Camille Paglia on the Transgender Movement: “Liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming . . . flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender”

camilleCamille Paglia is right.

As a former editor for JBMW, the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I have not cited too many feminists on my blog. Nor have I unconditionally quoted many. But when it comes to the topic of transgender, I believe Camille Paglia is right and worthy of quotation.

Now, it goes without saying I disagree with Paglia on a host of things, but in a world that keeps buying the next philosophical and cultural fad, I deeply appreciate the way she is willing to expose contradictions and oppose false beliefs. And with regards to the “current transgender wave” (her words), I believe her comments expose something many others are unwilling to say, or unwilling to see.

In an interview with Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard, here is what she said.

JVL:I keep waiting for the showdown between feminism and transgenderism, but it always keeps slipping beneath the horizon. I’ve been looking at how the La Leche League—which stood at the crossroads of feminism once upon a time—has in the last couple years bowed completely to the transgender project. Their central text is (for now)The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,but they’ve officially changed their stance to include men and fathers who breastfeed. The actual wording of their policy is wonderful: “It is now recognized that some men are able to breastfeed.” Left unsaid is the corollary that some women are biologically unable to breastfeed. Though this would go against the League’s founding principles, one supposes. What does one make of all of this?

CP: Feminists have clashed with transgender activists much more publicly in the United Kingdom than here. For example, two years ago there was an acrimonious organized campaign, including a petition with 3,000 claimed signatures, to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer at Cardiff University because of her “offensive” views of transgenderism. Greer, a literary scholar who was one of the great pioneers of second-wave feminism, has always denied that men who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are actually “women.” Her Cardiff lecture (on “Women and Power” in the twentieth century) eventually went forward, under heavy security.

And in 2014, Gender Hurts, a book by radical Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, created a heated controversy in the United Kingdom. Jeffreys identifies transsexualism with misogyny and describes it as a form of “mutilation.” She and her feminist allies encountered prolonged difficulties in securing a London speaking venue because of threats and agitation by transgender activists. Finally, Conway Hall was made available: Jeffrey’s forceful, detailed lecture there in July of last year is fully available on YouTube. In it she argues among other things, that the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life.

Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.

As for the La Leche League, they are hardly prepared to take up the cudgels in the bruising culture wars. Awash with the milk of human kindness, they are probably stuck in nurturance mode. Naturally, they snap to attention at the sound of squalling babies, no matter what their age. It’s up to literature professors and writers to defend the integrity of English, which like all languages changes slowly and organically over time. But with so many humanities departments swallowed up in the poststructuralist tar pit, the glorious medium of English may have to fight the gender commissars on its own.

I am not sure I could say it better. And I certainly could not say it from the position of this erudite feminist. Therefore, I leave her answer without comment, save one.

Her insights are a reminder that it is not only Christians and conservatives who take issue with the inconsistencies of modern gender studies. Feminists who take science and grammar seriously do as well. Therefore, let us consider well her words and seek to press for common sense in the public square. 

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

An Introduction to Bioethics

Paul Simon once sang that their are 50 ways to leave your lover—a practice I’m not endorsing—and today there are just as many ways to make a baby, almost. According to Joe Carter, in his weekly post on bioethics, there are at least thirty-ways to make a baby.  He writes,

Until the 1970s, all but one child ever born was the result of sexual intercourse; today, there are at least thirty-eight ways to make a baby. In an attempt to conquer infertility we’ve developed dozens of methods, a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms, to create a child: IVF, IUI, ICSI, DI, AI, ET, etc. 

I had no idea that there were and are so many ways to bring children into this world. Of course, these reproductive technologies may help many infertile couples to be parents, but they also create innumerable ethical difficulties. Continue reading

Receiving and Believing the Word of God

When was the last time you started your car and consciously thought about the internal combustion engine involved?  Or how often do you eat and enjoy a meal without knowing the way it was prepared or the origin of all its ingredients?  Or more technically, do you ever think about the processes involved to make Wifi work?  Probably not until the router goes down.  While each of these examples could be studied in great detail and are, it is not necessary to fully understand their intricate operations, to enjoy the experience of driving, eating, or surfing the web.  While ASE certified technicians, sous chefs, and computer hackers benefit from the advanced studies in these areas, knowledge is secondary to the faithful enjoyment of these things.

Similarly, Herman Bavinck remarks concerning the relationship between biblical studies and Christian belief, that faith precedes understanding (cf. 2 Pet. 1:6-8).  In a lengthy section defending the historic belief that the Triune God inspired the very words of the Bible, the faithful Dutch Reformer writes with wry wisdom,

Those who do not want to embark on scientific investigation until they see the road by which we arrive at knowledge fully cleared will never start.  Those who do not want to eat before they understand the entire process by which food arrives at the table will starve to death.  And those who do not want to believe the Word of God before they see all problems will die of spiritual starvation (Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003], 442).

Bavinck’s words, written in an age when science, historical-criticism, and the Enlightenment Spirit were fueling modernism and eroding faith (ca. 1900), remind us that to profit from the Scriptures we must believe they are God’s words (2 Tim. 3:16-17), given from God through his prophet and apostles (2 Pet. 1:19-21), to his church for the purpose of salvific wisdom, life, godliness, and grace that leads to repentance in Jesus Christ.  Arrogantly waiting for all the “cruxes” and inconsitencies to be resolved in the Scriptures will only lead to an impoverished understanding of the Bible and a wrath-inviting position before God.

Bavinck’s words and his whole treatment of the subject of the Scripture’s inspiration insist that to fully understand the Bible we must begin with faith (cf. Rom. 10:17).  Only then can can we labor over the texts as a spiritual service of worship that enables us to test and approve the good, perfect, and pleasing will of God (Rom. 12:2).  In coming to study the Bible we must do so as needy sinners standing under the judgment of God, and not intellectual zealots bringing finite and foolish judgments against the infinitely wise and eternal God.  For in truth, biblical understanding is a gift from God (cf. Prov. 2:1-7) and an ability not naturally possessed (1 Cor. 1-2). 

Such a position does not laud men and their schemas, but God and his grace.  Thus we must come receptive in order to believe, and this receptivity only occurs because God in his mercy sends his Spirit to prepare our hearts to receive his word.  From first to last, the revelation of God is supernatural and gracious, and must be considered as one of God’s greatest acts of kind condescension.  The human heart writhes under the pressure of this self-effacing position, but it preserves the pearls of God from being trampled by unbelieving swine.  

May those who have ears to hear, hear the Word of God and believe.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss