then larger lies. (Neil Garrett, Dan Ariely and Stephanie Laxxaro, Nature Neuroscience Journal, October 24, 2016; reported by Erica Goode, New York Times, October 25, 2016).

          The Big Lie–Biden’s 47 years inside the Beltway, and now his flip-flop abortion culture, plus gay “marriage”, plus mandatory gender theory and transgender indoctrination, etc.–has a personal and cultural pedigree.

      • MorganB homosexual deviation from nature is a moral illness. If a man wishes to pretend he’s a woman and have another man penetrate him he likely would want to go the route of medical deformation called transgenderism. That is why the moral illness is burgeoning since there are so many men and women who have elicited to practice same sex behavior. It’s a moral deviation as old as time condemned by the Apostle Paul in Rm 1 and Apostolic Tradition. Yes, it can acquire psychological features. Gender dysphoria is either elective or it isn’t. “If TGs are not inherently evil could they (all) be a toxic part of a Godless cult”. Answer is the decision to transgender is an inherently evil decision, a mortal sin. Any rational assessment is that it’s predominantly a behavioral trend. A self induced fetish. Yes. I am on a mission. Deepen your knowledge on this issue and read Psychologist Gerard van den Aardweg member John Paul II Academy for Human and Life and the Family On the Psychogenesis of Homosexuality. An excerpt, The best-established facts in relation to homosexuality point to developmental-psychological, not genetic or physiological, causation. The efforts of the last few decades to find evidence to support a biological theory have made it more doubtful than ever that such evidence will be found. In contrast, many studies have shown that the most significant factor which correlates with homosexuality is “gender nonconformity” or same-sex peer isolation. Another factor closely associated with homosexuality is an imbalance in parent-child interaction, notably forms of over-influence of the opposite-sex parent in combination with a deficient relationship with the same-sex parent. The third well-established correlation is with inherent, rather than discrimination-produced, “neuroticism” or emotional instability/immaturity (Psychologist Gerard van den Aardweg On the Psychogenesis of Homosexuality).

        • Referring to mortal sin in my comment a sexual act outside of sacramental marriage is objectively serious sin. Insofar as the decision to transgender, it also is objectively serious sin, although there may be given predating psychological conditions described by Dr Aardweg that mitigate moral responsibility for that decision.

  9. The trans movement sounds Gnostic in its attitude towards the body. Between book banning and the deplatforming of Parler by Amazon, it appears that democracy dies in Bezos.

  10. Our episcopacy needs to make a vigorous call for resistance against so-called “transgenderism” and to implore the faithful to disregard any provisions in civil law that advance this ideology.

    This is not an idiosyncratic fad affecting just a few. In my home state of NJ the governor just signed a law mandating the introduction of ‘LGBT’ lifestyles in all schools as early as kindergarten.

    We clearly lack leaders in government, science, medicine, law, and education with the moral competence and courage needed to police the decadence coming from within their own ranks.

    The Devil has found a new way to endanger the health and lives of children. How many more casualties must be added to the tens of millions already lost to abortion? The carnage of the so-called Sexual Revolution has been unprecedented—nothing in the span of human history comes remotely close.

    God, have mercy on us.

  11. Many heartfelt thanks to all who expressed appreciation for my comments on the use of quotation marks, etc. when confronting the malevolence of the “transgender” movement. We see the ongoing assault on language in so many ways today, and if it continues to grow, we will soon have our own modern day virtual Tower of Babel where many people will not be able to communicate with or understand each other.

    One more thing: I have seen on this website and elsewhere a concern with the word ‘gender’, and some people promote the idea that such should only be used when referring to parts of grammar, but I beg to differ, and here’s why:

    The roots of the term ‘gender’ come from the Latin ‘genus’, which means kind, or kind of thing. As such, one objective and legitimate application of the term ‘gender’ is the classification (kind of thing) of organisms based on their biological sex. This being so, everyone is a particular and non-changeable gender or kind of thing, which is either the biological male gender or the biological female gender. This also pertains to those poor souls who are born with what appears to be a combination of male and female genitalia. Eventually, one sex (or gender) predominates and it soon enough unfolds or becomes clear that the person is either a male or a female.

    While I’m at it, it should also be kept in mind that the prefix ‘trans’ comes from the Latin ‘trans’, which means to go beyond or cross over. So anything that is ‘trans’ X means something that crosses over or goes beyond X to something else. Accordingly, to be “transgender” is to go beyond a particular gender, and those who claim that such is possible mean that a person has crossed over from one gender to another gender or to some hybrid or made-up fantasy gender merely by declaring him or herself to have done so. But in the real world, nobody can cross over from one gender to another just like no human can cross over from the human species into another species and declare him or herself to actually be a “transbird” or “transwhatever,” and so once again it remains imperative for people of good will and right reason to stop accepting and/or stop misusing terminology that denies objective reality in any way.

  12. A couple of notes: Trans acting and grooming has been around since ancient times and in most cultures. The modern attempt to augment dress and behavior with drugs and surgery has some profound physical effects that are now just becoming known, but little publicized, by endocrinologists. Cross hormone treatments, especially male into bio-female bodies can have long term effects. Most notable by eliminating the benefits of natural female hormones to extended life expectancy. Similarly, female hormones in a bio-male can have adverse effects on muscular and skeletal components. This is one reason for some to propose that bio-males who have been receiving female hormones be allowed to compete in sporting events with females as their bodies have been changed. This is true in many cases but not for the intended purpose. In actual fact, their bodies have undergone a form of atrophy which will probably affect various components of lifespan determination. Finally, there are the psychological effects which can manifest in different presentations, the most significant of which is the discovery that “transition” did not treat the underlying dysphoria.
    While it appears that there is little to be done regarding consenting adults to these various processes, it is absolutely necessary to prevent what may be permanent damage to the physiology of minors. We don’t allow a number of behaviors in children and this should certainly top the list.

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