Ryan Hunter: Truth a Casualty in Acclaim Surrounding Jenner

What is Truth?

A time is coming when people will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying “You are mad, you are not like us.” —St Anthony the Great (d. AD 356)

“What is truth?” —Pontius Pilatus to Christ only hours before His execution (John 18:38).

Bruce Jenner’s public transition to his female alter ego “Caitlyn” on the cover of Vanity Fair received widespread praise in progressive circles. President Obama took the time to hail Jenner’s “courage” in coming forward and sharing her story. What is clear as one reads of the fawning coverage of Jenner’s transition to becoming, apparently, a woman is that the West has become so dedicated to the Enlightenment value of the absolute will of self that it has abandoned adherence to both morality and reason, deifying the individual will and setting it above all things.

There is no room for dissenting views in an intellectually totalitarian society, and that is what we are rapidly becoming. Anyone who sensibly and politely dissents from calling Bruce Jenner “Caitlyn” will be labeled a hater, a bigot, an intolerant ass worthy of public condemnation and ostracizing. We live in an insane time when crazy things like mutilating the body in order to accommodate spiritual illness — and that is precisely what this phenomenon is — are considered normative, and normal reactions are considered hateful.

For a man to mutilate his body to “become” a woman — which is both biologically and scientifically impossible — is something every civilized society should condemn and reject as tragic, unnecessary, and profoundly destructive to the soul. Yet our society is ever more allergic to the very notion of there being a soul, an afterlife, an ultimate account, a God. Christians, and conservatives of every and even no religion, urge the far simpler, easier path — for a person who thinks himself or herself “transgendered” to do the sensible thing and begin to reconcile his or her sadly disturbed, confused mind to his or her natural body. This can and should be done through appropriate channels of guided, professional spiritual and psychological healing.

The inescapable reality is that Bruce will forever be Bruce. His DNA will forever be male. No amount of “corrective” surgery can change that. All that will be female in him is a kind of facade, the plastically and surgically applied exterior appearance. Bruce, even posing as Caitlyn, will never be able to have a womb, that thing which truly separates women from men. This 65 year old grandfather will never be able to give birth, no matter what he does to mutilate his body into resembling that of a woman. If he goes through with full “gender reassignment surgery”, or “gender harmonization surgery”, as it is now being called, Bruce will have grafted, fake female genitalia in the spot where his male genitalia were sliced and mutilated.

In every way, should Bruce choose to go through with the surgery, his body would become a mutilation. He needs our fervent prayers that God protect him from such a tragic path. If he tragically decides to take the extreme step, he will bear the ultimate responsibility, but so will the horrific, immoral plastic surgeons and pseudo-psychologists who encouraged his delusion, who encouraged him to mutilate himself rather than do the far easier, sensible thing and reconcile his mind and soul to his beautiful, natural, God-given body.

At the rate he is going, Bruce will have taken a profoundly hurting man, a man still physically whole, with a fully functioning male anatomy, and butchered him. Any sensible, thoughtful society would pity him, would pray for him to still find healing, and beg him not to go further down the path into madness. Yet we live in an insane society that praises him for being so brave, so true to himself, that he dares to risk all to be who he wants to be. We have elevated the self-will over and as a replacement of God. We are now a truly atheistic society in which we subordinate all things to the individual will.

The truth is, whether you’re a theist or not, either God or nature made Bruce male. No amount of plastic surgery can change that. Instead of trying to reason with Bruce, instead of encouraging him on the far easier path of reconciling his hurting mind and soul with his beautiful, God-created male body, we now live in a society that encourages and normalizes people who are sadly running from their true selves, running from any concept of ultimate Truth, running from and rejecting the very concept of there being a reality beyond the self will.

The idolization of the self-will is complete. Truth in our society is dead.

Ryan Hunter

Ryan Hunter is pursuing his BA in History at Stony Brook University in New York. He is the University’s “Researcher of the Month” for June 2015. He plans to pursue a PhD in either Russian, British, or Byzantine history. His interests include Church history, theology, the Empire periods of most civilizations, and political theory. He has written widely for the Institute on Religion & Democracy’s blog Juicy Ecumenism. Read Ryan Hunter’s essays.

