Thursday June 29th: Yuh Promise?
June 29, 2023
Left on the shelf
June 29, 2023

Male or Female – the body doesn’t lie

Q: Archbishop J, can a man become a woman?

This is a hotly charged issue, so let us begin by affirming that the Catholic approach calls for a meeting of mercy and truth (Ps 85:10). Not mercy alone or truth alone, but both together embracing.

Each person has an innate dignity that cannot be taken away, regardless of the person’s choices. Each is loved by God and should be treated with love and respect by all of us.

In answering the question, I want this principle to be central. It is our beginning and our foundation.

Male and Female

Maybe the best way to begin is by a series of questions: Can a person change her race? Can an elephant become a lion? Can an old man become an 8-year-old girl? Can you become a fish?

Here we are delving into what is at the core of our understanding of humanity. Let us take the extreme case of a boy with genuine gender dysphoria. He genuinely believes that his gender is different from his biological sex. He believes he is a girl. For him this is a matter of truth, his truth. Let us say, by way of all modern medicine allows, he transitions to a girl. Does he in fact become a girl?

This is important.

Dr Abigale Favale, in her book The Genesis of Gender, makes the point: “A man who claims to be a woman is woman in language only” (141). In a post-modernist world, she explains, that is enough, “because all of reality, all of what is considered ‘true’, is linguistically constructed”.

This means that a person chooses his or her identity and declares it, then others must accept that declaration and change their language to support the person’s self-declaration, so there is the appearance of legitimacy to the claim.

She concludes: “If gender ideology only exists in language, our language must be manipulated, or else the whole thing falls apart. That is what is at stake in the battle over pronouns: our understanding of reality itself” (141).

Favale states: “the linguistic reshaping of reality is working its way into law”. This is why the pronouns are so important. Why teachers and parents have been brought to court because they refuse to use them.

In his Evangelii Guadium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis gives us four rules for building a people of peace. The third rule is: “Realities are more important than ideas” (231).

The biological reality of the young man is more important than his idea that he is really a girl. But the reality of God’s love for him as a person of worth, loved by God, means that we accompany, we listen, we love. It also means we speak the truth.

Gender Ideology

It has become a recent fad to propose the separation of sex and gender. Sex is biological and according to the latest fad, gender is only a social construct. This separation is the beginning of the real challenge.

Many elements of masculinity and femininity are socially constructed. The expectations of African women are very different from the norms of East Indian or French women. But what the new theories, or rather ideologies disregard is a neuroscience perspective which demonstrates that boys’ and girls’ brains develop differently.

In a Vatican document “Male and Female He Created Them”, the authors say:

In this cultural context, it is clear that sex and gender are no longer synonyms or interchangeable concepts, since they are used to describe two different realities. Sex is seen as defining which of the two biological categories (deriving from the original feminine-masculine dyad) one belonged to. Gender, on the other hand, would be the way in which the differences between the sexes are lived in each culture. The problem here does not lie in the distinction between the two terms, which can be interpreted correctly, but in the separation of sex from gender. This separation is at the root of the distinctions proposed between various “sexual orientations” which are no longer defined by the sexual difference between male and female, and can then assume other forms, determined solely by the individual, who is seen as radically autonomous. Further, the concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person (transgenderism) (11).

The separation of sex and gender has created a major challenge for individuals, families, and society. Matt Walsh’s documentary What Is a Woman? (2022) demonstrates the challenge.

The scientist, psychologist, professors, etc., could not answer the simple question—what is a woman? They did not dare to define a woman by her biology, so they became unintelligible and often got angry at him in the interview.

Gender ideology is harmful to society, to children, to families. In some countries, if a child wants to transition, the child does not need parental permission.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently reversed this and said to schools, parents need to give permission and the school needs to determine the impact on other students. Good sense is prevailing again.

In the UK, in the past decade, there has been a 4,400 per cent increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment.

Chromosomes

We also know the biology. People are either xy or xx chromosomes, male or female. Even with puberty blockers the body does not transition. It remains the body of the male xy or female xx and that cannot change.

Yes, I know of the phenomena of intersex which more precisely, medically may be referred to as “disorders of sexual development” or “congenital conditions of sexual development” (Favale)—(xxy or xo chromosomes).

These are not a third sex; they are people whose chromosomal development was not like the rest. They account for between .5 and 1.3 of a population.

This is not a foundation for transgenderism, it is a birth defect that is very traumatic for those who grow up and live in this condition.

In chapter 19 of St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus makes two statements — “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’” (Mt 19:4–5).

Later, in v 12, he says: “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus accepted both that God made them male and female for marriage and also that “some eunuchs were born that way”. Jesus did not take the anomaly and make it normative for the majority. He treated both with equal dignity.

We need to care for all God’s people. But society is waking up to realise that something has gone very wrong. A boy cannot become a girl, or a girl a boy. If they attempt this their body is still male or female in its core structure. What is at stake is the very understanding of what it is to be human.

Mark Regnerus, a professor of sociology has raised the alarm. He says: “In 11 short years, LGBTQ identification among young Americans tripled” (Public Discourse June 25, 2023).

This needs to be a key pastoral consideration for our youth ministry. In T&T schools this has exploded in a way that principals and teachers are unprepared for. These are our children, and they need help, love, and care. To propose transitioning is not love or care. We need to accompany, listen, and speak truth.

This is not an either-or proposition. The world is shifting. Science is giving us better insights. But it is also opening far more options and, thus, confusion while we journey together as a community of inclusivity and dialogue.

 

Key Message:

Declaring something with language does not make it real.

Action Step:

Look at your feelings and emotions about this topic. Are you leaning more to mercy or to truth? Ask God to help you hold both.

Scripture Reading:

Ps 85:10; Matt 19:3–6, 10–12