Gender Ideology and the Paganization of Western Culture
I’m a cultural pessimist. I think our nation is on a catastrophic moral path. But I must admit that despite my red-pilled perspective on our rotting culture, radical trans ideology has shocked me. Of course, there have always been people who wish they were what they are not, and that includes (in rare instances) men who wish they were women and women who wish they were men. These people are generally deeply unhappy and suffer greatly. They should be treated with understanding and compassion -- each of us struggles in life and their struggle is particularly difficult. But the wide-spread acceptance of radical gender ideology is cultural insanity.
Radical gender ideology itself is nonsense at best and radical evil at worst. The best place to start with understanding radical gender ideology is to ask: does it even make sense?
On Dr. Phil’s television show, conservative commentator Matt Walsh asked of Dr. Phil’s “trans” guests a remarkably simple question: “what is a woman”? His interlocutors couldn’t answer the question, although it is at the heart of their claim to be women. A ‘trans-woman’ asserts that he (I insist on using real pronouns) is a woman. He doesn’t merely insist that he feels like a woman or wants to be a woman. Those are meaningful assertions and can be true. Instead, he insists that he is a woman, misplaced in a man’s body. That is not a meaningful assertion, nor can it be true. In order to assert ‘I am a woman,’ one must have a definition of ‘woman.’ An assertion must be pointed at something -- being a woman, in this case. One must be able to define ‘woman’ to meaningfully assert that he is one.
However, all cogent definitions of ‘woman’ are inconsistent with the assertion that a man can be a woman. A woman is a human being with two X chromosomes and who has at least the potential to have secondary characteristics of womanhood, such as an actual uterus, ovaries, breasts, etc. This is simple biology, and you don’t need to be a biologist to know it.
A man who has had pharmacological or surgical alterations to mimic some aspects of womanhood is not a woman -- he is a pharmacologically altered or surgically mutilated man.
So how can a trans-activist answer the question ‘what is a woman’? The only answer available to a trans-activist is for the activist to reply: ‘it is what I want to be’. But that is not an answer -- it is merely circular:
I am a woman.
So, what is a woman?
It is what I am.
The assertion ‘I am a trans-woman’ is literally nonsense. A person may be a man who wants to be a woman or be a man who believes he is a woman or be a man who feels like a woman. But he cannot be a woman, because ‘woman’ necessarily has meaning, and no man fits that definition.
Despite the logical gibberish, trans-activism has had a frightening impact on medical practice and medical ethics. ‘Gender affirmation’ clinics exist in medical centers across the country, and many clinics offer hormonal treatment and even radical surgery to children and adults. Boston Children’s Hospital -- probably the most prominent children’s hospital in the country -- has offered mastectomies to girls as young as 15 for “gender reassignment,” and has offered patients phalloplasty (the surgical creation of a ‘penis’), metoidioplasty (cutting tissue to lengthen the clitoris), creation of a scrotum with testicular implants, hysterectomy, vaginoplasty (amputation of the penis and testicles with construction of a ‘vagina’) to older adolescents. In response to intense public criticism, Boston Children’s Hospital recently changed its website to claim that going forward it will restrict operations to people over 18 years of age, although it continues to ‘treat’ mentally ill children with hormones in anticipation of surgical alterations when they come of age. Seattle Children’s Hospital was exposed recently for recently for offering “medicalized transition” to children as young as nine years old.
Please note that these radical medical treatments and surgical procedures are performed on mentally ill children and adults. These patients are mentally ill by definition -- if they were not ill, they would not be in need of medical treatment, and their illness is not physical (their sexual organs are healthy). Their illness is mental, and for that they are subjected to radical medical intervention (including hormones of the type administered to sex offenders) and mutilating surgery.
In Europe, there has been a shift away from radical and mutilating medical treatments for children and adults with gender dysphoria. The British National Health Service is closing its only youth gender clinic amid concerns about the extreme and irreversible nature of its treatments.
Radical gender ideology in the medical profession is extreme medical malpractice dressed up in professional attire. How do we explain the astonishing emergence of this bizarre ideology, its chilling perversion of medical practice and ethics, and its pervasive influence in our culture? It seems like mass psychosis, not medical care.
I propose that the rise of gender ideology is a byproduct of the rapidly emerging paganization of our culture. Theologian John N. Oswalt has noted that the central distinction between the pagan mythology and the Christian understanding of nature is that paganism asserts the essential continuity of all things -- both within nature and between nature and the divine. The pagan view extends to abstractions and symbols -- there is no distinction between symbols and reality -- the abstract symbol is the reality. In this pagan view, the assertion by a man that he is a woman makes real that which it invokes. Maleness and femaleness are on a continuous spectrum and gender identity and can be invoked by mere incantation. The distinction between men and women is only apparent. Pagan ideology denies fixed essences -- nature is fungible and pagan ‘reality’ can be conjured by incantation. Only desire, not biology, is real.
This bizarre assertion of continuity between symbolic thought and tangible reality is a peculiarly pagan way of understanding man, and it is radically different from the Christian understanding. In the Christian understanding, nature and man are creations of God, and we are essentially and irrevocably distinct from each other and from the Divine. Human beings are distinct from non-rational animals, men are distinct from women, and all of creation is distinct from God. In the Christian understanding of nature, things have essences that define them, and these essences -- manhood and womanhood for example -- cannot be altered merely by wishing or incantation.
What is the impact on society of this pagan homogenization of nature and symbol, aside from the scandalous medical mistreatment and surgical mutilation of mentally ill children and adults? Philosopher Rene Girard warns that homogenization leads to mimetic rivalry -- a homogenization of society that ends in a war of all against all. We already see this conflict growing -- for example, between trans-activists and LGB activists, and between trans-activists and feminists. Trans-activism has already caused great conflict in women's sports.
Trans-activism is just the latest pagan cult, akin to the flourishing modern cult of child sacrifice. From the Christian viewpoint, it is logical gibberish, medical malpractice, and moral atrocity, but from the pagan viewpoint, it is the natural outworking of the pagan belief in the continuity and homogeneity of symbol and reality in nature. It arises from ancient pagan ways of understanding man and nature, and, like child sacrifice, it poses a lethal threat to our rapidly de-Christianizing culture.
Image: Vatican Library