Comments

  1. Nicole Cooper MD :

    The compassion and truth spoken in love for Bruce Jenner in this essay is most welcome. As an Orthodox psychiatrist, I welcome both truth and Truth spoken in love in every discussion. May all commenters recall the hurt in such a person’s life calling out for Love and Truth and may all our words be filled with both so he or she reading them may long to approach the Christ we love and serve~ as did St Mary Magdalen or St. Mary of Egypt ~ with tears of gratitude for His love, compassion, forgiveness and healing and to us for our tangible kindness and mercy. And may they find both spiritual and lay physicians including psychiatrists to assist on their path to Him, supported not thwarted by us as fellow sinful creatures humble enough to share our own longing and need for healing of our own wounds, publicans not Pharisees, with whom they can identify. To paraphrase Elder Ephraim in his beautiful book Art of Salvation, no one in a hospital including physicians ridicules other patients or judges them for their illness, so why would we do so about spiritual illnesses. Of course we in the hospital need accurate diagnoses and the right treatment to heal. So may we all treat each other as kindly as patients in the hospital of life and yet only offer words of true hope and healing to our fellow sufferers whatever our different illnesses. And may we point these sufferers to good spiritual and lay physicians for such healing. Thank you Father Hans for posting this.

    • Ryan Hunter :

      Dr Cooper, I appreciate your kind words. It is a joy to hear of an Orthodox psychiatrist! I hope you continue to provide your patients with the care they need. You are quite right to highlight Mr. Jenner’s terrible suffering — for how could one possibly contemplate such a radical move, such a painful and unnatural process as “gender reassignment surgery” if one was not suffering immensely. The Lord’s mercy covers all things, so even if Mr. Jenner takes the radical step of mutilating himself, we can still pray that he will find repentance for the terrible sin of self-mutilation.

      In the meantime, may all who struggle do as you say, and “find both spiritual and lay physicians including psychiatrists to assist on their path to Him.”

      I have not yet read any of Elder Ephraim’s writings, but I will look into his Art of Salvation. Exactly so — no one should make fun of Mr. Jenner, but reach out to him with our prayers and empathy. Our empathy should, naturally, include urging him not to persist in this terribly destructive path which so scars the soul and especially the body.

  2. Christopher :

    Having recently been in a discussion on another blog about anthropology, marriage, monasticism, and the pre-lapsiarian and eschatological “specultaions” (I put that in quotes because I am not sure they are speculations, they could be God given noetic insight – that is what we hope they are) of certain Fathers (e.g. St. Gregory Nyssa, St. Maximos, St. Isaac the Syrian, etc.) that inform the Orthodox understanding of anthropology-marriage-monasticism, I have a question:

    On what basis do we as Orthodox really criticize Bruce’s “mutilation” of his “genitalia”? I ask because I have been reading up on the Orthodox view of all this, and there is this tension – this strain between sexual activity and gender difference as “fallen” and “postlapsarian, and thus monasticism rejection of sexual activity as part of the vanity of the world (even to the point of marriage being a “concession” (c.f. St Gregory of Nyssa’s description of marriage being “The ‘last outward stopping place’ of Adam and Eve in their sad exile from Paradise,” in “On Virginity”) and the fact that marriage is one of the major Sacraments of the Church, and to some is a real martyrdom and path to salvation.

    I want to make a no doubt provocative suggestion: That the Church is in fact schizophrenic when it comes to interpreting the creation of humanity as “male and female”, that is it’s interpretation of Genesis and Christ’s words and actions, and thus it’s whole teaching on sex, sexuality, marriage, etc. I am suggesting that this “schizophrenia” is not merely certain errors exaggerated (e.g. Augustine’s thoughts on the subject and thus the whole phenomenon of “Augustinianism” and it’s prudery) but goes to the very heart of Orthodox Christianity and its understanding and praise of “the Angelic Life” (i.e. monasticism). To put it another way, can the Orthodox Church that is so evidently under a “monastic captivity” speak to it’s own members, let alone the culture, coherently on anthropology, sexuality, marriage and chasity?

