Transgenderism – How’d We Get Here?
When I was in the seminary, I remember my spiritual director, Fr. Patrick Brannan, S.J., telling me a story of a young Jesuit scholastic being reamed by the Dean of Men for “acting in an overtly effeminate manner.” Fr. Brannan just happened to be walking by the Dean’s office with another scholastic when they overheard these words:
Act like a man! Men don’t act like that!
That was 1950. That was when our culture had common sense enough to collectively know the biological fact expressed in Gen. 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
When it comes to the new craze of “transgenderism,” I don’t think I am alone in wondering, “How in the world did we get here?” Especially in our modern age that is supposed to be rationalistic and scientific, we have come to a place where sober human beings— scientifically and verifiably “male” or “female,” mind you—are “identifying” as the opposite sex “science” is able to demonstrate them to be?
And that’s not all, folks!
When young “Harry” decides he is going to become “Sally” anyone daring to attempt to bring Harry to his senses and to accept his God-given gift of maleness is not heralded as being a messenger of truth and mercy; rather, he is demonized as the worst and most hateful villain!
And when you consider both the celerity with which this phenomenon has swept our nation and world and the readiness of the minds of so many millions of people to just accept this that even on the surface seems patently absurd should cause all of us to ask the questions of “how” and “why?”
And I suppose the answer on the most basic level is as old as original sin, but to bring things to a bit more specificity than just that, I am going to argue we happen to be living in the center of a perfect storm caused by the joining of multiple large storms into a super storm of heretofore unthinkable proportions.
Storm #1 – The Rejection of God
Psalm 53:1 (and 14:1) declares in no uncertain terms: “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” As a culture, in the United States of America and in the Western world, we have largely become fools. We have either outright rejected God altogether or we have reduced God to a force “out there somewhere” who, if he exists, really doesn’t give two hoots about what we do down here on this tiny blue dot. So if he does exist, we live as if he doesn’t, which is essentially a distinction with little if any real difference.
St. Paul tells us very plainly what happens when individuals, peoples, or nations reject God as such in Romans 1:21-
… for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine famously said: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Profound is truly an understatement!
We humans are made to worship God. Our intellects are ordered toward knowing the ultimate truth, which is God. Our wills are ordered toward choosing the ultimate good, which is God. If we do not choose to worship God, rest assured, we will worship someone, or something. It may be money, sex, power, prestige, or a hundred other things, but we will worship something. But ultimately, whatever we worship that is not God becomes a sacramental sign of the fact that we have been reduced to tomfoolery.
And so we have.
Storm #2 – The Reduction of Human Beings
CCC 2354 gives us an excellent definition of pornography:
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic
The Church quite rightly declares here that in pornography we have a radical reduction of human beings to the level of sexual objects—and this is mostly women being reduced to objects to be used and abused by men, though today, there is an alarming increase of the reduction of men as well. But the truth is: once one reduces another human being to the level of an object there is no end to the evils that will most assuredly follow.
This reducing of human beings leads to all manner of evil from contraception, abortion, euthanasia, to physician-assisted suicide, the “use” of pre-born babies for experimentation, and much more. The common denominator here is each of these sins reduces human beings to something less than who they are: men and women created in the image and likeness of God with an immeasurable dignity.
You may ask, how does this lead to these other evils? It is easy to see with pornography. But let’s consider contraception. The purpose of the conjugal act is both unitive and procreative. That is, it aids in bringing about the intimate union and mutual perfection of the spouses in marriage as well as the propagation of the species. If either of these ends is purposely thwarted, that act becomes gravely disordered.
Pope St. Paul VI gives us insight into the nature of the “disorder” that arises in contraception, and specifically in relation to “the pill,’ in his seminal Encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae. He describes one aspect of the evil of contraception as essentially reducing women to the level of sexual object even in the context of marriage. It does not respect the woman as an integral whole. It reduces her to something less than what she is—“reduce[d]… to being a mere instrument for [the husband’s] own desires…” (HV, 17). And worse, this reductionism leads to what Pope St. John Paul II called “the culture of death.” It’s a mentality that says we can and must eliminate anything—or anyone—that stands in the way of our being able to fulfill our own desires for pleasure—and whenever we want to! Without respect for God’s will, God’s plan, or the dignity of the other person or persons involved. So what happens when a baby “accidentally” comes along? Let’s get rid of it!
This mentality leads to all sorts of inane justifications. “I am only thinking of the baby. I am not ready to raise a child!” Isn’t it amazing how people can kill an innocent human being and then say, “It was for his own good! Really it was!”
