Responding to Transgenderism With Logic and Charity

CA-transgender-bathroomIn this article I will address the growing issue of transgenderism, give three examples of this crisis, and then conclude by suggesting three approaches to take when addressing proponents of this view.

Let me begin by summing it up in a nutshell (or a tweet—the 21st century equivalent):

“Men are men and women are not. Women are women and men are not” (Tweet, if you dare).

Now, the degree to which this sounds discriminatory or sexist (or even hateful to you and me) is a good indicator to the degree in which we have been influenced by a small but incredibly influential movement in our country today that wants to say that sex—by which I mean maleness and femaleness—is not something objective but rather a mere social construct that has no basis in reality. Sort of like what side of the road you drive on, or what objects you use for currency.

These people want to say that sexual orientation is a continuum, and maleness and femaleness are arbitrary bookends. So a man, like Caitlyn Jenner, can self-identify as a woman, and should be allowed to, that’s fine; and a woman can self-identify as a man, and that’s fine.

So let’s look at some more examples, similar to the one mentioned above.

Three Examples of the Crisis

 

1. Genderless bathrooms. In August 2013, California enshrined certain rights for transgendered students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, so that if you’re in a public school, and you’d like to use the bathroom, and you’re a male who thinks he’s a female, that’s okay; no one can stop you. Now, I don’t know about other guys, but when I was fifteen years old, I would have loved that rule. Whose silly idea was this?

2. Boy in a prom dress. Tony Zamazal was a senior in 2013 at Spring High School in Texas. He approached his school and said because he self-identified as a female, he would like to go to the prom in a dress, please. And the school said, well, no, you have to wear the standard tux like all the other men. Tony went home and, as he said, began ranting about it on Facebook. It was picked up by the American Civil Liberties Union, which contacted the high school and said its stance was unconstitutional. The school backed down, and Tony went as a lady. Or so he thought. Now, I don’t say that mockingly—I’m not denying that he feels that way. What troubles me more is that when ABC News covered this story, it lied. It said things like, ‘She’s so happy that she can go in what makes her comfortable.”

3. Lesbian moms and the boy who’s a girl. Third example, you may’ve heard of a couple of years ago. Pauline Moreno and Debra Lobel, a lesbian couple who lives near San Francisco, adopted a boy, and at the age of three, they say, he started to self-identify as a girl. So now he’s thirteen and he’s been on hormone blockers for years so he doesn’t go through puberty and develop into a man, then he can get a sex-change when the time is right.

How Did We Get Here?

How did we get here? One, we rejected God. And as the Vatican II document ‎Gaudium et Spes states, “For without the creator, the creature would disappear, when God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible” (36).

Second is the breakdown of the family. I like the way Jay Budziszewski puts it in his book The Meaning of Sex. He says wrongheaded sexual ideologies undermine families, and ruined families generate a readiness to accept wrongheaded ideologies.

How Should We Respond?

So how can we respond to this crisis? Let me suggest three ways: 1. the scientific, 2. the philosophical, and 3. the pastoral.

Now obviously this is a gigantic topic, and we’re just skimming the surface, but I hope as you encounter people who self-identify as a different sex—though you should know they’ll use the word gender to make sex seem more fluid, more changeable—or if you’re dealing with people who sympathize with this, this will be a help to you.

1. The Scientific Response

It’s important to understand that in promoting the truth about the human person, the Church is on the side of science when it says that it’s impossible for a person to change his sex.

The brains of the sexes are intrinsically different: Male brains are different from female brains. This affects many aspects of our behavior. How we handle stress, how we dress, how we navigate; it even affects our sight. Men and women not only see the world differently metaphorically, we actually see  the world differently—due to the differences in our retinas. 

