The media and many segments of society continue to trumpet the notion that transgenderism is something to be affirmed and supported, rather than treated and healed. Amidst this confusion, however, there are glimmers of hope. Some have taken a stand to protect the children in society at large from potentially scandalizing and distressing events that would follow from wholesale acceptance of transgenderism in churches and schools. Still others are writing of their own pain, having travelled the road already.
The new year ushered in two articles that reveal different aspects of the confusion which persists. The first article focused on a recently-released film, The Danish Girl, which portrays the journey of a married man who becomes obsessed with the idea of himself as a woman and emotionally abandons his devoted wife to pursue a sex-change operation. The movie is critiqued well by Walt Heyer, a man who, under different circumstances, travelled that journey himself, and discovered what is unsurprising to those who have a proper understanding of human sexuality and sexual development: namely, that changing his sex surgically did not bring peace, contentment nor happiness. In his review, Mr. Heyer makes an appropriate plea for proper diagnosis and care of people who suffer from gender dysphoria, care which could prevent the false hope and years of pain and suffering that come from sex change operations.
The second article was written by Debra Soh, a doctoral candidate in psychology who also reports a history of gender dysphoria in her childhood, and challenges the politically-correct science which advocates for wholesale acceptance of the gender proclamations of prepubescent children. Ms. Soh relates how a prominent researcher in the field of gender dysphoria (Kenneth Zucker, PhD - who wrote the Standards of Care for those suffering gender confusion), has recently been forced to close his Gender Identity Clinic for making commonsense (though politically-incorrect) observations, including the fact that "up to 80% of gender dysphoric boys grow up to be not transgender." She quips that "We don't allow children to vote or get tattoos, yet in the name of progressive thinking we are allowing them to choose serious biomedical interventions with permanent and irreversible results." (It is important to note that Ms. Soh also suggests, erroneously, that sexual orientation is immutable, making her not necessarily friendly to this writer's views, and lending more credence to the growing belief that the usurpation of science by activists is quite problematic.)
In an effort to stem the tide, Catholic Bishops in the U.S. and abroad have taken strong stands. German Dr. Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer wrote an open letter in First Things after his national conference issued a press release erroneously declaring gender theory to be compatible with the Catholic belief system. Bishop Voderholzer helpfully frames the entire issue as being one about the essence of the human person , not about protection from discrimination:
Nobody is condemned for having difficulties accepting his biological gender. But then someone has to help them accept their masculinity and their femininity. This is not surgically possible, it is only possible with human and pastoral care….The true goal should be to work with nature, not against it.
The Catholic Bishops in Nebraska saw fit to put forth a statement regarding how best to address the issue of transgender students who are desiring to play in sporting events as a sex different from that which they were born: "It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools." Fittingly, the Bishops reiterated the dignity of every human person, their particular concern for persons with gender dysphoria and the need to care for and support their personal development and well-being. They continue, "Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness and the safety, privacy, and rights of all students."
This call for justice alongside the need for merciful care for those suffering is what is sadly missing from much of the debate surrounding how best to address those who define themselves as transgendered. While every person has inherent dignity, this does not lead to his or her preferences being elevated above those of others. In this case, the experience of a young male feeling that he is a female should not result in his access to the girl's bathroom, sports teams, or locker room, access which would, at minimum, be an inconvenience, but more likely, traumatize and distress countless young females.
Back in August, in the wake of Bruce Jenner imposing his confused identity journey upon the public and being roundly applauded for doing so, I wrote about the ways in which this harmed society, his family and himself. What was lacking in that decision were the virtues: among them, true courage to face life's trials and endure suffering, and attention to justice for the common welfare. In return, these virtues must be augmented by merciful love for those who are struggling. These are the seeds of hope so desperately needed in our culture - a culture which has been riddled with misinformation and confusion, particularly with respect to human sexuality.