'The Madness of Crowds'
Twenty years before Jesmond Parish Church was founded, a best selling book was published in 1841 with the title, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It was reprinted as recently as 2006. The following original preface by the author, Charles Mackay (1814-1889) contained these words:
"The object of the author in the following pages has been to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes."
The book came to mind when at the end of last month (18 July 2016) The Times newspaper had a headline: "Address your transgender pupils as 'zie', teachers are told." There was then the following report:
"Boarding school teachers should describe transgender pupils as 'zie' to avoid offence, according to guidance. It aims to help teachers deal sensitively with pupils who identify as another gender or as neither. Staff have been told to learn a new vocabulary for pupils who do not want to be addressed as 'he' or 'she'. The new words and phrases include 'genderqueer' (someone who identifies as neither male or female) and 'pansexual' (someone attracted to men, women and transgender people). Schools are also being told that they should display an equality pledge for all visitors to read and sign. Some have introduced gender-neutral uniforms, including Brighton College in the private sector and about 80 state schools."
Peter Mullen, commenting on this in the Church of England Newspaper, wrote: "There is a technical word to describe these innovations and the word is 'barmy'. There is another word, less amusing but more accurate, and it is 'decadence'."
The Christian World View relating to what is male and female comes from the Bible and the first chapter of Genesis as endorsed by Jesus. This is in line with common sense, scientific fact and human language (as you would expect if the Bible does reveal truth). Genesis 1.27 says that in the beginning "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
So human beings are fundamentally of two kinds (a word used is 'di-morphic') - either you are of the male sex or the female sex. Yes, the way of being male or being female is di-polar: that is to say there are two poles, a masculine one and a feminine one, between which people can behave as males and females, or, as we say, be masculine or feminine. That is why, properly, your sex is male or female, while your gender is masculine or feminine. The terms 'sex' and 'gender' are often used loosely, but the reality is this: you never can be more male or more female than the day you were conceived. Oliver O'Donovan expresses it well:
"It is sometimes suggested that the understanding of human sexuality as di-morphic is outdated by modern medical discoveries, and that it would be more true to think of sex as di-polar … Here we touch upon a question of central importance for the discussion of transsexualism, the relation between the psychological [or sociological] analysis of sexuality in terms of behaviour patterns and the biological analysis in terms of chromosomal, gonadal and genital structure. The case can certainly be made at the psychological [or sociological] level for a di-polar opposition rather than a di-morphic one. It can, that is, be argued that masculinity and femininity are matters of relatively more or less rather than either-or. But it is generally well known that the starting point for basic di-morphic differentiation is already present at the conception of a child in the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, the effect of which is to differentiate the development of the male from the female gonadal structure with which all embryos begin."
Whatever modern science can do, it cannot turn XY chromosomes into XX or vice-versa. Modern medical science can help where there are instances of genuine biological malfunction resulting in an ambiguous intersex condition. But in the case of modern (so called) 'transsexuals' it is dealing with biological healthy individuals who have psychological problems.
Dr Paul McHugh
Dr Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, is adamant that transgenderism or transsexualism is a "mental disorder" that merits treatment as such and that "sex change" is "biologically impossible". So people promoting sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating in promoting a mental disorder. McHugh writes:
"The transgendered suffer a disorder of 'assumption' like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature – namely one's maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight."
He then discusses "body dysmorphic disorder" where the assumption is "I'm ugly". With all such disorders, he says, the sufferers believe that their problems will be resolved if they change the way they appear to others. And …
" … such ideas work like ruling passions in their … minds and tend to be accompanied by a solipsistic [totally based on oneself] argument. For the transgendered, this argument holds that one's feeling of 'gender' is a conscious, subjective sense that, being in one's mind, cannot be questioned by others. The individual often seeks not just society's tolerance of this 'personal truth' but affirmation of it. Here rests the support for 'transgender equality', the demands for government payment for medical and surgical treatments, and for access to all sex-based public roles and privileges [such as use of opposite sex toilets, sporting classification and marriage]."
But this "affirmation" is resulting in child abuse, for McHugh goes on:
"With this argument, advocates for the transgendered have persuaded several states – including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts – to pass laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor. That government can intrude into parents' rights to seek help in guiding their children indicates how powerful these advocates have become."
MGM – male genital mutilation ceases - (at Johns Hopkins)
Certainly there are many problems following attempts at medical sex-reassignment with the warning lights coming from the fact that most children who report transgender feelings spontaneously lose those feelings, without medical or surgical treatment. With regard to the problems of surgical treatment, the history of Johns Hopkins University is instructive as McHugh explains:
"We at Johns Hopkins University – which in the 1960s was the first American medical centre to venture into "sex-reassignment surgery" – launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as 'satsified' by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex reassignment surgery, since producing a 'satisfied' but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs. It now appears that our long-ago decision was a wise one."
The reason is this: a 2011 longitudinal (30 year) Swedish study revealed that 10 years after surgery, "the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable non-transgender population." McHugh also mentions the problems relating to requests for "reassignment" especially from, one, male prisoners who, facing long-term sentences, want the easier treatment women receive; two, young men and women susceptible to suggestion from "everything is normal" sex education, internet chat groups and "diversity" counselors in schools, who "rather like cult leaders, may encourage these young people to distance themselves from their families and offer advice on rebutting arguments against having transgender surgery"; and, then, three, the very young – this again is abusive; these are …
"… often prepubescent children who notice distinct sex roles in the culture and, exploring how they fit in, begin imitating the opposite sex. Misguided doctors at medical centres including Boston's Children's Hospital have begun trying to treat this behavior by administering puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous – even though the drugs stunt the children's growth and risk causing sterility."