In a Cambridge University study, researchers noted that women were much better at picking up on facial cues than men. They studied 102 day-old babies to see if there was a difference in the length of time they looked at a face, at a social object, and at a mobile, physical-mechanical object. The male infants showed a stronger interest in the physical-mechanical mobile, while the female infants showed a stronger interest in the face. The results clearly demonstrate that sex differences are in biological origin.

These differences also affect how we hear: Women hear better than men (they probably listen better also). In 2005, neuroscientist Larry Cahill published an article called “His Brain, Her Brain” in Scientific American. He writes, “Over the past decade, investigations have documented an astonishing array of structural, chemical, and functional variations in the brains of males and females.” He even goes so far as to say this raises the possibility of developing sex-specific treatment for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.

2. The Philosophical Response

I remember a few years back standing in the San Diego airport and overhearing a man and a woman having a chat. They’d just met, and he said, “Oh, my wife’s pregnant, too.” She said, “Oh, wonderful, what’s the sex?” He said, “Well, we’re not going to raise it as a blue baby or a pink baby, we’re going to raise it a yellow baby” (and no, he wasn’t speaking of  jaundice). What he meant was that he wasn’t going to impose the social construct of sex upon his child. Whether his child self-identified as a male or a female was up to him/her.

What would happen if I began to explain these neurological differences to this man? Perhaps he would say what a lot of people have said: “Fine, there are differences in the bodies and brains, but I’m not defined by my body.” The idea that we are not our bodies, that we are souls in a machine, is wrongheaded. As the Church teaches, we are body-soul composites: one being made of two types of stuff, both equally personal and equally a part of who we are. 

Think of the absurdities that result if you say, “I’m not my body.” That would mean that when you kiss your child goodnight, you’re not actually kissing your child, you’re manipulating the husk that is not you to kiss the husk that’s not your daughter. 

In logic there’s a tactic called argumentum ad absurdum, where you assume your opponent’s false position is true, and then you follow it to its logical conclusion, which hopefully shows him that it is absurd.

And so we could say, “Why stop at sex? If we’re not defined by our bodies, why should we impose the social construction of ‘species’ upon our children?” If we can say, “Well, he looks male, but he’s apparently female,” we can say with equal logic, “Well, he looks human, but he says he’s a panther” or “a parrot.” You might think I’m being ridiculous, but do a Google search on species dysphoria or species identity disorder, and you’ll see that’s this isn’t as ridiculous to some as you’d imagine.

This video illustrates what I’m talking about:

 

What About Aphroditism?

Someone might say, “Haven’t you heard of aphroditism, or Klinefelter syndrome, or Turner Syndrome, where the sex of someone is ambiguous?” Yes I have, but surely the tiny number of anomalous cases doesn’t do away with the huge majority of cases where a person’s sex is normal and easy to determine.

That would be like saying that because there is a rare genetic disease called progeria that produces rapid aging in children, people can self-identify whatever age they want. 

3. The Pastoral Response

I hope you don’t misunderstand me: I’m not criticizing these people, I’m criticizing the logic behind the mindset. But I don’t doubt for a moment that there are people who feel that they’ve been placed in the wrong body.

Let me quote to you from an eleven-year old boy who self-identifies as a girl. He calls himself Sadie. He wrote a letter to his school:

The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves. Including people who have a creative gender identity and expression. Transgendered kids like me are not allowed to go most schools because the teachers think we are different than everyone else. The schools get afraid of how they will talk with the other kids’ parents, and transgendered kids are kept secret or told not to come there anymore. Kids are told not to be friends with transgendered kids, which makes us very lonely and sad. When they grow up, transgendered adults have a hard time getting a job because the boss thinks the customers will be scared away and so forth.

So, obviously, we need to love these people. But loving does not entail lying to the person. We need to say it’s because I love you that I need to speak truth to you—and it might hurt, and you might call me a hater, but you have to know that I have your best interests in mind.

