By Andrew Murphy
One of the biggest cultural issues currently facing Catholics is how to minister to the growing number of people who identify as part of the LGBT community in a compassionate and loving way while remaining faithful to the Church’s teaching that God created us male and female.
As the issue has exploded over the past few years there has been a noticeable lack in solid Catholic resources. However, Jason Evert’s new book Male, Female, Other? is a valuable contribution to the conversation.
The presentation of the book follows the style of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae in which he “presents a simple objection in the form of a statement, then offers a series of points to support the claim.” [pg. 13]
Evert explains that he chose this method because like Aquinas, he believes the purpose of debate is “to journey toward truth together rather than entering into a competition to score cheap polemic points.” [pg. 13] He sent his manuscript to doctors, people who do not agree with the Church’s teachings in this area and those who identify as transgender to ensure it was as effective as possible.
In the introduction he asks those who identify as transgender to “please be patient with the Church as we learn to navigate this subject together. Though the Church has an unfathomable treasure of wisdom, Christians are just beginning to understand and engage with individuals who experience transgender inclinations. Therefore, it’s probably going to be somewhat messy and clumsy at times.” [pg. 10]
He also suggests that, “if Christians spent as much time talking to individuals who identify as trans as they do talking about transgender headlines in the news the world would be a better place.” [pg. 9]
The book addresses 18 of the most popular claims used to support gender theory and I believe Jason Evert does a good job imitating Aquinas in the way he deals with each topic.
The topics covered include:
• How many genders are there?
• What if my daughter says she’s trans?
• Do some people have an intersex brain?
• Should I use their preferred pronouns?
• Is gender a social construct?
• Does surgery prevent suicide?
• Are puberty blockers safe?
• What if I experience gender dysphoria?
Many of the responses draw on Pope St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which is a timely response to the identity crisis which is currently affecting humanity. It reminds us that there is a beautiful meaning in the sexual differences between men and women, designed by God Himself.
Affirming the Dysphoria
Evert observes early on, that the “affirmative care” model of treating gender dysphoria actually affirms the dysphoria and not the person experiencing it.
“Gender theory considers feelings of gender incongruence to be a guide that should be followed toward fulfilment, claiming to offer people the ability to embrace the full truth about their identity…What if gender theory only gives people permission to reject [the full truth about their identity]? What if the Church’s goal isn’t to erase anyone’s identity, but to help them rediscover it?” [pg. 52]
Evert draws on biological science to debunk the idea that men and women are basically the same. For example: “Researchers have identified 6,500 sex-specific genes. Every cell of the human body that has a nucleus is sexed, and according to Dr. Franck Mauvais-Jarvis, there are “ubiquitous sex differences in the molecular makeup of all male and female cells.” This is one reason why a “sex-change operation” is impossible. Every cell of the human body would need to be exchanged. The biological evidence for sex difference is insurmountable.” [pg. 36]
In fact, he flips the question and asks the reader to consider whether gender theory itself is a social construct: “One might ask, “What if young people are being culturally conditioned to believe that their gender can be divorced from their body? What if gender theory is the social construct after all?”” [pg. 41]
He even argues that gender theory is built upon the same class warfare framework as Marxism: “Gender theory is built upon the same framework: Those who are cisgender possess an unfair culture of acceptance that transgender individuals lack. By eliminating the concept of a sexual “binary,” a dictatorship of gender theory can arise; Then, the freedom to manifest sexual identity apart from the “oppressive” force of the binary can be realised.” [pg.83]
In Chapter 8 he argues that the “most overlooked precursor” to gender theory has been the widespread acceptance of contraception in the wake of the sexual revolution.
“While some people have never considered the connection between the two, many second-wave feminists blamed fertility for their inability to “overthrow their oppressive roles.” But if women could employ technology to acquire the same reproductive roles as men, then at last they could achieve equality.
“However, if human beings are sexed according to their reproductive roles, and reproduction is divorced from the sexual act, the significance of sexually distinct bodies is obscured. Dr. Abigail Favale points out, “A surgeon can make a vagina out of a wound, because the vagina is no longer seen as the door to the womb.”” [pg. 94]
He also observes that the widespread use of contraception also brought about the acceptance of homosexual acts. “After all, if a man and a woman can engage in a sexual act that is not ordered toward reproduction, then why can’t members of the same sex do the same? Sexual difference becomes irrelevant.” [pg. 96]
The book highlights the hypocrisy of allowing children to undergo body-altering and sterilising “gender transition” procedures when they are not even allowed to get a tattoo.(pg.133) Chapter 9, for example, tackles the idea that puberty blockers are a safe and reversible way to pause puberty in healthy children and points out that, “such drugs were never approved for treating gender dysphoric children who were otherwise progressing naturally through puberty.”
“After all, puberty is not a disease. In fact, the absence of puberty is a disease, known as Kallmann syndrome. When puberty blockers are given to healthy children, physicians are using drugs to induce a diseased state in the patient.” [pg. 109]
Chapter 10 addresses some of the safety concerns involved with giving cross-sex hormones to people who are experiencing gender dysphoria, particularly women;
“Giving testosterone to a woman quadruples her chance of heart disease because it increases her red blood cell count. When a woman’s testosterone levels are raised to the level of a man’s, her body does not react to the hormone in the same manner as a male, because her cells are female. Her risk of suffering a stroke is also significantly increased.” [pg. 118]
“Lawsuits may soon follow as more young adults begin to wonder where all the adults were when they were making these life-altering choices. As Dr. Lappert remarked, “We are headed for a medical scandal never before seen in human history. Whole medical institutions will be bankrupted by the legal consequences of this disaster.”” [pg. 124]
Adverse childhood events
In Chapter 14, childhood trauma is highlighted as one of a number of factors which can contribute to gender dysphoria; “In one study of children and teens who visited a gender clinic in Australia, 98 percent of them had experienced adverse childhood events before developing transgender beliefs. The researchers found an average of five traumas per child, most of which occurred in the home.” [pg. 166] Unfortunately adverse childhood events are among numerous underlying issues which can be overlooked when the unquestioning “affirmation” model of treating gender dysphoria is used.
Evert also offers practical and compassionate advice to parents and children who are struggling with gender-identity and emphasises the importance of the language which is used to discuss these issues.
“Rather than referring to a person as “trans,” it is more accurate to refer to him or her as someone who “identifies as trans” or who experiences gender dysphoria (if that is true). If religious elders and educators begin adopting the idea that certain individuals “are trans” it does not merely affirm that some individuals experience a discord between their sex and their identity. Rather, it affirms that this discord is the identity of certain people. But the Church does not believe that some people are inherently cis and others are trans. Rather, all people are beloved children of God, and that is the deepest truth of one’s identity.” [pg. 211]
I hope those who struggle with the Church’s teachings in this area will give the book a chance as it may help them understand that the Church’s teaching is not a rejection of their identity but a truly compassionate call for them to rediscover who God made them to be.
Male, Female, Other? can be purchased from Parousia: https://store.parousiamedia.com/male-female-other-a-catholic-guide-to-understanding-gender-jason-evert-chastity-project-paperback/