Ideas have consequences, and few more dire than the idea of that one can transition one’s gender. The notion that our bodies may be manipulated and transformed at will has its roots in the early heresy of Gnostic dualism, already evident in the time of the Apostles. The Gnostics taught that we are really spirits, created by the ‘good’ god, while our bodies, made of malleable and messy matter, are the stuff of the ‘bad’ god. The end goal of life is to cast off our bodies, and so return to our original spiritual state. In the meantime, the body is a tool – to be used, and abused as we see fit.
We may not quite put things this way, but the underlying concept is the same, that who we ‘really’ are is not our bodies, but rather some sort of interior ‘ego’, or ‘I’ that constitutes our true self. It is incumbent that the body must conform to that true self.
Take tattoos, which many Catholics accept as morally neutral, if not a valid form of self-expression. But what are they, except irrevocable images carved into our skin, deliberate wounds which turn into scars, in turn filled with ink? Whether they are religious or not is beside the point.
Cosmetic surgery is more or less on a similar continuum, from breast reduction to silicon implants to nose jobs.
Surgical gender ‘transitioning’ is the last and most tragic stage in this process, mutilation ad absurdam, which Bethel McGrew describes quite rightly as a monstrous mutilation. Jordan Peterson makes a convincing appeal that these Mengelian medical practitioners, blocking puberty with hormones, and lopping off healthy breasts, penises, and testes, should not only have their licences revoked, and be thrown in jail to reflect and repent, along with those who aid and abet this horror. If there is a sane future to history, we will look back on this practice, especially inflicted on children, as a crime against humanity.
Scroll through this reflection, and the twitter post contained therein, and the reader may not be surprised that all too often the end point of these disfigured and maimed victims is suicide. (Caveat: It is tough reading, and not for the squeamish).
How did we get to this point? Well, like Hemingway said of going bankrupt, it happened gradually, then suddenly. Aristotle says that a slight error in the beginning, if not corrected, will lead to a very large one in the end. An inch or two off on those trucks painting median lines on the highway will soon have them in the forest, unless they realize, and correct, their error.
What’s wrong here, from the inch to the mile, is thinking that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies. There is some freedom for rightly ordered self-expression, to wear this or that, to shape our bodies with exercise, to style our hair, (even if long hair be degrading to a man, as well as a woman’s glory – at least so sayeth Saint Paul (I Corinthians 11:1)
If we travel down the road of mutilation permanently altering our bodies for no therapeutic reason, we begin the road to where we are now. We may soon see the call for transhumanist implants and surgeries, digital ‘tattoos’ with all of our financial and biometric data; as well as ‘silicone chips inside our heads’, as the Boomtown Rats sang decades ago.
In order to halt the continued degradation of the human, we need to recapture what it means, in a truly integrated way, to be a person, made in God’s divine image, body and soul, male and female. Our bodies are not just malleable canvasses or tools, but temples of the Holy Spirit, to be kept undefiled, as a sign not only of what we are, but of what we are to become in the glory yet to be revealed.