In today’s Second Reading, Revelation 1:9-11A, 12-13, 17-19, the risen Lord Jesus presents himself “like a son of man.” His eternal power, extolled by John in Revelation 1:6, and striking and dramatic physical features overwhelm John (v.17). Jesus’ physicality is palpable not only in our Second Reading but also in the Gospel, John 20:19-31, in which Jesus shows his Apostles his hands and his side, and later tells Thomas to put his finger on the wounds on his hands and place his hand into his side. Jesus’s risen Body is quite real. His identity—including that of his biological sex—is the same, only his risen Body is glorified. Jesus was conceived a biological male (e.g., Luke 1:31), died a biological male, and rose as one as well. The same continuum is true of the Blessed Virgin Mary: she came into the world as a biological female, and she was assumed into heaven as one also.
When God created our first parents on the sixth day, he created them male and female. At the end of this day, he not only found that all he created was “good,” as in previous days, but “very good” (tov me’ohd’) (Genesis 1:27, 31). Our biological sexuality is sacred to God—it is a very good, beautiful, powerful gift. With this gift, through our holy bodies, we can image Trinitarian love physically in the marital embrace, or symbolically by our self-giving love to God and neighbor that mirrors the faithful love between Christ and his spouse, the Church. We also can incarnate marital love physically by “being fruitful and multiplying,” or symbolically by transmitting, protecting, and nourishing the Word of God in people’s lives by word and deed.
Tragically, in today’s world, contaminated by an ever-growing cancer—the culture of corruption and death—we have forgotten the simple biological lesson and yet mystery of the “birds and the bees” applied to human sexuality. We no longer remember the purpose of sexuality, so easily and well-articulated in natural law and God’s revelation. A symptom of our cultural amnesia, ignorance, and moral dysfunction is our acceptance, approval, and advancement of transgenderism. This is an obvious consequence of the nominalistic priority enshrining the act of choice over and against nature and reason, as well its consequent reduction of sexual activity to mere pleasure, in whatever disordered way.
Yet transgenderism is not simply the outgrowth of a bankrupt philosophical trend, but also often reflects a serious underlying disorder, gender dysphoria. Men and women and boys and girls identifying as the opposite sex or in flux between the two sexes need real, compassionate help, not support or encouragement in “feeling like” or impersonating the opposite sex. Of course, lest we condescend and forget our own disorders and frailties, we must view someone struggling in this way first and foremost as a person of lofty dignity, a human being made in the image of God and redeemed by Christ’s Blood.
We also must respect the most unbiased medical studies and other studies in health that advance our understanding of this issue. For example, concerning sex reassignment surgery, the University of Birmingham’s review of more than one hundred international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals shows there is no scientific evidence that surgery is effective as a treatment to improve their lives, with many of them left critically distressed and suicidal post-op. In a renowned study published in 2011, “Long-Term Follow-up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Cohort Study in Sweden,” considerably higher mortality rate, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population characterized these results.
Just last month, the American College of Pediatricians published a statement urging “educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts—not ideology—determine reality” (www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children). I encourage you to read the entire statement. Also, check out www.sexchangeregret.com. The ACP highlighted the following points:
- Human sexuality is an objective binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health—not genetic markers of a disorder.
- No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept, not an objective, biological one.
- A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking.
- Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous.
- According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.
- Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence. Cross-sex hormones are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and cancer.
- Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT-affirming countries.
- Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.
God made no mistake in assigning each of us a biological sex. Rejecting this divinely-bestowed identity and assignment is rejecting a very good, beautiful, and powerful gift. In addition, when this rejection includes bodily harm and mutilation, we violate the moral law (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2297) and further harm ourselves and offend God.
If we care about our transgender brothers and sisters, and about the greatness, beauty, and power God has bestowed upon us through our gift of biological sex, we will by God’s grace—even in our fallen world—generate the compassion, courage, and persistence to advance chastity, personal integrity, and God’s honor as the Great Designer—to the end!
Mark Koehne teaches moral theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.