    I am currently reading Fr. Lawerence Farley’s “One Flesh: Salvation through Marriage in the Orthodox Church” (having previously read Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov’s “There Is No Sex in the Church!: On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender in Orthodoxy”) but it so far is doing nothing to disabuse me of the suspicion that our Church has a deep deep “ontological” ambivalence (even rejection) towards our sexual ontology. This seems to me to be a mistake and again, undermines our witness to the culture on this very issue.

    • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

      This is indeed a problem the Church will have to face. There is a strain of speculation among our more philosophical Fathers that is fundamentally anti-sexual in that it takes for granted the conventional wisdom of the ancient world that male and female is merely a matter of the body with no other purpose or significance than procreation. But against such speculation is the broader tradition of the Church, which makes quite a lot of sexual distinction, even likening the relationship between the man and the woman to the relationship between the Father and the Son, per 1 Cor. 11:3 and, we might say, Gen. 1:27: “In the image of God made He him; male and female made He them.”

      • Christopher :

        Protodeacon Brian,

        It’s interesting, I spoke of a “monastic captivity” but you referenced St. Paul and it goes back to him does it not? What does one make of “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality (the greek here is porneias), let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. ” & “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry” (1 Cor 7)

        Soooooo, marriage to this Paul (one can point to “the other” Paul where sacramental marriage is a good) is a simple concession to those “cannot exercise self-control”, and this “monastic Paul” of course puts his way of life first “It is good for them if they remain as I am” So which is it? Is sacramental marriage a concession to those who lack self control over our sexual nature (which according to many of the Fathers who cast large shadows over Orthodoxy is in some way “not good”) and thus is a sort of “economy class” spiritual life (as Fr. Lawrence describes this sort of thinking) or is it a path, or part of a path, that is Sacramental (in a more clear way than monastic tonsure is – it’s always in the “big 7” even if Orthodox does not count like the west) and is at least as legitimate as monasticism?

        Even someone as respected as Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra can write an article like this:

        http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/marriage.aspx

        and then turn around and say:

        “…disfigured because they were no longer divine but fleshly realities, like those, for example, given to them in marriage” (from “The Progression of the Soul”)

        He talks like a man (as does St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximos – the whole lot) who has no real experience with “fleshly realities…given in marriage”, let alone about *divine* realities that are in fact given in marriage and which some of the tradition recognize (e.g. even in Genesis as you rightly point out). Elder Aimilianos is simply revealing a certain ignorance – one unfortunately I think reinforced by St. Paul, though St. Paul did not seem to hold this view entirely – in fact he appears to be schizoid or double-minded about it (perhaps here we have “textual interpolations” – hate to go down that road).

        And what do we make of the words we have of Jesus Christ? “a problem the Church will have to face” indeed.

        To make things worse, I get a sense that bishops and priests don’t know quite what to make of this tension, and end up dealing with it “pastorally”. Well, ok, but what’s the actual truth of the matter? If it is a “great mystery” (Eph 5 for example) then why the negative speculations of the Fathers?

        • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

          There is nothing necessarily problematic in the words of St. Paul in 1 Cor. 7. He speaks “by permission and not by commandment” and expresses his personal preference for remaining single to serve God more, but he admits that “every man hath his proper gift of God,” some to marry and some not to marry.

          This passage and others only become problematic when interpreted according to pagan philosophical assumptions about the mind vs. the body. Those assumptions are expressed in Origen, Evagrius, and others, and they do become part of the Church’s monastic tradition, but they are also repeatedly checked by the Church’s defense of marriage and condemnation of encratism.

          The result is a balance between marriage and monasticism that keeps Christianity from becoming either a fertility cult or a suicide pact. Marriage is good, but it is not the greatest good. It is for a time and not forever. Even the natural progress of life is through youthful desire to mature relief from desire.