I would suggest that if you come across a man who self-identifies as a woman, you should ask him a question: “When you say you’re a woman, what do you mean?” He might say, “Well, I’m attracted to other men.” Okay, so you’re attracted to other men—but that doesn’t make you a woman. He might say he likes what girls like. Okay, full disclosure, I don’t like what a lot of men like and I do enjoy things that many girls like: I don’t like sports. I do love poetry. I don’t like fixing stuff. I do like “sharing my heart” with people. He might say he identifies with the female form, that he likes it and wants it as his own. Well, okay, you need to understand that men’s and women’s bodies are different, but that doesn’t mean unequal, and they’re both good, and you need to rediscover the goodness of your own sexuality.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

In creating men “male and female,” God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity. “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God” (Mulieris dignitatem, 6). Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way  (CCC 2334-35).

Men and women are different, and thank God for that. 

Further Interest

Looking for further reading/listening? Here are some good resources and articles to get you started:

Audio

I Regretted my Sex Change Operation

Books

The Meaning of Sex by Jay Budziszewski 

Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax (Doubleday: New York, NY, 2005)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2331-36

Articles

“His Brain, Her Brain” by Larry Cahill, Scientific American, May 2005

“Gender-Specific Gene Expression in Post-Mortem Human Brain: Localization to Sex Chromosomes,” the National Institutes of Health

“Empowering Parents of Gender Discordant and Same-Sex Attracted Children,” Michelle Cretella, principal author, American College of Pediatricians (April 2008).

36 thoughts on “Responding to Transgenderism With Logic and Charity

  1. Matt, Important article. This “small but influential” group is infiltrating every venue of our society. Classroom teachers are increasingly told to create “genderless classrooms.” As my husband likes to quip, “Ideas have consequences” and the consequences of transforming the next generations into “genderless creatures” is frightening.

    1. You understand that public institutions shouldn’t be influenced by religious beliefs. If you believe that transgenderism and homosexuality is wrong, that’s fine. But it doesn’t however warrant you to impinge on the beliefs of others. Of course if you’re ego centric, you won’t care.

      1. But…but, none of Matt’s arguments depend on having a belief that God exists.

        Religious beliefs may motivate one to hold some beliefs but that doesn’t mean that the belief itself is a religious one that necessitates believing in a God to hold. I believe global warming is a real human-influenced threat. This belief is motivated by my faith, but it isn’t a religious belief itself.

      2. Changing bathroom laws is imposing the belief that there is no sex/gender which is wrong and dangerous.

      3. You do realize that the article cited several scientific studies and that Mrs. Costello’s comment made no reference to religious faith, correct?

      4. That has to work both ways. If you believe transgenderism and homosexuality are not wrong, that’s fine. But it doesn’t, however, warrant you to impinge on the beliefs of others.

        If someone wants to proclaim that they identify as a pink poodle, go ahead. They are free to do so. But they are not free to force me to agree with them. One may “identify” as whatever they like, but they cannot encroach on my liberty. I, for one, refuse to bend the knee to another’s delusion.

  2. Nicely done, Mr. Fradd. You’ve written elegantly and compassionately on a very touchy subject. Who would have imagined the day would come when saying that men are men (and can’t be women) and vice versa would be so controversial.

  3. Nearly always when you see “gender” in the broader culture, “sex” is what’s really meant. It is important, therefore, for us to be precise in the use of language. When referring to the biological reality of being male or female, we should use the word “sex”. We should use “gender” only when referring to the qualities that are described as masculine or feminine. Linguistic precision is a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for responding the de-sexing of America.