The immorality of transgendering?
How is it that we now have got to this state of affairs where treatment and surgery is inhumanely producing feminized men and masculinized women, as real sex change is impossible; and that so many say is not only foolish but morally wrong? Of course, even if there were genetic factors, it would not be a justification. It would be like alcoholism where, it is argued, there can be a genetic link. But as with alcoholism you do not want to affirm or enable the problem, but work for a cure – by helping the individual make wise choices. Morally speaking a person may well not be culpable for having a condition of what is now called "gender dysphoria" (better the old "gender identity disorder"). In the same way you may well not be culpable for a temptation to adultery or same-sex sex. But you are responsible for your response to the temptation. And wrong choices made in response to desires may well incrementally strengthen those same desires and so make them harder to resist.
Certainly medical and surgical transgendering is wrong because it is an intervention not to ensure bodily health but to further mental disorder and so contrary to mainstream medical ethics. Then there is the Gnostic error of saying your body, a good gift from God, is "bad" and not good for you; and saying that the real you is your mind that knows what is right - so you are denying the real created person God made you that has, and is, both a mind and a body. Then there is the biblical condemnation of intentional cross dressing as "an abomination to the Lord your God" in Deuteronomy 22.5. Also there is Paul's inclusion of 'malakoi' or 'soft men' in the offender list of 1 Corinthians 6.9-10. These persons can be passive partners in homosexual acts or as the New Testament scholar, Robert Gagnon, says:
"men who attempt to become women (through dress, mannerisms, makeup, and sometimes castration), often to attract male sex partners. The fact that Paul includes such persons among those who 'shall not inherit the kingdom of God' suggests that acting on a desire to become the opposite sex can in fact affect one's redemption."
Reflection on such a person in the Church of today leads Gagnon to write:
"What will be the effect of encouraging church members to address persons with gender identity disorder as the sex they are not? What will be the result of requiring them to accept whatever manner of transgender display of appearance offenders deem essential to their well-being? For some it will mean silencing a conscience correctly informed by Scripture and science. For others it will cause confusion about sex and gender already promoted in the world, undermining the church's resistance to the bonds of sin."
The increase of sexual sinfulness and not speaking out
Sadly, 21st century Christians, for a range of reasons, do not want to be heard denouncing sexual sins and homosexual and transgender sin in particular. The editorial in the Church of England Newspaper next to Peter Mullen's comments on transgenderism, began like this (under the headline Society needs the truth and reality of Christianity): "Is the Church of England exhausting its energies on inward wrangling about sex when society is desperately in need of the basic Christian message and practice and hope and purpose?"
But real Christianity begins with a call to repentance, trust and obedience to God for the good of society now and for a positive and wonderful eternal destiny for the future. Of course, that needs the Holy Spirit's work, but once someone is penitent and truly trusting in Christ, idols need to be destroyed that take the place of God and sexual morals need to be made pure to ensure healthy families, the building blocks of any and every society. And so, if impure sexual morals are being advocated in the Church (as seems to be happening), there will be "wrangling", and necessarily so, if there is no disciplining of, or repentance by, the immoral and their advocates. As for all sin, sexual and non-sexual, there is forgiveness through the Cross of Christ, but that is conditional on confession of the reality of one's sin.
Of course, Christians must love the hurting, but compassion does not mean passivity, but a desire practically to help. That great Old Testament verse that Jesus highlighted (Leviticus 19.18),
"you shall love your neighbour as yourself",
is, on the one hand, preceded by verse 17 that says when you have a problem with your neighbour,
"you shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him".
When he is doing or saying what is wrong, you are to try, reasonably, to correct him, if you really care for him. On the other hand, Leviticus 19.18 is sandwiched between the two main verses in the Old Testament that condemn male same sex relations as "an abomination" (Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13)!
Today too many Christians are paralysed by a theology of "God doesn't want what you have done, but I am going to accept the situation". But in this particular case of the transgendering this means encouraging a false identity when you knowingly call a "him", a "her"; and it is a false identity which many transgendered subsequently regret and try to reverse. Also that acceptance may undermine others who are gradually getting the victory over their wrong desires for positively transgendering.
Of course, God alone can make a judgment regarding another person's responsibility for wrong. Nor is that person necessarily willfully rejecting God - there are sins of ignorance. But we can say objectively that certain words spoken, or deeds done, are wrong. Also, and importantly, in the case of transsexualism we need to keep in mind the hurts of the innocent who are being damaged by those who are gender identity disordered.
For example, Denise Schick, director of Help 4 Families Ministry, writes about her adolescence with a father obsessed with becoming a woman (a sick man and in no way to be affirmed):
"As an adolescent, I had to be careful about how I dressed. I always had to ask myself how he would react to my outfit. Would it make him so envious that he'd 'borrow' it (without my consent, of course)? I began to hate my body. It was a constant reminder of what my father wanted to become. When I began to wear makeup, I had to block out the images I had of him applying makeup or eye shadow or lipstick. He was destroying my desire to become a woman."
And on her wedding day she says: "my dad and I were alone at the end of the hall, waiting to walk down the aisle. He looked at me in the eye and said, 'I wish it were me in that dress.'" She survived the day, she said, "knowing I was about to escape my father's terrible influences."
Conclusion – wisdom and encouragement
In transsexualism we are talking about temptation – true temptation for very few, but very real. (Mark Yarhouse in 2015 reported the number of people who visited transgender clinics in the USA as 0.005 to 0.014 percent of men and 0.002 to 0.003 percent of women.)
Great wisdom regarding temptation is found in the epistle of James 1.13-15:
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. The desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."
Great encouragement regarding temptation is found in 1 Corinthians 10.12-13:
"Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed that he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."