          These lessons were important for the world to learn, but now that the world is unlearning them, the most dubious sayings of a handful of Fathers are being used to destroy the proper Christian regard for male and female. That’s a challenge that must be met, even if it means admitting that some favorite Fathers were not always right.

          • Ryan Hunter :

            Well said. Father Deacon Patrick!

          • Christopher :

            Thank you for your reply Protodeacon Brian. Very true about what you say about “desire”. That said, as a 46 year old man (married about 20 years now) I have never, even in my youth, considered “desire” (by which you mean sexual drive) to be the basis for, or even a primary reason for marriage. Anyone who actually has any real experience with real Christian marriage understands that it is an acesis – a martyrdom where ones will is constantly being subsumed under another and others (such as God, your wife, children, etc.) because of a love that transcends (and thus transforms) the basic human sexual drive. I am surprised that this even needs to be said, and it is so common and obvious that I feel like those who write about marriage primarily in terms of (and by using such terms reveals that this is their limited experience and thus their ignorance) sexual desire and “burning” seem fundamentally ignorant about the actual way of life of the vast majority of Christians who have ever lived, are living now, and will live God willing.

            If one is entering a marriage primarily (or solely?) to satisfy ones sexual “burning”, then good luck. How long will that marriage last? Is not our modern culture a wasteland of relationships because of such naivety (really, it’s a foolishness)? And why do we listen to monks, Fathers, and apparently apostles such as St. Paul whos understanding does not seem to rise above such a naive, adolescent understanding of marriage? Does not Genesis point to an ontology of man and sex that already is quite a bit more realistic and mature – is Paul and the Fathers a retreat, a slipping backwards into a more primitive and limited understanding of man’s sexuality and God’s Holy Sacrament of marriage?

            I thank God the Church appears to at least have balanced this with the Sacrament of marriage and it’s place in the church – or is this too a “concession”?

            I know I am driving this point rather hard, but it does seem important – and directly related to how we as Church witness to our own members and the culture at large…

            • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

              Dear Christopher,

              First, you’re being very unfair to the Holy Apostle Paul, who also wrote 1 Cor. 11 and Eph. 5, both of which say quite a lot that is grandly good about both marriage and the distinction of male and female.

              Second, of course there’s a lot more to marriage than sexual desire, and, no, you don’t need to belabor that point here. I think we all understand, thanks to the Holy Apostle Paul and much else in tradition.

              Third, the ancient world was really immersed in sexual immorality and needed to be cleansed, and the Church performed that cleansing by availing itself of the wisdom it had at hand, which is not sufficient now but was sufficient then. (See Kyle Harper’s From Shame to Sin, Harvard, 2014).

              Fourth, there are within the tradition principles that can help us correct the insufficiencies of the past in its understanding of sexuality. Here are a couple of offerings of my own, to which I hope to add at length in the future:

              “Christian Anarchists? How Politics Corrupts Our Language of Relations”

              “The Problem with Hierarchy: Ordered Relations in God and Man”

              Finally, your point is important, and you are right to raise it. There are times when we need to tell our fathers in faith that their answers really aren’t nearly as sound and sufficient as they need to be. We now face new questions and will need new answers.

              In Christ,
              Pdn. Patrick

              • Protodeacon Brian,

                Again, thank you for your response. You are correct – I am pushing my point too far against St. Paul for “effect”, however this aspect of Paul does seem to be the side emphasized by St. Gregory of Nyssa and others.