  4. Matt;

    Can you suggest any Catholic resources for family members (namely myself) in conversing with a beloved family member (my niece) who is not Catholic, and suffers from a gender identity disorder? I have just recently discovered this fact, and am struggling on how to wrap my head around the whole situation. I am a convert to the faith, and fully accept the teaching authority of the Magisterium. Any suggestions for resources would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I would just like to add that acting upon a same-sex attraction is considered a sin in the same way acting upon a sexual desire outside of marriage with someone of the opposite sex is. We all have a desire to sin, we are human, it is how we act upon that desire that makes it bad. Like all sins, they are wrong, and in need of forgiveness. We are all sinners. Our sins may be different, but nevertheless they are sins. Do we turn a blind eye and say “well, they were made that way, their brains are wired differently so it’s ok” when someone rapes or murders another person? Of course not. Should we allow them to continue this behavior? Definitely not. The same is true of same-sex attraction, we need to communicate compassionately that their attraction to the same-sex is one thing but that it becomes sinful if they act upon that attraction. Then we need to encourage them to ask forgiveness. Therefore, if someone has a same-sex attraction and they act upon that attraction by having a sexual encounter outside of marriage, it becomes a sin. Since same-sex couples cannot enter fully into a marital covenant-Sacramental marriage (He created them male and female), any sexual act is considered a sin. If a man is attracted to a female and acts upon that attraction by having a sexual encounter outside of marriage, it becomes a sin. If a man lusts for the woman, that is also a sin. If a man lusts for a man, that is also considered a sin. We are all sinners, but the difference is how we act upon our sinful desires. If we give ourselves fully to God, realize He is our loving Father, He will help us overcome our sinfulness and become the best version of ourselves. It really isn’t that difficult to understand. Many people today are just trying to rationalize and justify their sinful behavior by making others feel guilty for being prejudice and condemning. We must accept them as Children of God, but their sinful behavior cannot be acceptable. The other problem is that God is not a part of their lives. Then you have three deadly behaviors, individualism (what’s in it for me), hedonism (if it feels good, do it), and minimalism (what’s the least I can do), running rampant. The key is that we were put on this earth to love one another and to help one another get to Heaven and be in a full covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, that is all that matters.

  6. Mr Fradd,
    I listened with great interest to Mr. Madrid’s RHRN interview with you about gender issues. Your scientific, theological and pastoral thoughts are very interesting. I only have one question. Have you considered that gender disphoria could be a genetic disorder in the development of a per son before birth. The brain as you say is different in male and female genetically, scientifically shown. This is different than someone who Considers gender a social construct. Still, our society strongly identifies us by our physical bodies because we don’t have a way to check the sex of a child by examining the brain. I agree this May be rare. However it doesn’t seem to fall in the realm of homosexual, transsexual, or cross dressing. I also totally agree with your pastoral objective that all persons deserve our love and as much understanding for their situation as possible without patronizing them with lies that all behaviors are ok just because of their situation. Theologically, I still do not understand what the church teaches to help transgender individuals and those who love them.

  7. Thanks Matt,
    I fear these issues will continue to make Christians into easy targets as far as socio-politics is concerned, but Im so glad to see you stepping in and providing some direction. I had thought it was John’s Hopkins University that was one of the institutions to pioneer sexual reassignment surgery. A few years back, one of their psychiatrists urged ending the practice. Here are a couple of links to articles about it. Thought you might find it interesting.
    http://narth.org/docs/johnhopkins.html
    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/11/surgical-sex

  8. Thank you Matt, when you mentioned, “there are people who feel that they’ve been placed in the wrong body.” I was a bit confused on what defines a “sex”. The brain is part of the body as well, so if we were going to classify someone’s gender by their body then wouldn’t the brain (psyche) be accounted for as well? If a woman thinks like a woman and thinks he is a woman and has a mans body, wouldn’t the mind have a higher precedence?

  9. I liked your post very much. In your scientific response, though, there seems to be drawn too strong of a divide set up: males are this way, females are this way. This seems to ignore the natural variations that occur within the categories of each sex. Dr. Doreen Kimura’s work, while maintaining the fundamental difference between males and females, has found that hormone levels (during development and currently present) effect performance on various cognitive skills. With this in mind I would suggest using the language of “on average,” so that there is recognition of natural variations.

