I might as well start off on the third rail. It can only get better from there.
The transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been back in the news, and I have some things to say about transgender phenomena.
I don’t know what comes to mind when most people hear the word “transgender” or “transgenderism,” but I think of people who (1) experience gender dysphoria and (2) have taken steps to begin presenting as the opposite sex — socially, hormonally or surgically. My impression, though, is that ideologues are treating everyone with gender dysphoria as “trans,” probably because they think all of them should transition. I detest that position.
I also think of the social contagion (or “fad”) that is all of a sudden making a lot of adolescent girls all-of-a-sudden identify as trans, and a lot of ideologues and shady doctors who promote or profit from the fad (with radically inadequate screening, easily constituting malpractice, by the doctors).
On the ontology of gender dysphoria, I do not believe that there can be a boy in a girl’s body, a man in a woman’s body, a girl in a boy’s body, or a woman in a man’s body. Period, full stop. I don’t believe that such cases exist in the tween who has been spending too much time on Tumblr and decided she was a boy yesterday, or in the 50-year-old executive who’s felt female since before puberty. What’s going on is a psychological problem, about which more shortly.
(So I prefer to use the pronouns that align with biological fact, not subjective mental state.)
But I do believe that gender dysphoria exists — that there are boys who feel as if they are girls, etc. — even if at naturally far lower levels than has appeared lately because of the fad and the valorization of all things trans.
However, it’s my understanding that there are adults with intractable and severe gender dysphoria for which, after lengthy psychological counseling, we have found no better solution than transitioning in one form or another — and for some it has been a pretty good solution to reduce the distress. It’s a physical amelioration of a mental obsession. (See this transcript of an Andrew Sullivan podcast for two contrasting cases.)
Maybe Lia Thomas is one of those adults, though he’s awfully young to have undergone a lot a screening.
But although Lia Thomas is a post-adolescent biological male whose women’s swimming dominance is infuriatingly unfair, his transition to presenting as a woman does not appear to be a publicity stunt or a trolling of the sports world. I therefore presume that the gender dysphoria that led to transitioning is genuine — and that the issues raised for sport need to be kept impersonal — i.e., no villifying of Lia personally, even though his athletic exploits are Exhibit A in the case against allowing such a travesty to repeat.
Still, facts are facts. And here are two expressions of roughly how I would respond to “trans women in sports” (and note the title of the second):
Yelling TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN! will not persuade anyone, and it isn’t designed to. It would be wonderful if this were true in every respect, but it isn’t …
Maybe it’s worth trading off fairness for inclusion. I’m open to that idea. But activists need to understand that demanding people not believe what is in front of their ears and eyes is a mark not of a civil rights movement, but a form of authoritarianism.
Andrew Sullivan, The Hipness Of It All
[There is] a broader argument [than Lia Thomas]: should brute biological facts sometimes override people’s deeply held feelings about their identities?
This newspaper believes it is almost always unfair to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports. The advantages bestowed by male puberty are so big that no amount of training or talent can enable female athletes to overcome them. Florence Griffith Joyner’s 100-metres world sprinting record has stood for three decades. A male matching it would not even make it to the Olympics, let alone the final. In 2016, at an American event for high-schoolers, four of the eight boys in the 100-metres final ran faster.
Sports must therefore choose between inclusion and fairness; and they should choose fair play ….
The Economist, Sports should have two categories: “open” and “female”
It’s always been the case that a liberal society depends for unity and vigor on not entirely liberal forces — religious piety, nationalist pride, a sense of providential mission, a certain degree of ethnic solidarity and, of course, the fear of some external adversary. Liberalism at its best works to guide and channel these forces; liberalism at its worst veers between ignoring them and being overwhelmed by them.
But one of the key lessons of recent years is that the spirit of 1989 was itself as much a spirit of revived Eastern European nationalism as of liberalism alone. Which is one reason countries like Poland and Hungary have sorely disappointed liberals in their subsequent development … up until now, of course, when Polish nationalism is suddenly a crucial bulwark for the liberal democratic West.
The ink is dry on What’s Up With Born-Again Muslims? And What Does That Tells Us About American Religion?, but I ran across it again.
Ryan Burge’s conclusion is plausible enough for me to assume it’s correct until someone offers a better explanation for a facially incongruent label:
I’m left with this really interesting conclusion. The perception among non-Protestants is that evangelicalism is a badge of religious devotion for Americans of faith. They identify with it even though it’s not theologically congruent with many of their traditions. But for a lot of Protestants, it’s become more of a social and political designation and less of a religious one. For Muslims Republicans, this is a way to identify more completely with their partisan inclinations, while de-priotizing the fact that Islam doesn’t have a born-again component to its faith tradition.
Shall we do evil that good may come?
It is a distressing thought, on multiple levels, that if the American Clerisy had not falsely spiked the Hunter Biden laptop story (a story they now (very) quietly admit was not disinformation*) as Russian disinformation, we probably would have had a second Trump Electoral College victory.
* “Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.” (Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Federal Investigation Goes On, New York Times 3/16/22)
I’ve struggled with the term “Cultural Marxism” for several years (I’ve lost track). It seemed to be used indiscriminately, and to end discussion rather than to inform it. “Frankfurt School” sounded to me as “Comet Ping Pong” came to sound later — the situs of nefarious deeds according to fevered conspiracy theorists. Then an academic I admire flatly declared that there was no such thing, so I tried to put it out of my mind once and for all.
Of late, though, I’ve read some very progressive people writing favorably about Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School. And I no longer think Cultural Marxism is a figment of polemical imaginations.
I do still think, though, that injecting “Marx” into mainstream American discourse is a pretty cheap rhetorial stunt, so I plan to use it sparingly if at all.
Putin and his friends (American and Russian, lay and clerical)
From a Christian perspective, it’s no use being against the globohomo if you embrace murder of the innocents, deliberate lying and widespread theft. You might not go to Hell for buggery but you’re still going to go to Hell.
Worth your time
If you are in the Evangelical world, you may enjoy this week’s Good Faith podcast, featuring the usual hosts plus David Brooks and Peter Wehner.
The best part, though, was where one or two of them said that Evangelicals have been trying to find the early Church. If they go to primary sources, and secondary sources outside the Evangelical hothouse, they’re in for a surprise: the early Church never went away, and is still available.
The memorialism of certain Reformation groups, in which the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is reduced to a simple remembrance on the part of believers, is among the most egregious examples of the triumph of linearity. Here, the Eucharist is celebrated, but the presence of Christ is reduced to historical memory, the weakest possible interpretation of His words and commandments and a deep distortion of the role of anamnesis (memory).
Fr. Stephen Freeman, Everywhere Present.
I don’t know how I, when Protestant, explained away the long discourse at the end of Chapter 6 of the Gospel According to John, but I did. So I can’t be too harsh on those who still do. Likely it was a matter of which verses we were encouraged to underline — i.e., failure to heed God’s whole counsel.
You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.