More commonly, the person considering abortion disassociates what is commonly referred to as “the product of conception” from “a baby” at all. “The baby” is so radically objectified to the point of considering him to be just so much “biological matter” in the womb. The truth is, millions of babies have been and are being slaughtered for the simple reason that they are an inconvenience. This reductionist mentality has not only led to the demise of well-over 60 million babies in the US alone since 1973, but, it has led to all manner of immorality. Euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, physician-assisted suicide, infanticide, and much more. All of these sins have at their foundation a reduction of human beings to the level of object in order to justify all manner of immorality and outright barbarism.
With God out of the picture, and man reduced to a mere object, mankind had very little protection against a third storm that would both combine the energy of the first two and add its own to produce a force that has proven devastating to our world in ways that would have seemed unthinkable just a decade or two before.
Storm #3: Reduced to an Inclination
In our modern times, we have witnessed this reductionism about which we have spoken morph in a particularly odd as well as dangerous way. This third storm? Our culture has now reduced human beings not just to the level of an object, but even more to the level of an inclination. And why not? Once a human being is reduced to something less than what he is, there is no end to the absurdities… and tragedies… that will follow.
Interestingly, the root of this rather odd phenomenon can be traced back before porn-mania to the creation of the term and notion of “heterosexual” in the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, I would make the argument that its roots may well have contributed, in a way, to all of the moral evils mentioned above.
How so, you ask?
In an intriguing article in “First Things” back in 2014, Michael Hannon recounts how the term “heterosexual” was first created with a somewhat noble purpose. Having jettisoned natural law arguments as far too archaic, and… well… Christian, psychologists had to come up with language beyond “yuck” to communicate the defective nature of homosexual acts. Enter the term “heterosexual,” which, Hannon points out, was created in the 1860’s and first written down in the English language, as far as we know, in 1892. “Heterosexual” referred to the “normal” inclination that men are “supposed” to have toward women and vice versa. “Homosexual” was then created as its immoral opposite. The problem was, there was no longer a coherent “why” to undergird the condemnation. There is no God, of course, in the post-Christian mindset. The sexual faculty no longer has a God-ordained purpose the thwarting of which being always immoral without exception.
So, why would “homosexual” acts be deemed wrong? Notwithstanding the new terms created, the only answer? Yuck!
Thus, psychologists, it seems unwittingly, introduced to our culture the notion of reducing human beings to the level of an inclination. And there would be literally no end to the immorality that would follow. Even today, there is no end in sight. After all, an “heterosexual” inclination is just as much an inclination as is a “homosexual” inclination, it would be argued. I mean, you like peas, I like carrots, right?
Our culture had fallen from the basic understanding of “male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27) complete with sexual faculties ordered toward one another, male to female—female to male—to the old B.T. Express song:
Go on and do it
Do it, do it ’til you’re satisfied
(Whatever it is)
Do it, do it ’til you’re satisfied
Inclinations—virtually any inclinations beyond perhaps offending the day’s protected class—would eventually not only be deemed morally equivalent, but this odd approach to morality led to human beings becoming identified with whatever his inclination may be. As a result, it has become common parlance to say if you have a preponderance of heterosexual tendencies you are heterosexual. If you have a preponderance of homosexual tendencies you are homosexual. And then there’s “bisexual.” This person has inclinations in both directions. And now the list of inclinations/identifications seems to grow by the day.
Your identity is determined by inclinations? Really? Can anyone calculate how many inclinations he has had or will have in a lifetime? It is no wonder this notion has led us not just to a “LGBT” movement, i.e. the “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual” movement, but we have now reached somewhere in the vicinity of 16 letters to the acronym: “LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA” and climbing!
Forgive me if I left one or two out. It has been a few days since I’ve surfed the net on this!
Return to Sanity
I’ve got an idea. And it’s really kind of simple. Will you join with me and refuse to either be identified or identify any human being as an inclination? And be bold about it! Let us together determine that we will no longer identify ourselves or any human person to be a “heterosexual.” No human being is a “homosexual.” Indeed, let’s join together and proclaim the truth that no human being can be reduced to any one or more of these 16 letters, or whatever the number of letters ends up being—that represent various inclinations, or impulses. Each human person who has ever or will ever exist is created, as Gen. 1:27 says:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Our inclinations and impulses will come and go. My word! I know if I acted on every impulse I’ve felt in my life, I would be in prison or worse today! No, folks! A male must act like a male not because he feels like it; rather, because that is who he is. A female must act like a female because that is who she is. Inclinations be damned! To reduce a human being to the level of whatever inclination he may be feeling this week, month, or year, is nothing less than an outrage! A man is immeasurably more than his inclinations.
So what do we do when impulses or inclinations come that are contrary to our created nature, as they inevitably will, given our fallen state? If one is a woman, act like a woman! If we are men, in the words of that unnamed, God-blessed Jesuit Dean of Men, “Act like a man!”