                Thank you for the reading recommendations – I have printed off your essay’s and hope to get through them today. Kyle Harper’s book looks very relevant and being a native Oklahoman I have two reasons to read him 😉

    • Ryan Hunter :

      Christopher, you wrote:

      “On what basis do we as Orthodox really criticize Bruce’s “mutilation” of his “genitalia”? ”

      This seems rather straight forward. On the basis that each man and woman is made in the ineffable image of God, an image that is sacred and quite literally divine, we would state to those considering gender reassignment surgery — a form of mutilation, unless the person happens to be one of a tiny minority who are born intersex/hermaproditic– that it is a grave sin to butcher and mutilate the body which God gave you. Except in cases where there is no definable biological sex (cases where the Church, as stated via the “Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, makes allowance for the appropriate medical correction) it is a grave wrong to fix that which is not broken, and indeed to mistake mutilation and butchery for “fixing” and repairing.

      Respectfully yours,
      -Ryan Hunter

      • James Bradshaw :

        Ryan writes: “it is a grave sin to butcher and mutilate the body which God gave you”

        Would this include undergoing elective cosmetic surgery? Does it matter if the surgery is to correct a deformity or if it’s purely for cosmetic reasons such as to reduce the signs of aging, etc?

        I’m of the opinion that God does not micromanage the development of our physical bodies from conception to adulthood.

        While I find transgender-ism to be a mental illness along the lines of other body dysmorphic disorders (such as those who wish to amputate functioning limbs), I’m not sure I find it a “sin” any more than wanting bigger breasts, a smaller nose or a fixed cleft palate.

        • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

          While I find transgender-ism to be a mental illness along the lines of other body dysmorphic disorders …, I’m not sure I find it a “sin” any more than wanting bigger breasts, a smaller nose or a fixed cleft palate.

          Really? Transgenderism is no more a sin than fixing a cleft palate? This pretty much tells us where you’re coming from, James, excusing us to dismiss everything else you say. Unless you want to reconsider.

          • James Bradshaw :

            Pdn Mitchell: If our bodies reveal divine intent as they are, then it is necessarily sinful to modify them for purely cosmetic reasons (as opposed to functional). I don’t believe that, though. As I said, I’m an open Deist, so I don’t subscribe to a theology that says God sovereignly decrees everything that is or that comes to pass.

            However, I acknowledge that rejecting one’s perfectly functional and aesthetically sufficient body in favor of one that is disfigured is a reflection of mental illness. I don’t see where there’s sinful intent in it.

            • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

              James, that’s not how Christians, especially Orthodox Christians, understand sin or the effects of sin. Sin is not merely a deliberate transgression of a divine decree; it is behavior contrary to nature separating us from the personal Source of divine grace necessary for sustaining us in our natural state. The effects of sin and the resulting separation include congenital deformities like cleft palates, which are not natural but merely conditional and are therefore to be healed sooner or later through communion with God. Christ Himself healed people of such deformities, but sinful men sometimes inflict deformities on themselves and others.

              • Ryan Hunter :

                Father Deacon Patrick,

                You make an excellent point. Cleft palates may be healed through truly restorative, corrective surgery as they are unnatural, conditional aberrations. To heal a cleft palate is to correct something that is incidentally broken/flawed. To butcher perfectly functioning, natural genitalia and graft on fake, pseudo-genitalia is to break something that isn’t broken and to therefore cause the body made in God’s own image to be mutilated and maimed. It is a grave, grave sin to abuse and so tarnish the image of the Creator. Man is not absolutely sovereign over himself, as deists and atheists believe. Man is ultimately accountable before His Creator, in this life and the next.

          • M. Stankovich :

            Mr. Bradshaw,

            I believe that this line of discussion is both superfluous & tangential to the ethical issue of surgical intervention for Gender Dysphoria. The fact of the matter is that research indicates that this “correction” does not only fail to achieve its intended goal – the “reintegration” of the person with their “real” gender, thereby alleviating the dysphoria and ending the suffering that characterizes the disorder – but it frequently results in worse pathological states than prior to the “correction”:

            Results:
            The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9). Comparisons with controls matched on reassigned sex yielded similar results. Female-to-males, but not male-to-females, had a higher risk for criminal convictions than their respective birth sex controls.

            Conclusions:
            Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and
            somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.

