Friday, May 13, 2016

Hunger strikes

This comment was left on a post by Joe Carter, who's done a number of useful posts on transgender activism. I will use the commenter as a foil:

Neil Pratt Also, there is not "silence" by Christians on the issue. The problem is that what we say is not what the secular world wants to hear. Young people and adults who feel that they do not "identify" with their biological sex need psychological help and healing. 

That's true. They need counseling that helps them come to terms with their biological sex. 

What they don't need is more people telling them that they should live in a state of confusion about how God made them.

Once again, that's true. And people like Neil are fostering confusion about God's design for human nature.

First, psychology and biology are driven by science and evidence…

In theory, but these disciplines can become highly politicized. 

…and it is well documented the very real physical, emotional, and psychological harm that comes from reparative therapy, especially when it is forced on unwilling participants.

I don't have a considered opinion on reparative therapy. But it should be legal. 

Moreover, consider the harm that comes to people whose psychology is out of whack with their biological sex? 

Second, I fully agree that transgender people should be told about the way God made them, and I will happily quote to them Jesus's words in Matthew 19:12, "For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others--and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

Apparently, Neil is using this as a prooftext to show that gender dysphoria is natural and normal. If so, he fails to explain how he derives that from the text. 

i) "born eunuchs" is is a metaphor for people who are impotent and/or born with genital deformities. An involuntary condition or birth defect. 

(An analogous category would be people who become impotent or suffer from damaged genitalia due to accident, exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, &c.) 

Is Neil saying the transgendered correspond to that category? If so, that would mean they suffer from a genetic defect or brain damage. Is that his position?  

Intersex individuals fit this category. But most transgenders aren't intersex.

ii) "made eunuchs" is a literal designation for castrated men. Sometimes that was voluntary.

That is, indeed, analogous to sex-change operations. However, that's something normative Judaism would frown on. Jesus isn't commending that. 

iii) "eunuch by choice" is a metaphor for Christians who voluntarily choose celibacy over marriage. 

That's not obviously analogous to the transgendered. Is Neil suggesting transgender people should be celibate? 

In addition, the framework of Mt 19:12 is gender-binary. 

For detailed exegesis, consult John Nolland's commentary on the Greek text. 

Finally, that response (again) does nothing to protect transgender people from the massive amount of discrimination and violence that they face. I understand that we will not agree on the above point I made regarding God's plan for them, and I will happily continue to discuss our various understandings of what the Bible says on this issue. However, to put it bluntly, transgender people are dying. They are being forced into sex work, beaten, harassed, raped, and killed. It doesn't matter if I am reaching out to them with my affirming view or if you are reaching out to them with your non-affirming view if their basic safety isn't being protected. This kind of heartlessness to the suffering of others has left both our witnesses to the Gospel in tatters in America. While we can continue to passionately disagree on this issue, can we not work together to ensure the safety of all people to ensure our witness to the Gospel seems genuine?

i) There are already laws against assault, battery, and rape. 

ii) His complaint reminds me of activists like Dick Gregory and Randall Robison who used to stage hunger strikes. "If we don't get our way, we will starve ourselves to death, and it will be your fault!" Aside from the fact that their threat was a bluff, if you play a game of chicken and you lose, that's your responsibility, not mine. Society can't cave into this kind of emotional manipulation. For one thing, you could have pressure groups with opposing agendas play the same suicide card. But you can't very well accommodate the demands of both. 

Moreover, it's not an appeal to reason, but manufactured guilt-tripping. That's not a proper way to set public policy. Suppose someone thinks cars contribute to global warming, so they threaten to kill themselves unless all of us stop driving cars. It's unfortunate for them if they carry through with their threat, but that's not a basis for social policy. 

Same thing with people who form a human shield to blockage a train to Trident submarine base, because they disapprove of nuclear weapons. Well, you should do so at your own risk. You're not entitled to endanger the national security. Same thing with protesters who chain themselves to fences or climb trees and refuse to come down. Fine. We'll leave you there. 

iii) Neil is disregarding the harm to children when they become guinea pigs for transgender "couples" in adoption or foster care. 

iv) Neil is disregarding the harm that transgender people do to themselves through hormone therapy and sex-change operations. 

v) Unless they do something to artificially modify their appearance, transgender people appear to be normal men and women. They can only be subject to harassment or discriminating if they act out. No one requires you to be a cross-dresser. You do that to yourself. If you behave inappropriately, you may be stigmatized. You brought that on yourself. 

Schools and businesses typically have dress codes. A lifeguard may wear a bikini to work, but an investment banker should not. 

vi) Consider the demand that insurance companies cover hormone therapy, plastic surgery, and sex-change operations for transgender people who wish to "transition". That will raise insurance premiums for everyone. 

vii) What about a husband or wife whose spouse comes out as transgender? What if the spouse takes the next step and "transitions" to the opposite sex. This is no longer the person they married. The husband married a women who was a physiologically normal woman. The wife married a man who was a physiologically normal man. Are they now required to remain married to that person? Will they be unable to obtain a legal divorce because that would be "discriminatory"? Indeed, will they be subject to prosecution for "harassment" or "discrimination" against a spouse who went transgender on them? If they lose friends, will the friends be prosecuted for "discrimination"? 

viii) Will Orthodox Jewish and Christian institutions be prosecuted if they refuse to accommodate the transgendered? 

ix) Will police be forbidden from issuing an APB that describes the suspect in gender-specific terms? Will gynecologists be forbidden from describing patients in gender-specific terms?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for offering your critiques on this, Steve.

    I did see Neil crusading on this issue and I noticed that he kept saying that the majority of trans people are not interested in gender reassignment surgery. Another person in the comments chided someone for pointing to a passage in the pentateuch forbidding men from wearing women's clothing - the reason being that transgenders are not transvestites, they're people who simply identify with a different gender.

    But the conclusion seems absurd. We have men who believe they are women (and vice versa), and yet we're to believe that they don't want to look like women in any way, shape, or form. But yet they also complain about bullying and harassment because they stand out as being different. Well, which is it?