Gender Ideology and Sexual Diversity: Feelings Trumping Reason

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Today, the Virginia Supreme Court is hearing the Lafferty, et al. v. School Board of Fairfax County transgender bathroom case.  Efforts to “protect” “transgender children” (i.e. children suffering from gender dysphoria) by allowing them to use bathrooms designated for a sex that does not match their born anatomy has taken the national stage: the New Hampshire legislature is now following in the footsteps of bills in New Jersey and California that would ban sexual reorientation therapy for children; New Hampshire also has a bill aimed at punishing businesses that designate bathrooms, locker rooms and showers for men only or women only; and a toy company is unveiling a transgender doll to market to our children.  Such emotive activism attempting to legitimize gender ideology and unbridled sexual license is proceeding in a manner that limits the rights of others who do not agree.

Though negative and unsupportable statements are still accepted and reported as news at times, much of the news and science coming forth is actually encouraging to those who support traditional values and the culture of life where the dignity of the person is respected and the opportunity for true flourishing is fostered.  The Family Research Council put forth two articles reflecting a growing trend: people “voting with their feet” in the face of corporate decisions to support the “gender ideology” which Pope Francis has called “the great enemy of marriage today.”

The first example involves the Boy Scouts of America which announced at the end of January that it would no longer refer to birth certificates to determine membership, but instead would reference “the gender a youngster lists on an application” – not the parents’ view, mind you, but the child’s.  The case at the center of the decision involved an eight-year-old girl (claiming to be a boy) who is now welcomed officially as a Boy Scout.  Within weeks, it was reported that families began leaving the Boy Scout organization in record numbers.

Similarly, the National Basketball Association experienced a marked drop in ticket sales to its annual All-Star Game when it moved the venue out of Charlotte, NC because it perceived the state’s position to be hostile to transgender locker rooms and bathrooms.

Simultaneously, we are seeing legitimate authorities, such as the American College of Pediatricians, update position papers on these issues wherein they acknowledge the truth about human sexuality, biological and genetic norms for human design, the harm that can come from disrupting natural pubertal hormones, the instability of gender confusion, and the physical and psychological risks of embracing gender dysphoria.

This is not to say that we have turned the corner, however.  As the aforementioned doctors clarified that gender is a “sociological and psychological concept, not a biological one”, some TV personalities continue to elevate feelings above knowledge.  Most recently we had Katie Couric claiming that “gender is a ‘deeply biological thing,’ but that identity is also a personal choice based on how a person feels.”  [E]ven in the womb, a baby can ‘feel’ like a different gender.”

I won’t pretend to be able to unpack exactly what was meant by these remarks, but share them to highlight how misinformed some of the messages are—misinformed and dangerous given that those saying them, and many of those hearing them, view what is wildly speculative and lacking even the smallest shred of evidence, as indisputably true.

And our youth are listening.

They hear the drivel incessantly, but what they seldom hear is the clear evidence, for example, that therapy aimed to help one accept his or her biological sex, to embrace who he or she is—has never been proven to harm anyone, and actually has been shown to help and heal; or by contrast, that the harms befalling those who pursue sexual transformation are significant, even if many who watch, encourage or participate, remain silent.

The recent revocation of the previous administration’s guidance to schools is naturally capturing much of the rhetoric on both sides of the issue.  Yet, I think the more important focus is not on the debate about federal involvement and state’s rights, but rather on what is truly in the best interest of those who suffer.

What we see most clearly in the assertions from TV personalities is really at the heart of all the activism, namely, the deification of feelings over reason.  Understandably, most of us do not want to see others suffer.  What is so important, however, is a proper understanding of suffering and compassion.  While access to a bathroom or the promise of expanded rights may seem to assuage the pain, what is evident from the research is that the suffering continues, even when societal acceptance is offered.

True compassion is shown when the struggles of another are recognized for what they are, and the person’s inherent dignity is recognized as well.  Reason tells us that a person’s sex is determined by biology, and his or her orientation is naturally towards the opposite sex.  While we all know good men and women whose feelings may suggest to them otherwise, our most loving response is to acknowledge their suffering, and accompany them along a path, however difficult, which offers the hope of true healing.  To celebrate and encourage their misdirection may be simpler, and may even make us feel better, but it is not only counterproductive and dangerous, it is unjust.

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Frank J. Moncher