            Dhejne, D, Lichtenstein, P, Boman, M, Johansson, ALV, Langstrom, N, and Lande, M. “Long-term follow-up of transsexual persons undergoing sex reassignment surgery: cohort study in sweden.” PLoS ONE 6(2): e16885. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016885 [Available here

            Secondly, I would direct the discussion to the reasoning behind the decision of Johns Hopkins University – pioneers in gender reassignment – to no longer perform the procedure. There is an excellent essay written by Paul McHugh, MD, Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital (and the voice behind the moritorium) published June 10, 2015 here.

            • The study you cite, at least from what I can tell about the part you quoted, does not seem to support your claim that surgery “frequently results in worse pathological states than prior to the ‘correction’ “. What this shows is that there is a higher rate of suicide after surgery compared to the general non-transgender population, which is not surprising given issues they face in society. It does not compare SRS patients with transgender individuals who have not undergone SRS, or even transgender individuals after surgery compared to before surgery. The only way to support your conclusion would be to do a long term study of transgender individuals, randomly assign some to receive SRS, and compare how they do in follow-ups. Or, at least show that the suicide rate increases after surgery.

              In response to the McHugh article, I would direct you here: https://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/a-wither-spoonful-of-poison/

              • M. Stankovich :

                Dan,

                I merely provided a quote from the Swedish study for the sake of expediency. Please note the link to download the entire study as a PDF, including the methodology in its entirety.

                As to the commentary of Kay Brown, I personally tire of the dismissal of critics as “phobic,” homo or now tran, as a cheap convention: it is impossible to have a legitimate disagreement and/or dispute that is not somehow based in some underlying subconscious, unnatural “terror” (“phobia”) of homosexuality – and the unstated “trick” is that your terror is that you might be homosexual yourself. The scam here is that the term “internalized homophobia” was originally intended to apply to homosexual self-loathing – or what the Holy Fathers would term the “conscience” – and not misapplied to anyone critical of a lifestyle contrary to the created order. I was taught in medical school to continue to question & gather information until a crystal clear impression of the problem emerges, then, state the obvious. Apparently, Mr./Ms. Brown resolves this suspension of reality by declaring it the “homophobic bigotry” of a “devout Roman Catholic,” while completely disavowing both his credentials, his position, and his reputation & respect in the psychiatric community.

                Dr. McHugh has done nothing more than state the obvious: a femanized male is not a woman, and a masculinized woman is not a man. Duh. Gender Dysphoria, pursuant to the DSM-V and the ICD-10, is a profound mental illness that predictably & characteristically distorts an individuals perception of reality, and colluding in this process is insanity. And finally, his conclusion is evidence-based and customary: we do not treat mental illness with surgery, but with psychotherapy and medication. And McHugh wasn’t kidding when he concluded: “But gird your loins if you would confront this matter. Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.”

                • M. Stankovich,

                  Thank you for your reply.

                  I looked at the entire study and still do not see where there is any comparison to non-SRS trans people, or any conclusion that supports that SRS is doing harm. Additionally, note the suicide attempt drop between 1973-1988 and 1989-2003. This strongly suggests that the majority of suicides are due to a lack of societal acceptance rather than internal mental illness.

                  While I understand your frustration with purely dismissive language from critics, Kay Brown did offer a little more than that in support of her stance against McHugh:

                  “Autogynephilia, while NOT related to anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), is related to Body Integrity Identity Disorder, a member of the family of Erotic Target Identity Disorders. This family is about sexuality and sexual orientations, which like heterosexuality and homosexuality have been shown to be very resistant to change, thus the move to outlaw “reparitive therapy”.”

