“Religious conservatives were successful in passing California’s Proposition 8 in 2008 … That proved not to be the end of nationwide marriage equality but the beginning.”

Travis C. Barham is an Georgia-based attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is an anti-LGBT hate group. Wednesday, Barham has authored: Philosophers Defend Freedom to Question Transgenderism As Medical, Academic Professionals’ Jobs Are Threatened.

At issue is not a threat to the jobs of people who dissent from medical science. Rather, it is a threat to the alleged “right” to discriminate against transgender people.

The existence of transgender people is only a problem for some religious conservatives who seek to conform their environment to scripture. So instead of philosophy, what Mr. Barham really means is religion. Ryan T. Anderson who has a doctorate in philosophy is not opposed to transgender people because of any philosophical bent. Anderson opposes the existence of transgender people because of his fundamentalist Catholic faith.

“Therapy to resolve underlying psychological causes” is code for the religious disapproval of transgender people. There are no underlying issues. Comorbidity is usually attributable to minority stress syndrome. And where does that stress come from? The people who insist that transgender people just need a competent talk therapist.

If someone had a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, would they be subjected to some sort of philosophical debate? Why then do people feel at liberty submit diagnoses of gender dysphoria to philosophical adjudication? The answer to my rhetorical question is that people want to debate transgenderism because they have a religious objection to the existence of transgender people.

Gender dysphoria is a serious condition that can be diagnosed as objectively as cancer. The absence of physical proof like lab tests or x-rays allows people to take liberties with the overwhelming consensus of medical science.

Some things are not subject to debate. In York, PA there is an organization called Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Open debate certainly sounds reasonable until you consider that the view of that “committee” is that the Holocaust did not happen which stems from religious disapproval of Jews which is usually called anti-Semitism.

Barham brings up the case of the poor persecuted professor:

…Dr. Nicholas Meriwether had taught philosophy at Shawnee State University for more than two decades when, in 2018, he answered a male student’s question with a simple, “Yes, sir.” After class, the student demanded to be referred to as a woman. When Meriwether respectfully declined, the student became belligerent, called him an expletive, and promised to get him fired.

“Respectfully declined?” Bullshit! People who misgender transgender people do violence to a member of a sexual minority. It is the student who was needlessly humiliated and victimized because Meriwether disapproves of her sexuality, Meriwether sued via ADF. ADF’s brief confirms the obvious:

To accede to these demands would have required Dr. Meriwether to communicate views regarding gender identity that he does not hold, that he does not wish to communicate, and that would contradict (and force him to violate) his sincerely held Christian beliefs.

The complaint was filed on November 5, 2018. It will likely be around for another two years. Set aside the legalese and the university’s nondiscrimination policy which Meriwether was obliged to follow. Is it not simply common sense that people are entitled to their religious beliefs but they are not entitled to inflict those beliefs on others? Isn’t that the proper balance in a civil society?

Ask any Klansman and he will tell you that he is a defender of Christianity. Sure, that is an extreme example but it begs the question of where the limits are. Employers establish those limits with policies that they expect employees to adhere to.

Barham brings up the case of Dr. Allan Josephson who appeared on one of Ryan T. Anderson’s anti-trans panels at Heritage Foundation. Josephson was demoted and when his contract came up for renewal the University of Louisville Medical Center declined. He is also suing through ADF. I don’t think that the Court will get to the issues because the suit is probably time barred.

According to Barham:

At Heritage, he argued doctors should understand and treat the psychological issues that often cause this confusion before pursuing more radical, aggressive treatments. This sort of reasoned, methodical approach mirrors how medical professionals handle other conditions, let alone those where the treatments might have permanent, negative side-effects.

The reason that Josephson was on that panel in the first place is because Anderson knew what Josephson would say because Josephson views on this subject are formed by his religious beliefs. Barham’s “psychological issues that often cause this confusion” is nonsense. Assigning “confusion” to gender incongruence is religious talk. More importantly, there is no evidence that there are psychological triggers to gender incongruence.

This is re-purposed homophobia

Throughout conservative Christendom people hold similar beliefs about gay people. Some conservative Christians believe that the majority of gay people are gay due to child abuse. There is no science to support that belief but it has been promoted by pressure groups like ADF.

They have done so for many decades to advance the theory that homosexuality is curable as in: “doctors should understand and treat the psychological issues that often cause this confusion…” They have done this to prevent gay people from having certain legal protections.

Hell, let’s have a philosophical debate over homosexuality. Mr. Anderson will confidently assert that gay people are “objectively disordered” because that is the conclusion of the palace eunuchs at the Vatican.

Mr. Barham and his associates are apt to claim that schools are supposed to be a “marketplace of ideas” and that is valid. However, not all dissenting views are valid or even acceptable in polite society. No university would tolerate a professor of economics teaching students that the Federal Reserve system is an evil Jewish cabal, an opinion advanced by Henry Ford that still persists in some quarters. That opinion is not subject to philosophical debate.

Similarly, it is not acceptable to treat people with a medical condition crassly because of an abstract religious belief. Nor is it acceptable to transform science into philosophy so that a scientific fact can be submitted to ideological (religious) criticism. The same approach towards gay people alienated a huge chunk of society.

Even if ADF wins their lawsuits against University of Louisville or Shawnee University, in the long run they lose.

What? You think that the Human Rights Campaign created same-sex marriage nationally? Religious conservatives were successful in passing California’s Proposition 8 in 2008 even as the state overwhelmingly voted for President Obama. That proved not to be the end of nationwide marriage equality but the beginning.

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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.