It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post, but a lot of people have asked me lately what my thoughts are on a particular issue that is dominating our media-sphere. Specifically, I’m referring to the matter of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, and more generally, to transgenderism as a whole. This is an issue which needs to be approached with tact, mercy, and generosity because of the emotional and societal implications it carries for those affected. So, as is customary for Internet dungeon-goblins like myself, I’ll proceed to plow through it with all the grace of an Internet bull in an Internet china shop.
|Or an Internet Liam Neeson in an Internet generic European neighborhood.
Picture from independent.co.uk
There are three major questions that we have to ask about these kinds of things:
1. What is it?
2. What are the moral or theological concerns?
3. Knowing these concerns, what do we do about it?
Unfortunately, it seems like the vast majority of the people who are weighing in on all sides of the transgender issue have failed to answer (or even ask) one or more of these questions. One blog post covering all of these at once would be far too long, so I intend to write three – one for each question. Please excuse the length of each individual post as well. Ideas such as these are beyond my ability to write both completely and concisely. St. Josemaria Escriva I am not.
So, on to question 1.
What is transgenderism?
The one thing that everyone seems to understand in common about transgenderism is its basic definition, which is stated very nicely and succinctly on the American Psychological Association‘s website: “Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.” Okay, so your gender doesn’t match up with your sex. Easy definition, and one we can work with in practical terms. But before we can do that, we have to ask some follow-up questions: What do we mean by “gender” and “sex?” We can’t just move on without knowing what we’re talking about here.
The APA actually spells this out pretty specifically in the FAQ section of that same page: “Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways that people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.”
Picture from http://theinfosphere.org.
There is a corpus of Catholic teaching called the Theology of the Body that deals with this concept in great depth and detail. This post will already be long enough without going through all the ins and outs of the Theology of the Body (which has filled many books by many more intelligent men than I), but if you want more on that, click here for some reading material that explains it much more fully. I may just have to write another post specifically detailing what I mean about that “giver and receiver” relationship.
|God bless Texas.
Picture from ilovethispic.com
|Which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
Picture from Wikipedia.
Does this mean that transgenderism and homosexuality are non-existent, or non-issues? No. But it does dramatically re-frame the issue and refocus it on a different approach to one’s own humanity. Instead of asking, “Why do I feel like a girl even though I look like a boy?”, a person struggling with this situation can, with prayer, guidance, and the love of others, come to view themselves in a different light. “I am who I am. I have this body and this mind and this heart that God gave me. What is the plan He has in store for me? What will He use me to accomplish?” I’m not saying this isn’t going to be a hard road – it’s hard enough to wrestle with God’s plan if you aren’t GLBT – but it’s the question everyone has to ask themselves, and it’s much healthier when we don’t try to do violence to our own bodies or minds, when we don’t try to reshape ourselves into who we think we should be rather than who God wants us to be.