First off, l should be clear: I’m not an expert. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not well read in the topic of gender issues.
I have to admit that the whole issue causes me more bewilderment than anything else. Gender confusion confuses me.
Picking my way through the maze of these current issues and avoiding the minefield of politically correct booby traps is a trip I don’t care to make.
In this post if I use the wrong terminology, get confused over trans-woman, trans female, trans male, trans man, cisgender, queer, gay, lesbian, queer acting, transvestitism, etc. Forgive me. I made a mistake. It’s not really my area of expertise.
So cut me a break. I don’t expect you to know the difference between a flagellum and a flabellum or why an Archdeacon is lower than an Archbishop.
Anything I write here is my personal opinion, and as I am not an expert if I say something stupid or wrong I’m willing to be corrected. While I’m open to learn more in my special area of ignorance, I’m don’t have the time for long discussions and I really don’t have the time to argue with anyone.
However, I wrote a post noticing the androgynous characteristics of the Baphomet statue unveiled in Detroit and wondered whether Old Nick was part of the destruction of male and female in our society.
Take a deep breath. No, I was not saying transgender people are demon possessed.
Find where you left your thicker skin. I was not blaming everything on the devil.
I’ll be up front. I’m a Catholic priest. It’s my job to welcome everyone and anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I do so as much as I can without judgement or bias. Everybody is created in God’s image and has huge potential. If a person is transgender they have a story which is probably as complex as anybody else’s. They also have an eternal destiny as great an anyone else’s.
However, everybody is also a sinner like me, and each of us is on an adventure to become all God created us to be.
That being said, I was asked to offer my reflection on the issue of gender identity. These are a few thoughts, and I don’t for a minute suggest that it’s the last word on the matter.
If you disagree with what I say you don’t have to take it personally. I’m not blaming anybody in particular. Most of the comments are about society in general and trends in our way of thinking. These might be some of the causes. There are probably more I haven’t seen.
First of all, I think the present situation with widespread gender confusion is very complex. I don’t think there is any one cause. Instead it seems to me that the condition has many different contributing factors.
First of all, human sexual identity is something which is both biological and cultural. Its a combination of nature and nurture. Therefore, the way a child is brought up, and the culture he or she lives in is as important as the way he or she is born.
Are there a few very rare individuals who are “born in the wrong body”? It would seem so. Sometimes the gestation of the child goes haywire and the biology doesn’t match the psychology. I understand these cases are extremely rare. The present wave of “gender dysphoria” would seem to be caused by something else.
However, the origins of our sexual urges are buried very deeply within our person. They spring from way down deep. They come from areas of our being that most of us do not understand, nor do we have access to that area of our person. Sexuality pushes out from the sub linguistic level of who we are. It is so deep and so mysterious that we feel it is something beyond our choice and deeper than our awareness. It feels like we were “born that way”. Well maybe, or maybe not.
Instead I think, for most people, the urges, the confusion, the obsessions and instincts are formed in a multitudinous and complex way.
What could it be? A variety and combination of factors I expect.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Breakdown of the family – traditional gender roles are supported and developed by strong and positive relationships with the mother and father. At crucial times of development a boy’s development into a man is strengthened by his bond with his mother and then his bond with the father. Same thing with girls. A girl grows into womanhood through a strong positive model in her mother and a strong loving relationship with the father. When the marriage and family break down the chance for that positive experience can get twisted or go missing. The child’s ability to be sexually secure becomes shaky.
2. Disappearance of the extended family – traditional gender roles were also supported by an extended family culture which invisibly taught girls how to be women and boys how to be men. In extended family gatherings the women got together, cooked, chatted, supported one another and the girls saw that, wanted to belong to that and learned by daily living what it was to be a woman. Likewise, the boys were taken into the extended male gang with brothers, fathers, cousins, uncles and grandfathers. They learned there what it meant to belong to that clan and what it meant to be a man in that clan. With the disappearance of the extended family that support for gender clarity evaporated.
3. Feminism and Homosexualism – By these terms I am not condemning people who experience same sex attraction and I am not against equal pay and rights for women in the workplace. Instead I am referring to ideologies and behaviors which have intentionally altered traditional role models for boys and girls. If a child is surrounded by various expressions of sexual identity no wonder he or she becomes confused. The girl wonders, “Am I supposed to be a Suzy Homemaker or a career woman?” If boys and girls are taught a range of sexual behaviors and identities, and if they live with a range of varied behaviors it is no wonder that they are confused about which one they should be.
4. Rape and Promiscuity – Sexual promiscuity is rampant in our society. Children are sexualized at as early an age as possible. Middle school children are expected to be sexually active. In such a culture girls are often raped or date raped. Boys are preyed upon by older women and by older boys and men. For a child whose sexuality is still developing the experience is terrifying and confusing. If a girl is raped or goes through a series of one night stands with boys who don’t care for her what happens to her sexual and personal self esteem? What happens to her idea of herself and her femininity? It’s ruined. It is the same with boys who are abused, seduced and lured into sex. Their sexual identity–a very fragile thing–is also broken.
