Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The neurodiversity movement

1. It's a pity that Christians have to spend so much time on homosexuality and trangenderism, but we don't get to pick our battles. In this post I'll take a stab at transgenderism from a Christian public policy perspective. 

Because transgenderism is so politicized, it's hard to find reliable information. Much of the available "information" is put out by advocacy groups. But from what I've read, there's no one transgender category. Rather, transgender breaks down into several different groups:

i) It wouldn't surprise me if some people self-identify as transgender who in fact have a perfectly normal outlook. They pretend to be trangender because that results in an instant promotion in their social status. Take unpopular students in junior high and high school. If they identify as transgender, the establishment gives them an instant positive ascribed status. It's hip and cool to be trans. 

ii) Apparently, some adolescents suffer from gender confusion. That's a temporary phase. As they transition from boyhood to manhood, girlhood to womanhood, they must find their footing. What's their new role? What does it mean to be a man or woman? That's a new experience for them. 

That's something they usually outgrow. However, I expect the problem is now exacerbated by the power elite, and resultant peer pressure, which denigrates distinctive masculine and feminine virtues. Which attempts to shame people into denying intrinsic sexual differences. The current social conditioning probably contributes to gender confusion. 

Facts like broken marriage, blended families, absentee fathers, and the general absence of good adult role models, is, I suspect, another contributing factor.

iii) Then you have some boys and men who become aroused by seeing themselves provocatively dressed as women. This is a persistent condition. But this isn't a woman trapped in a man's body. These are heterosexual males.

And it's a purely psychological condition. Not based on neurological abnormalities. 

Here we go back to the perennial nature/nurture debate. Some mental illness is due to social malformation. 

iv) Finally, there's a fraction of cases where gender dysphoria seems to be the result of brain damage in utero

2. Assuming that classification scheme is roughly correct, how should that be addressed from a public policy standpoint? 

i) Let's begin with 1(iv). We don't think it's culpable to suffer from a neurological deficit. And it's often good to make reasonable accommodations. For instance, I think society should help autistics do whatever they are able to do. From what I've read, autism ranges along a spectrum. Some autistics are savants. But others require round-the-clock supervision. Left unattended, they endanger themselves.

In that case, an accommodation would involve protecting them. To treat them as perfectly normal human beings would be inhumane. 

ii) To take another illustration, we should help hemophiliacs do whatever they can safely do. But by the same token, they should not be allowed to play contact sports. In that case, we should discriminate against hemophiliacs for their own good. 

"Discrimination" is a loaded term, but that's because many people fail to draw an elementary distinction: we should treat like alike, we should treat unlike unalike. Insofar as autistics and hemophiliacs are like normal people, they should be treated like normal people. Insofar as they are different, it may be necessary, for their own wellbeing, to treat them differently. 

On the one hand, there should be reasonable accommodations. On the other hand, there should be reasonable restrictions. 

iii) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that pedophilia has a neurological basis. Even if we think that's exculpatory, that doesn't mean we should accommodate pedophiliacs. We shouldn't legalize pedophilia. 

iv) To defend gender dysphoria on a neurological basis is a double-edged sword for transgender activists. How many of them wish to defend transgender identity on the grounds that transgender people suffer from brain damage? Suffer from neurological abnormalities? 

In fact, there's a neurodiversity movement which chafes against what it views as the social stigma attaching to that classification. It takes the position that diverse neurological conditions are the result of natural variations. There's nothing pathological to treat. Nothing to cure. We shouldn't seek a cure for autism–or hemophilia. Deaf people shouldn't elect to have cochlear implants. 

Of course, that subverts medical science. By that logic, it makes no sense to undergo corrective surgery for a potentially fatal congenital heart defect. Makes no sense to undergo cancer treatment. Makes no sense to remove a benign brain tumor which, if allowed to grow, will prove fatal. 

v) Since, in the overwhelming number of cases, gender dysphoria is purely psychological, it would be medical malpractice to undergo irreversible surgery–or hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty. That's not the solution, since the problem is psychological rather than physical. And it does irreparable damage to a normal functioning body or normal maturation.

vi) Likewise, if people are out of touch with reality, then we shouldn't accommodate their delusion–anymore than we should hand the car keys to someone who's high on LSD. 

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