Sunday, January 13, 2013

What Are They Talking About?

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question.

He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naĆ®t pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.

Address to Roman Curia, December 21, 2012

Reflection – So today and next time we wade into the thickets of controversy, the section of the talk that got all the pundits and activists buzzing furiously away. The whole idea of gender and its meaning comes under a searching study here, and so it should.

Theorists and activists have worked hard to dismantle the obvious meaning of gender and sexual identification, based on body morphology (I trust I don’t need to spell out the details to anyone, right? I don’t really want this blog to get caught in your spam filters…)

Essentially, there are males and there are females, and you know, you really can spot the difference by looking at them hard.

Well, all of that has been cast aside in progressive thought. Body morphology has been decisively uncoupled from gender identity. There are men in women’s bodies, women in men’s bodies. Not every transgendered person seeks gender-reassignment surgery—some women-in-men’s-bodies like their bodies just the way they are. Nor does it have any connection to sexual desire: there are men-in-women’s bodies who also identify as homosexual, hence being sexually attracted to men, but as a man-in-a-woman’s body.

So gender identity has nothing to do with body morphology. Nor does it have anything to do with sexual attraction. The question must be asked: what are these people talking about?

Is it some stereotyped view of male and female characteristics? Men are logical, brave, mechanical and violent; women are emotional, caring, intuitive, and sweet? Somehow I do not think the post-modern theorists of gender are advancing gender theories redolent of the 1950s. But what on earth do they mean? Since they want to entirely restructure society based on their gender theories, I think we have a right to insist they explain themselves, no?

What is it to be male, to be female? If it is not to do with the body structures you were born with, and not to do with the personality traits you exhibit, and not to do with who you are sexually attracted to, what on earth does it have to do with?

To be clear, my own belief, founded on both common sense and religious faith, is that while allowing for the vanishingly rare exception of actual hermaphroditism, gender is body morphology, and the grand human adventure is to live as a man or to live as a woman within the psycho-social-familial context you have been given.

As soon as we reject what has been given in favour of some increasingly elusive and abstract notion of gender, we reject humanity as an object of dignity and respect in favour of endless social engineering and experimentation.

In short, and in conclusion for today, let us begin to answer the question of what is a male, what is a female by accepting the given of it (human genital differentiation) and living out our human dignity—the call to love, to give, to commit one’s life to the other—from that basic given reality of our human being.


  1. Father Denis,

    Well, this is what I have come to:
    Gender identity is usually defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female...or rarely both or neither. Gender identity in nearly all circumstances is self identified- but that does not not mean it is chosen. It means that only the self can discover it. It is a combination of intrinsic or inherent factors and external or environmntal factors. Gender identity is not defined by gonads.
    Gender role is the outward manifestation of personality that reflects gender identity. For most people this is the same. I think it is supposed to be the same and it is painful for everyone when it is not. It is cruel to chose a gender role for the self- because it has been givenone to doscover.
    Also I thinks there is a difference between sex and gender. Gender comes from a Latin word genus, meaning kind or race and sex form latin sexus. I think it is fair to state that sex is biologically determined and gender is culturally determined. The sexual identity that develops beyond childhood is very clearly a seperate identity from gender identity.
    Are we still on the same page?

    1. Catherine - I am puzzling over this, not least because I realize there is a very deep pain in the individuals who find themselves alienated from their body morphology - the transgendered, etc. So I don't wish to be cruel or glib.
      But it seems to me that we cannot simply uncouple gender identity from the gonads. If we do so, have we not fallen into a sort of body-soul dualism, with the body being of no account - sort of like ancient gnosticism? As Christians, committed to the doctrine of creation, can we really go down that route?
      Meanwhile, I am still in the dark as to how people who are biologically male identify as female, especially since the question of sexual orientation is separated from this. I do not know what this 'female' identity is. Surely it cannot be some list of supposedly 'feminine' qualities. I know lots of caring, nurturing men who are very masculine. I aspire to be one of those men myself :)
      Meanwhile... culture? What does that mean today? Catholic priesthood aside, women can fill any role in society they choose, if their skills are up to it: military, police, surgeons, judges. Men can be stay-at-home dads with no loss of their 'masculinity'. How is culture forcing anyone into rigid gender roles now?
      And I do repeat - the proponents of post-modern gender theory wish for a radical restructuring of society. I think it is fair to ask that they talk sense about what they mean by the words they use.
      I think the better path is to identify gender by body morphology, but then to allow for a great flexibility of human expression within that. There have always been effeminate men and mannish women in the world, and they have not all been homosexual. I think we would be better off, and make more sense, if we bowed to bodily realities, and allowed for great freedom of personality within those realities.
      My own thoughts are complex enough on this to write a book about it (which I may do some day!), so I'd better leave it at that for now. God bless you.