  10. It’s funny because most people at one point believed in the way you are writing here. But as generations come though, we are trying to be more accepting to our human rights. If you identify as male and was born male, then great! you are already more privileged then most.

    There are people going through major depression, suicide, because people like you won’t accept a human for who they are in anyway. We are not creating a genderless generation, for I am born a woman and identify as a woman, you couldn’t change that about me at age 2, 4, 10, or 22. Rather, our generation is creating a means of human rights and equality.

    You know at one point racism was seen as a proper way to worship god. God created us all, man. woman, homosexual, heterosexual… doesn’t matter we are here now. So STOP trying to harm the lives of other people, and focus more on social acceptance. Sooner or later you will no longer be on this earth, you mine as well do the best you can in accepting what is happening around you.

    1. The issue of racism is not even remotely related to this. God made everyone with different shades of skin. All human.

      But this issue is based on “male and female He created them.” Not just on the outside, but also on the inside. We are not defined by our sexual preferences, hut as sons and daughters of God. Mr. Fradd stated that quite clearly and lovingly.

      There is no hatred here. Reading that into his words smacks of agenda, not a desire for reasonable dialogue.

      1. Racism might not be the issue that this is addressing but she used it as a way to compare how discrimination developed throughout history. I mean if we can’t accept that all children of God is not following under the same beliefs of Catholicism, then why haven’t there been a huge attack against different cultures?? Like the celebration of the dead or the beliefs of multiple gods etc etc. If we can allow for them to practice their religions and cultures why are we fighting so hard against transgender???

  11. The best lessons are learned from failure, not from force!

    This issue is more an example of our failure to protect the health of the next generation, than it is a failure to press catholic doctrine upon society.

  12. I’m not really sure why religious folks like yourself have so much to say about other people’s choices.

    Live your life and let other people live theirs. Love people for who they are. Isn’t that, sort of, the foundation of your beliefs?

    1. “Us religious folks” have so much to say about other people’s choices because we recognize that man’s natural ends are discernible and therefore should be spoken us and taught to others. These things are not externally imposed, they are written into the world and who we are as people. Actions that go again our natural ends harm our humanity and should be discouraged. Actions that promote our natural ends bring about fulfillment and should be encouraged. To “live and let live” is to deny others the true love which is doing what’s best for another

      Further, “Live your life and let other people live theirs” is very far from the foundation of our beliefs. Our beliefs are founded on the belief that we were made out of love and for love, that we sinned and turned away from God, that to restore us to right relationship Jesus Christ became fully human (thereby elevating our nature) and died for our sake, and that now we have the capacity to live in a personal, life-changing relationship with Him. This relationship is not one of either fear or apathy, but one that allows us to live fully alive. It allows us to flourish and be fulfilled in a way that we are incapable of on our own. Because we are loved and have had our lives changed, we are compelled to share that good news with others.

      We do love people for who they are, radically unique persons with profound dignity. Because of that, it would be a travesty to leave those persons alone in paths of brokenness and hurt.

    2. The Most basic, and underlying goal of Christianity is to bring souls to Christ, so they can have the fullest joy, love, and peace possible, in the presence of their Creator, in heaven. So absolutely, loving others is definitely of the most basic and fundamental of Catholic teachings. To bring others to Christ then, we have to speak the truth, in love, so that they can understand God’s love for them as people.

      For example, if I was in a state of arrogance around other people, but I didn’t realize it, I would, in retrospect, want someone to call me out on it. It might hurt and be embarrassing, but in the end I’ll probably end up having much fuller and more real relationships with the people around me. Fuller and more real relationships are a reflection of God’s perfect and real Love for us. Make sense?

    3. The foundation of Catholicism is love. True, authentic love exists for the sake of the other and puts the other person’s needs above one’s own. God did not create us separate but as one human race. So if a fellow human being is doing something or believing something which harms him or her, it is up to us to help them the best that we can, with love in mind. That does not mean being forceful. Love is gentle. But it is not apathetic toward a dying friend.

