Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pillar To Post On Transgenderism

If you read Paul McHugh here and Fr. Robert Barron here ,you go from a medical to a theological perspective on the subject of transgenderism, and there's not much ground left on which to build any kind of rationale for what the Bruce Jenners of the world have done to themselves. Unless, of course, one persists with the kind of thinking described in this article.  Finally, enter a philosopher, here, to discuss gender identity.

McHugh, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University which led the way in sex change operations, lays it out pretty clearly.  Sex change operations haven't been performed at Johns Hopkins since the 70s; no benefits have been shown and in fact the suicide rate and psychological problems increased among those who had undergone the operation.  Gender dysphoria, explains Dr. McHugh, is a psychological problem akin to anorexia nervosa   Using the Emperor-Has-No-Clothes approach, McHugh deftly explains the dishonesty and deception that leads anyone in our society (but most tragically young people who become persuaded to undergo transgender "treatments") to believe that changing their body will cure their dysphoria.  Dr. McHugh writes:  "Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future."

Enter Fr. Barron who refers us to Gnosticism, that heresy which says that matter is evil, that our physical bodies are an encumbrance, that a secret knowledge, gnosis, will set our souls free from the material world which imprisons us.  Fr. Barron points out the similarities to the transgender cry--I'm really a man (or woman) "trapped" inside a physical body which, if I change it, will set the man (or woman) inside me free.  Fr. Barron writes, .". . . the gnostic heresy has proven remarkably durable, reasserting itself across the centuries. Its most distinctive mark is precisely the denigration of matter and the tendency to set the spirit and the body in an antagonistic relationship. This is why many thinkers have identified the anthropology of René Descartes, which has radically influenced modern and contemporary attitudes, as neo-gnostic. Descartes famously drove a wedge between spirit and matter, or in his language, between the res cogitans (thinking thing) and the res extensa (thing extended in space)."

He concludes, "Until we realize that the lionization of Caitlyn Jenner amounts to an embracing of Gnosticism, we haven’t grasped the nettle of the issue."

As for what the Church teaches, we are to believe in neither Cartesian dualism nor Gnostic heresies but in the body and soul as inseparable parts of our humanity.  Extrapolating from what Dr. McHugh says, science, that is, the natural world, and the Church bring us to the same spot.  We are created male and female and any unrest some individual may feel with his or her physical body doesn't mean that God made a mistake.  It means that individual needs some help.

It seemed to me this quartet of articles on gender and sexuality complemented one another and enlightened in a helpful way.  These thoughts are a mere skating on the surface of the topic.

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