                  • M. Stankovich :

                    Dan,

                    The fact of the matter is this: there is no scientific evidence that “reparitive therapy” is either helpful or harmful, worse with resistant or refractory patients, or just plain foolish or folly. Those that practice “reparitive therapy” do so without any of the standard protections of human subjects or internal review boards specifically mandated by ethical protocol to protect patients; and while they frequently report extraordinary “success” (even to the level of repairing sexual fantasies), they adamantly refuse to release their research protocol and raw data to the scientific community for scrutiny. Those that oppose “reparitive therapy” equally lack any credible science and rely solely on an accumulation of anecdote – generally highly emotional, related to youth and suicide, which constitutes an especially limited cohort. The defies the axiom that anecdote is an indication of the need for research, not policy. I would note that when GLAAD made it a point to emphasize that the AMA and both APAs (psychiatry/psychology) declared “reparitive therapy” as medically unsound and unethical, I responded on their website that if they were able to provide credible research citations from legitimate journals, they could publish my picture formally apologizing to GLAAD, the AMA, and the APAs for my error. It never happened.

                    My point is that the LGBT community has used pure social influence – intimidation, threats to research funding, threats against endowment funding, threats against professional licensing, and in two states criminal charges – to prevent the controlled, empirical investigation of “reparitive therapy” for homosexuality, even with voluntary adult subjects. And to have convinced nearly every national medical and social service organization to declare “reparitive therapy” unethical without any scientific evidence whatsoever is in a class with Houdini and P.T. Barnum. Are they really wizards?

            • Ryan Hunter :

              Well said, M. Stankovich! I rarely manage to understand your writings, but this one was crystal clear and effectively elucidated.

          • Ryan Hunter :

            Well said, Deacon Patrick!

        • Ryan Hunter :

          James Bradshaw,

          Elective cosmetic surgery (such as botox facial injections or breast augmentation) is sinful or not sinful depending on the circumstances. If a woman has undergone a double mastectomy to better survive and endure breast cancer, I don’t think our Lord is so heartless as to put her receiving reconstructive surgery in the same ethical standing as a woman who, for purely selfish reasons, decides to get a breast augmentation or a man who decides to remove some stomach fat.

          Surgery to correct a deformity such as a cleft palate is just that: corrective surgery. It doesn’t break what isn’t broken, which “gender reassignment surgery” does. Gender reassignment surgery — a biological impossibility — breaks, mutilates, and nips a perfectly natural, functioning part of the male or female body and in its place grafts on a fake, plastic “body part”, an unnatural aberration. A “sex change” surgery breaks what isn’t broken, deliberately defacing and defaming God’s natural, beautiful image. It is therefore a grave sin.

      • Christopher :

        I don’t disagree with say anything here Mr. Hunter. I admit, I was in a sense “hijacking” your excellent post, to drive home the point that there is a tension in Orthodoxy (as well as in western Christianity, though they go off in several directions) in the ultimate “ontology” of male/female and our sexuality. I say “ultimate” but that is really my point – there are at least two “ontologies” (and subsequent moralities) , thus there is no “ultimate” or consensus (let alone dogma).

        I admit I only recently learned this despite having been Orthodox for going on twenty years now. I had somewhat been blithely going along assuming that marriage and monasticism were two more or less “co-equal” (dangerous to use that term “equal” in today’s discorse I know) paths or ways of answering “how should I live”. I should have noticed what I am calling the “moastic denigration” of marriage, though sometimes it appears what they are really concerned about is bodily/sexual pleasure in marriage. Indeed some writers (I would put some of the “big names” in this category like St.Gregory of Nyssa, the “Father of the Fathers”) write as if marriage is solely an enterprise, a union brought on by sexual lust. They write as if they are still adolescent boys who happen to be geniuses when they write about marriage. Even Paul seems to think that marital relationship is solely an issue of sexual “burning”, though perhaps I am reading this into him and he has a much more expansive and realistic view as to the actual reasons and motivations actual adults consider and enter into marriage (not that our culture today is filled with immature people who enter into marriage for all sorts of immature reasons).