5. Artificial Contraceptives and Abortion – Think about it for a moment. Artificial contraceptives and abortion break the sexual act from the possibility of a girl or boy becoming a mother or father. Because of artificial contraceptives we have developed a “contraceptive culture” in which sex is not about being a mother or father, so no wonder people are confused about sex and gender. What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man? We don’t know because being a man and being a woman is tied up with the action and meaning of the sexual act and the sexual act is for making babies, so if the sexual act has no meaning it is not long before being a man or being a woman has no meaning. What is sex for? We don’t know. What is gender? We’re unsure.
6. The Disintegration of Marriage – Co habitation, promiscuity, no fault divorce, re-marriage. polyamory and serial marriage have all eroded the traditional marriage structure and the traditional marriage structure helped to teach clear gender roles. People understood what a woman was because they understood what a wife was. They understood what masculinity because they understood what it meant to be a husband. As marriage disintegrates confusion about just what a husband or wife should be also disintegrates, as those models fail so gender identity becomes unclear. If marriage is not the goal, then how should a girl be a woman and what does it mean for a boy to be a man? We’re uncertain.
7. Education and Peer Pressure – As the extended family helps to support clear sexual identification, so educational institutions and structures and peer groups help to determine sexual identity formation. If an educational system endorses and teaches a multiplicity of sexual roles and identities then we should expect increased gender confusion. There are more choices so more confusion. If the educational system also teaches them in a value free environment then, even if the young person wants to choose, he or she has no idea which choice is better than another.
8. Hormonal and Environmental Factors – We’re pumping ourselves full of prescription drugs. The meat we eat is full of growth hormones. The water we drink has traces of estrogen from all the birth control pills. We’re tinkering with genetics, altering the food chain, polluting the environment. Who knows what the cumulative effect of all this is for our diet, our water, the air we breathe and the world we live in? There are reports of sexual mutation in fish and reptiles because of the estrogen in the water. Are our hormones going haywire? Are there more children who experience gender confusion because there is a biological–not just a cultural cause? Who knows?
9. Pornography and Sexual Behaviors – Our society is awash with pornography, prostitution and promiscuity of all kinds. Any behavior which indulges in sex simply for pleasure causes sexual and gender confusion. As it number 5 above, repeated sexual immorality consolidates the impression that sex is not connected with becoming a mother and father. Sexual behavior is the way gender is expressed. If sexual behaviors are multi form, gender confusion results. Here’s an example: let’s say a boy starts viewing pornography. It could be that he began being attracted to women, but then he might become interested and fascinated by the men he sees on the screen. If he then acts out what he has seen and has conflicting feelings about his attractions and lusts then sexual and gender confusion can result.
10. Breakdown of Religion – Religious rules for marriage and sexual behaviors have always been part of society. Quite apart from the belief that they are given by God, they have always had a practical purpose of containing and disciplining sexual behavior for the good of families, the protection of women and children and the good of society. When religion is forgotten, religious regulations and restrictions are abandoned. This leads to a sexual free for all which causes confusion about sexuality, the reasons for sex, about marriage and parenting. Consequently young people are wounded by sex, hurt by relationships and enter a gender wilderness–not knowing which way to turn.
11. Relativism and Atheism – Sorry to go all philosophical, but what we believe affects how we behave and how we behave affects what we think about ourselves and others. Relativism in belief must go hand in hand with relativism in morality. If there is no such thing as truth, then there is no such thing as right or wrong. If there is no such thing as right or wrong sexually, then anything goes and if anything you choose or desire is okay, then how is anyone supposed to know what might be better or worse, right or wrong, good or bad? If every gender choice is equally valid it is no surprise that people are increasingly confused.
12. Diabolical Influence – My earlier post on this subject noticed that the Baphomet statue unveiled in Detroit was androgynous. It has a phallic symbol protruding from its lap and female breasts. One arm is masculine and one arm is feminine. I am not suggesting that every case of gender confusion is caused by the devil or that transgendered people are demon possessed or that they should be demonized in any way. However, in my pastoral experience there is a spiritual dimension to this issue. Satan is at work all the time, and his influence can be a contributing factor to the problem on both a societal and individual scale. So, for example, if a young person has no faith and therefore is spiritually vulnerable, if they get involved in the sexual practices I’ve outlined above they may open themselves to diabolical influences. Satan always tries to lie. He uses camouflage and subterfuge. His influence will rarely be open and obvious, but it is there nonetheless. His influence is certainly active in society and if an individual has opened themselves to the dark side then poor self esteem, gender confusion, depression, loneliness and emotional illness can all get much worse. If this is the case, then they are victims and are to be assisted with compassion and not blamed.