    2. Father Denis,
      Agreed, so fragile we humans sensitive these topics... How we all deserve love and respect despite our differences.
      Perhaps, there are some circumstances where the gonads and gender identity should not be uncoupled.... But, honestly, for growth and understanding and healing...I can't think of any. I am not trying to be is just... I can't.
      So, I can't really understand how this can separate the body from the soul...seems like the more we understand our humanity ( in the personal sense) the easier it is to pray and the more we know of goodness and God.
      I have never studied theology, only people....and the sciences. I am not sure I am as committed to the former as to the latter- but I am trying. Consequently, I am uncomfortable talking about Gnosticism and the law of creation....I have a lot of questions about the little bit I know...and cannot help too much here.
      Well, I don't think of it in terms of orientation- sexual or otherwise.
      I do not understand " radical restructuring of society". Isn't that what we are all praying for?
      I think the danger lies in talking about all these things in absolute terms. We each really are so different in terms of these intrinsic and extrinsic factors...and perhaps this in part is why I disagree
      Also, we are all more than our identities- sexual or otherwise. I mean, we are not our sexual identity, despite how core this issue is. So, perhaps we can agree here.
      It is CRAZY here and I absolutely have to go.
      Thanks for putting up with me.

    3. God bless you - I realize it's absurd to respond after days and days - that's the kind of week it's been.
      My body is me. My soul is me. If my body is saying one thing (I am male) and my soul is telling me something else, it seems to me this is a serious problem. And yet the body is my visible, tangible (literally!) self. My bodily identity is that which the world sees and knows, not some mysterous dimension of my soul. And so there is a really serious question around the post-modern gender deconstruction - like I say, what are people relly talking about, and does it (again, literally) make sense?
      Yes, we all want the resturcturing of society (MH is all about that!), but in truth and in love... and my post is questioning the truth of the trans-gendered movement.
      God bless you - no putting up with you needed, or at least it is mutual!

  2. If identity is what develops beyond childhood then we are equally capable of defining our "kind or race"ie gender as perhaps camelopard or equine. But i am not a giraffe and even if i strongly want to live as a horse I am not equine. True healthy psycho-social development does not allow for an identity patently false and dangerously unhealthy.

    1. Theresa,
      I am going to just let this comment pass- because I really do not get your point. Human beings straight or gay or otherwise- are still human beings. Not, camelopard( what the heck is that) or horses or giraffes. But, I bet there are gay horses, and gay camelopards and gay giraffes...bless you.

    2. I'm sorry I wasn't more clear. I was trying to point out that who and what we fundamentally are is static. Our conception of ourselves can be true or erroneous and our conception of ourself may affect how we behave but does not affect what we are.Hence my clumsy analogy. Where you stated identity can be defined as perception. I was trying to point out if we conceive of ourselves as something other we are in error. Similarly if I perceive myself as someone other than myself it is classified as delusion.

    3. Well, thank you, for the clarification.

      It may seem subtle, but I think there is a big difference in the meaning of the words conception and perception. One, I think implies giving birth to something- like the embryo from the zygote and the ovum...or an identity born from the joy and pain of all the intrinsic and extrinsic factors in our lives. Perception, implies a way of seeing. I am not a wordsmith. I meant the former, not the latter. Peace.

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