January 18, 2017

Transgender ideology

Covers: Canada edition (left), U.S. edition (right)
APOLOGIA
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, January 19, 2017

Transgender ideology

The January 2017 “Gender Revolution” edition of National Geographic magazine signals a popular embrace of transgender ideology. Popular or not, I have concerns.

First, a couple clarifications.

Clarification 1. All people, including people who identify as transgender, deserve respect, compassion, plus protection from bullying and violence.

Clarification 2. To identify as transgender is to feel one's personal/ gender identity does not correspond or fit with one's birth sex (i.e., the sex allegedly “assigned” at birth). Transgender ideology says such feelings are true, good, and should be expressed.

Here are four concerns.

Concern 1. Faulty immunity from criticism.

Many persons dismiss criticisms of transgender identity merely because the critics are alleged to be “transphobic.” But such a dismissal commits the ad hominem fallacy (i.e., the mistake of attacking the arguer instead of his/her arguments, when doing so is not relevant).

Criticisms should be accepted or rejected because of the criticisms' merits or lack thereof, respectively, not because of the critic's personal idiosyncrasies.

Concern 2. Absurd implications due to elevating feelings over fact.

Reason carefully used with evidence should put a check on feelings that are sometimes out of touch with reality. Remember anorexia nervosa, the disorder in which a person feels overweight when in fact isn't, so diets to a dangerous extreme? Here reason shows feelings, though sincerely held, can be untrue.

But now, for many, feelings are trump. Consider Bruce (“Caitlyn”) Jenner. He is a man who feels he is a woman and so has had plastic surgery to “feminize” his face and throat, has taken hormones to grow breasts, and may undergo genital surgery to remove his testicles plus use his penis to construct a “vagina.” But he isn't a woman. In view of the dangers with sex change (in transgender-friendly Sweden the rate of suicide for those who have sex-change surgery is 20 times greater than normal), isn't this like offering liposuction to someone with anorexia?

Significantly, if my feelings about myself are sufficient justification for my identity, why stop at transgender (e.g., a man identifying as a woman)? Why not trans-age (an adult identifying as a child)? Why not trans-species (a human identifying as a dog or cat or dragon)?

Upshot: Feeling as a sufficient guide to reality reduces to the absurd.

Concern 3. Moral incoherence.

Ethicist Andrew T. Walker and Bible professor Denny Burk astutely critique National Geographic’s feature article (written by pro-transgender journalist Robin Marantz Henig) as follows:

“The final page of Henig’s article celebrates the mutilation of minor children with a full-page picture of a shirtless 17-year old girl who recently underwent a double mastectomy in order to ‘transition’ to being a boy. Why do transgender ideologues consider it harmful to attempt to change such a child’s mind but consider it progress to display her bare, mutilated chest for a cover story? Transgender ideologues like Henig never address this ethical contradiction at the heart of their paradigm.”

Walker and Burk continue: “Why is it acceptable to surgically alter a child’s body to match his sense of self but bigoted to try to change his sense of self to match his body? If it is wrong to attempt to change a child’s gender identity (because it is fixed and meddling with it is harmful), then why is it morally acceptable to alter something as fixed as the reproductive anatomy of a minor? The moral inconsistency here is plain.”

Concern 4. Non-permanence of transgender identity.

It turns out that a child’s transgender identity isn’t fixed. According to psychiatrists Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh, there is “little evidence that gender identity issues have a high rate of persistence in children.”

Walker and Burk add: “In fact, about 80 percent of children who experience transgender feelings completely resolve their difficulties without any intervention after they reach puberty.”

Dear parents/ responsible adults: For our children’s sake, don’t be duped by transgender ideology.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

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