The Transgender Trap

It seems there is no shortage of new cultural debates to have.  And it also is true that each new cultural debate appears crafted to deconstruct an existing norm or institution.

That might not be so bad except that after enough deconstructions, all that is left standing strong is the unchallenged authority of personal, individual interpretations of reality.   Which really means that for all of the apparent talk of “welcoming” and “unity” in the endless parade of cultural debates, there is nothing unifying about them at all.

I mention all of this as one possible way to try and understand the new push for acceptance of people who claim to be transgendered.  It is one more cultural debate about deconstructing a commonly accepted (and therefore unifying) component of reality, namely sexual difference between men and women, so that it can be replaced with the new (and fragmenting) primacy of self interpretation of sex, identity, and personhood.

In order to justify any sort of acceptance of transgendered identity, one must abandon objective measures of reality and instead allow each individual person the unchallenged and absolute authority to create their own mental version of reality.  The more that we subscribe to that kind of individual authority to determine what is real, the closer we step into absolute anarchy and social chaos because we will have eliminated any common basis for coming together to form a society.

What Transgenderism Is

All of this might be a bit abstract.  It might be easier to explain what transgenderism is.  But, be advised, to do that we have to resort to objective reality, and that is a very unpopular thing to do these days to be sure.

A person who suffers from transgenderism, or in proper clinical language “sexual or gender dysphoria,” is a person who often through no fault of their own has a mental confusion about their sexual identity as a male or a female.  For whatever reason, there is a mental disconnect that develops that divorces the physical and genetic realities of the body from the healthy mental sense of self awareness that most people possess and enjoy. This can result in varying degrees of internal conflict.

Such people authentically in this situation are very rare.  Even rarer are those cases where there is some actual physical sexual birth defect that is some type of mixing of male and female anatomy.

For the small amount of people who do find themselves in this unfortunate situation, the internal pressures can be very difficult to navigate, and it leaves them looking for some “way out” of the dilemma.

How To Deal With It

There are two pathways out.  One is to place oneself in the care and hands of a trained and loving counselor or therapist who can patiently unpack the layers of mental entanglements that go into a person’s proper stable development.

Choosing this pathway requires submitting to the objective truth that there are such things as definable male and female categories.  This truth becomes the measuring stick to gauge and guide progress toward authentic mental health.  Such progress is often quite obtainable and offers a lot of reason to hope for a healthy and balanced life.

The other pathway out of the tension, at least at first glance, is to decide that there is no such thing as objective sexual categories, and embrace the idea that a subject can construct his or her own identity mentally, and can also construct or choose a new physical body to coincide with it.

Gender reassignment surgery is an attempt to do exactly that.  It is the intentional choice to reshape one’s deeply ingrained biological attributes around a person’s mental construct on the hope that the disconnect between mind and body can be remedied and the tension released. It is based on the premise that a person can mentally decide to be whoever she or he wants to be, free of any constraints that are objective or measurable.

The first way out is a healthy and legitimate way to deal with a problem.  The second one is not.  The first way out acknowledges that a person suffering from gender dysphoria has a classic personality disorder and is in need of mental healing.  The second way out is not really a way out at all but is instead a total embrace of the absolute power of one’s internal fancies to the lamentable point of destroying (permanently) what is often a healthy bodily reproductive and hormonal system.


The second way also pits one person’s mind against the collective truth of the entire rest of the world.  Because if such a person is not delusional, then by default everyone else has to be.

Unless of course one can establish a cultural argument or trend that requires every single person to allow every other person to construct his or her own version of the world, with the hope that all the versions do not end up in some massive conflict.

The cultural turmoil that we are more and more experiencing these days aptly shows that this is an empty hope.

To put all of this in starker terms, it might be easier to think of a situation where a person is convinced that they are Barak Obama.  To any objective observer, clinging desperately to reality, it would appear from the outside that the person in question is a 68 year old, white female, living in Cudahy, Wisconsin in a small World War II era bungalow style home.

But to this person, on the inside, mentally, they are convinced that they are Barak Obama, living in the White House.  And they have always known this, perhaps even since birth, but, more acutely since about the year 2008.

And they are so convinced of this, that they have begun to attempt to launch nuclear attacks on their next door neighbors, let’s call them the Anderson’s, using the special nuclear launch pad on the garage door opener, so that often during a weekday, an objective observer can watch her garage door going up and down for hours at a time, even though the person at the keypad knows that they are simply engaging in a legitimate exercise of presidential power and national self-defense.

Before you judge this person too quickly as having an easily identifiable personality disorder, it would be important to note that there is absolutely no philosophical or clinical difference between this situation and a person who claims to be transgendered.  None.

Why Are Our Heads Spinning? 

So, why is it that we are reconstructing our entire social fabric around a handful of people with painful, and yet obvious, mental disorders?  Why is it that doctors, who are otherwise sane people, have decided to set aside objective reality and encourage the destruction of healthy bodies (even in children) with gender reassignment surgery?  Why is it that parents, who are confronted with a troubled youth, have decided to give in to the mental delusion rather than challenge it?

The answers are long and complex.  But, a couple of possibilities may be briefly offered here.  For one, most people are very well-meaning (in general), and have grown up with a genuine loathing for being the cause of anyone’s disappointment.  We do not want to cause pain, even the necessary pain of correction, and so rather than pointing out what should be obvious, we instead retreat into all sorts of mental gymnastics so that another person’s espoused ideas can be championed, no matter how ridiculous.  Well-meaning to be sure.

But, for some reason, this same principle does not seem to hold up in, say, presidential debates, where the insults are thrown left and right these days.  So, perhaps it is something deeper still?

It might have something to do with the fact that when it comes to matters of sexuality, we have now gone so far off the rails culturally that we really are rapidly retreating (in this realm) from anything that smacks of truth or constraint.

But the problem with that is that, at least so far anyway, there still seems to be a general social disdain for rape, incest, and pedophilia.  Somehow those norms still stand even though, logically, there are no grounds anymore to argue against those behaviors since doing so requires an appeal to objective reality.

If it is a question of empirically verifiable harm in those situations, then we are dealing with the pitfalls of the modern era of science which is only as good as the most current set of observations.  The fact is that if scientists were truly free to study, without fear of political backlash, the deadly results of all of our sexual confusion, we would rapidly re write our legal code to outlaw all sorts of stuff that is now, apparently, fine.

The Christian Response

What is the faithful Catholic or Christian to do with all of this?  As always, the answer is to love these people who are suffering with this condition.  And loving them means having the courage to tell them that they need serious clinical help.  It has absolutely nothing to do with giving them their own bathroom to use.  That is absurd.  And it definitely has nothing to do with encouraging them to have a surgery that destroys their bodies.  That is evil.

But it also means clinging to what is these days more and more a really old-fashioned thing:  the truth about ourselves and our nature that is all enshrined in our bodies, and is reinforced by our continual Scriptural and Magisterial teachings.  God knows how easily we get confused, and that is why he gave us the Commandments.

Ultimately, it means avoiding the transgender trap of thinking that by reconstructing the entire social order we are somehow blazing a pathway to freedom and wholeness.  We are really doing just the opposite these days.  That is a truly lamentable thing, that is, if anyone is objectively sober enough to notice.

About Father Nathan Reesman

Father Reesman is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He is the Shared Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, and also of Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, both in West Bend, Wisconsin. He is also the Courage and EnCourage chaplain for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Courage is an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to men and women who experience same sex attraction.
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