  13. Matt, thank you x’s 1,000! I am a youth minister and so appreciated having this article ready to articulate. May God bless you and your ministry! Sharing truth with charity!

  14. “Rediscover the goodness of your own sexuality” : PERFECT forthcoming topic! In my experience, the lines of true manhood and true womanhood have been so blurred by a relativism-embracing society that I feel like if we only knew the strength and gifts that are uniquely set apart for both genders, surely it would lead us back to Who we were made in likeness of.

  15. Honestly, transgender people are just trying to live their lives the happiest they can. I’m sure all of you are trying to do this as well. If someone is born a man but wants to live their life as a woman (which is not an easy decision to make–it affects their lives and the lives of those close to them greatly…they certainly think about all aspects of a transition before it happens), you should respect that decision whether or not you think it is correct. And that respect includes using the pronouns they would like you to use. Caitlyn Jenner wishes for people to use female pronouns and the name Caitlyn because it makes her happy and comfortable. I don’t care what you believe God or the Bible has said, it is basic human decency to respect others. Keep these views to yourself because the big picture is, if someone feels strongly enough to live their life as another gender from which they were assigned at birth, whatever the Bible and God says will probably not matter too much to them. This is not a crisis. Male and female genders will still exist. We will not become some genderless society. The hope is that we will become a society that does not hate people who would rather die than live uncomfortably as a certain gender. The Bible teaches love and you all should exhibit this a little more. Transgender people aren’t hurting you or your way of life. Show some love and respect.

    1. Why is it disrespectful to consider how to charitably disagree with someone? I hope I never live in a society where everyone is so afraid to offend me that they never tell me when I’m doing something wrong or harmful to myself!

    2. You say, “I don’t care what you believe…” How does that attitude help convince anyone to listen to what YOU believe?

  16. I know you can’t expect much depth from a blogger, but if you want to be a critic of an entire movement and give “scientific” explanations, then at least put some research into the topic.

    You don’t even understand the difference between sex and gender.

    Sex: Genetically determined, XX or XY
    Gender: Cultural identification of one’s role

    You cited one article on facial cues as defenitive “proof” that female and male brains are different. Yes they are, but if you are going to use a section titled, “scientific” then it would help for you to understand the basics of scientific proof (taught in most middle schools).

    So other than religious teaching, what do you hold credentials in?

    Probably will get deleted, because this doesn’t fit your rhetoric.

  17. The problem is other people’s choices are also infringing on the rights and religious beliefs of other people. A Christian bake shop was harrassed and sued when they refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding, even though this go against their religious beliefs. This was never about equality, but more on the reversal of status quo. Ideas such as LGBT and transgenderism are being forced upon children and adults. If everyone minded their own business it would be so much better.

  18. Matt,

    I appreciate your approach however question 1 aspect. You say the Church is on the side of science, true. In researching the Jenner and other cases, it is my understanding that to qualify as a candidate for reassignment, the person must have neurological evidence that the brain is indeed opposite of the genitalia. Therefore, if the science supports this as a medical/biological condition that can be corrected, why would a faith response deny the science? This is a genuine question and not a snarky retort.

  19. Decent article but for the love of all that is good please edit out and stop using lines like “I would have loved this law as a 15 year old.” You do realize that girls restrooms have stalls? So unless you had a fetish where you liked to listen to women going to the bathroom, you wouldn’t have liked it. I can’t share this article with anyone who disagrees with me on this issue because jokes like that make the people I’m trying to reach write you off as a jackass or a creep before they get to the main points.

  20. I have Turner Syndrome and in most cases, our biology is not ambiguous. It basically means some of our parts don’t work even though we have them. There are rare forms but in the majority of us have what is referred to as 45 XO or classic TS. However, I agree with you that we are not the norm and gender identity should not be argued on the basis of anomalies.

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