I first took note of the trans kid on the cover of National Geographic on December 19. Since then there have been innumerable treatises — diatribes really — about the profound malevolence of the magazine. I chose to ignore most of them. Here is one more from Witherspoon Institute’s blog titled “National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’: Bad Argument and Biased Ideology. The authors of the polemic are Andrew T. Walker and Denny Burk.

Walker is the director of policy studies at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a PhD student in Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Burk is on the faculty of Boyce College, a small Christian college that does not participate in Title IV federal student aid. Burk wrote a book titled Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change. Published in 2015 it promotes the pray-away-the-gay approach (something the author would probably deny).

The important thing is that these are theologians rather than accomplished social scientists. Now, on to the current rant which is subtitled:

Accepting the claims of transgender ideology requires papering over one’s conscience and making a mockery of the “law written on the heart” that our bodies bear witness to in our complementary design.

Right off the bat we are presented with a false construct, the notion that transgender is an ideology. That is intellectually dishonest rubbish. In point of fact (and not subject to debate), transgender is an expression of gender dysphoria. It is an affirmation of psychological gender which does not conform to one’s chromosomes. Gender dysphoria is a condition. A condition is not an ideology. So why do this? Simple. An ideology is voluntary. The beliefs of the authors who are very conservative Christians is entirely voluntary. A condition is involuntary. These two Christians can no more change gender dysphoria than they can exorcise the demons causing flatulence.

Then (still dealing with the subtitle) the idea of mockery is interesting because that suggests intent. A transgender person apparently presents a personal affront to these two who have the combined intellectual curiosity of a toad stool. I must try to be more economical lest I end up with a response to this nonsense that is profoundly tedious.

The January 2017 issue of National Geographic is dedicated to exploring what it calls the “Gender Revolution”—a post-Sexual Revolution movement that seeks to deconstruct traditional understandings about human embodiment, male-female sexual dimorphism, and gender. In an article titled “Rethinking Gender,” Robin Marantz Henig cites evolving gender norms as a justification for the Gender Revolution. But Henig’s argument is not only unpersuasive, it’s also based on a radical proposal about human nature that is at odds with both natural law and biblical anthropology.

Radical? Moreover, there they go with intent again. The National Geographic authors seek to explore in contrast to “deconstruct.” Honestly, Christians are not being victimized and this has nothing to do with the so-called sexual revolution. As the magazine explains:

Everywhere we looked, in the U.S. and around the globe, individuals and organizations
are fighting to redefine traditional gender roles, whether it is
girls in war-torn Sierra Leone rejecting the cultural norm of
female genital mutilation and child marriage, men in Sweden
making use of extended paternal leave after having a child, or
people who reject binary, boy–girl labels and find their true
identity elsewhere on a gender spectrum.

Gender Identity, Category Confusion, and Moral Inconsistency

First (and most problematic): Henig offers no substantive argument for why one’s internal, self-perception of his or her “gender identity” ought to determine one’s gender or have authority greater than one’s biological sex. The essay offers testimonies of people who say that their gender identity is at odds with their biological sex. But testimony is not sufficient. Asserting a claim does not demonstrate the authenticity of that claim. Readers are given no explanation for why we ought to regard the claims of one’s gender identity as reality rather than a subjective feeling or self-perception.

These two have just dismissed the entirety of the psychiatric and psychological sciences. I have acute PTSD. I cannot prove that I have the disorder (which is the result of having been ambushed and shot). Some of the symptoms are anxiety, depression and hyper-vigilance. I cannot prove any of that. It took years of therapy (and drugs) to be properly diagnosed by expert clinicians. As far as I can determine, there is no cure — it is a lifelong disorder. There are things I can do that will ease some of the symptoms.

Gender dysphoria is a condition (in contrast to a disorder). It is characterized by a persistent desire to rid oneself of the primary or secondary sexual characteristics of the biological sex at puberty. It can be objectively evaluated. Experienced clinicians can diagnose gender dysphoria. They can treat some of the symptoms. The only known medical intervention to treat the condition is gender affirmation.

Furthermore, there is nothing immoral about gender dysphoria and people with gender dysphoria are not confused. Asserting otherwise is religious gibberish, not science.

These two also put the golf ball on the tee. Christianity depends, in many respects, upon the testimonies of people claiming to have been “saved.” As they say, “testimony is not sufficient,” at least not for critical thinkers in that regard.

Indeed, this is the crux of the matter that plagues the transgender movement. It is based not on evidence, but on the ideology of expressive individualism—the idea that one’s identity is self-determined, that one should live out that identity, and that everyone else must respect and affirm that identity, no matter what it is. Expressive individualism requires no moral argument or empirical justification for its claims, no matter how absurd or controverted they may be. Transgenderism is not a scientific discovery but a prior ideological commitment about the pliability of gender.

Perhaps they think that transgender people seek or require the approval of these two. They are incorrect. The only thing that “plagues” transgender people is the judgment based on mysticism promoted by superstitious religious zealots. They are willingly uninformed because having gender dysphoria is very much based upon evidence. The fact that it is the product of self-expression doesn’t make it any less evidentiary. Moreover, the authors posit that because it is self-expressed it is self-determined. Those are two very different things. Were it a matter of self-determination there would be no transgender people. They are suggesting that people volunteer to be transgender. No one would willingly expose themselves to the stresses associated with being trans. I cannot imagine what it must be like just to try to get employment as a transgender person. When it comes to ideology they are exposing their religious views to due ridicule.

Secondly, Henig commits a fallacy of composition by linking intersex conditions with transgenderism. These are very different categories. “Intersex” is a term that describes a range of conditions affecting the development of the human reproductive system. These “disorders of sex development” result in atypical reproductive anatomy. Some intersex persons are born with “ambiguous genitalia,” which make sex determination at birth very difficult.

She doesn’t really link the two and the point is irrelevant. They also fail to consider that about 20% of intersex people also have ambiguous chromosomes. By the way, approximately two of every 1,000 births have some form of gender ambiguity and some transgender people are also intersex but that is way too complex for these two to deal with.

Later on (and I am having difficulty choosing which bullshit I want to respond to):

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. 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?

I defy these two religious crackpots to find a peer reviewed study published to a respected scholarly journal that confirms the possibility of addressing gender dysphoria with anything other than gender affirmation. One cannot be talked out of being transgender. There’s no pill; no magic cure. If prayer worked I wouldn’t be writing this.

By the way, this is not all that new or novel. Christine Jorgensen had surgery nearly 67 years ago.

Weak Science and Contradictory Claims

Third, the article obliquely references “Brain Sex Theory” to support the broader conclusion that expansive gender identities are immutable, objective, and an authentic expression of a person’s true gender. Henig rightly acknowledges the shortcomings of Brain Sex Theory, but still, in the end, fails to offer any suspicion of the legitimacy of transgender claims in light of the inconclusiveness of scientific studies on this question.

Dismissive of theory? Much of what we know is based upon theory. To a scientist a theory provides a framework for a concept which explains what can be observed and it is also predictive. The fact that the sun rises and sets is all based upon Newton’s theory of gravity. Perhaps more importantly it is not necessary to understand the cause of gender dysphoria to appreciate its existence. Long before Newton, people observed the sun rising and setting.

This is what happens when theologians try to discredit science with what amounts to theology. Science usually starts with an hypothesis which is a working assumption that is subjected to testing. Science goes with the observations of those tests. These theologians start with a presumption that their god made everyone cisgender and then try to dismantle the science. It is all ass backwards. Few things are more unscientific than religion.

On that note, I have about had all that I can take so I will jump to the conclusion:

Henig makes a surprising and startling admission near the end of her essay: “Biology has a habit of declaring itself eventually.” On this, Henig is right. Humanity cannot escape the limits inscribed upon it. It is impossible to transgress biological boundaries stamped on human nature without the basic categories of human existence unraveling. If the National Geographic story tells anything, it tells of a society going down a path of self-willed experimentation that will lead to misery and a denial of human telos. In truth, this movement born of effete academics and progressive mythology is nothing more than dressed-up barbarism.

“Telos,” an ultimate objective, is misused. “Humanity cannot escape the limits inscribed upon it” has all the characteristics of “if man were meant to fly …” When it comes to sheer barbarity and ignorance nothing is comparable to religion. Amid all of this surplussage attempting to prove that two plus two equals five because god says so, there remain two basic facts:

  1. About 0.3% to 0.6% of the population is professionally diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
  2. The only known intervention for gender dysphoria is gender affirmation. There is no pill nor form of talk therapy that is effective and the authors of this polemic fail to cite any scientific evidence for their unscientific theories.

The facts have nothing to do with “effete academics” or “progressive mythology.” Parting the Red fucking Sea and Our Lady of Lourdes curing disease are “mythology.” What we know about gender dysphoria is based upon treating thousands of people over nearly a century.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.