        This “tension”, this “monastic captivity” (or is it an “immature understanding on the part of certain monks captivity”?) is really there. I have only found what I consider “pastoral” responses to it so far. Perhaps that is all the Church has to offer at this point…

        In the end however, I think this tension is problematic when witnessing to the culture. Is it decisive? No. But it is there…

  3. M. Stankovich :

    I personally do not see the “problem” as those who suffer. While Gender Dysphoria is most certainly a disorder that cries out for our compassion – and I recall a recent situation where a bishop who entered into a dialog with a tran couple was savaged on the internet and falsely accused of a number of things (e.g. indiscriminately admitting them to communion, etc.), and told me, “If they cannot come to me to talk, then to whom?” – it is the social phenomenon driving this delusion. The fact of the matter is that what is claimed to be the best epidemiology available suggests that 1:500 Americans suffers from true Gender Dysphoria (and for perspective, cerebral palsy also occurs in 1:500, blindness in 1:350, deafness in 1:250, epilepsy in 1:200, schizophrenia in about 1:100, and rheumatoid arthritis in about 1:100); the “standard” epidemiology suggests 1:1200. Yet, the social phenomenon is extraordinarily disproportional to the number of individuals actually affected. I somehow cannot imagine anyone would not agree with the absurdity of allowing blind Americans to use whichever restroom facility they choose, simply because they cannot see to begin with. I have also mentioned a number of times here, that by merely speaking with any patient in the state of CA below the age of 18 in regard to gender conflict – regardless of whether or not they initiated the discussion – is grounds for criminal arrest and potential loss of professional license. There is no other condition in the DSM-V for which this is the case. This was law driven purely by social phenomenon, in that the APA’s (psychiatry & psychology) have no evidence that doing so causes harm. And by the same “reasoning.” have precluded all research as “unethical,” even with voluntary patients.

    Mr. Hunter rightly points out that what is being called for in this social phenomenon is a “suspension of reality,” in my mind best exemplified in what happened to Chicago Sun-Times syndicated columnist Kevin D. Wiliamson’s following publication of his essay Laverne Cox is not a Woman. Cox, if you are not aware, was the first tran to appear on the cover of Time Magazine and stars in the highly-acclaimed Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Google Williamson and see the reaction – or maybe you can simply imagine – and thus arises the new nomenclature, “transphobia,” which could rightly be described as, “translated from the English, ‘fear of reality.'”

    While I certainly concur with Dr. Cooper’s commentary above, “no one in a hospital including physicians ridicules other patients or judges them for their illness, so why would we do so about spiritual illnesses,” we do in psychiatry frequently confront psychosis, delusion and thought distortions. This is certainly not to deny the reality of Gender Dysphoria and the suffering of individuals so afflicted, the Church as Physician nevertheless must determine the conditions of chastity, obedience, singlemindedness, and purity, and not society.

    • Christopher :

      . Yet, the social phenomenon is extraordinarily disproportional to the number of individuals actually affected. I somehow cannot imagine anyone would not agree with the absurdity of allowing blind Americans to use whichever restroom facility they choose, simply because they cannot see to begin with. I have also mentioned a number of times here, that by merely speaking with any patient in the state of CA below the age of 18 in regard to gender conflict – regardless of whether or not they initiated the discussion – is grounds for criminal arrest and potential loss of professional license.

      Mr. Stankovich,

      What is happening in the culture that leads to the above facts (i.e. the “social phenomenon”) in your opinion? I ask because you seem inclined to downplay the “spiritual phenomenon”, or at least you have misgivings when those of us who try to outline or sketch this spiritual phenomenon, this “modern” religion/culture/existential situation. In other words, when we pull the discussion into this sphere you seem to reflexively assume we are lacking in compassion, Christian love, etc. Forgive me if I am misinterpreting the spirit behind some of your posts.

      There is a certain population within classical Christianity (Orthodox/traditional RC and protestants) that want to say to the current cultural and spiritual phenomenon “eh, it’s the same old human sin that has been with us since the fall” and then go on to criticize what I believe to be simple preaching, speaking the truth to power, etc. They (you yourself Mr. Stankovich) downplay what is truly new in the current situation. An example would be the denigration of the accurate description of the New Anthropology.

      • M. Stankovich :

        Christopher,

        As near as I can tell, the LGBT community has purposely made these issue of “human rights” and “civil rights,” because you cannot argue “spiritual phenomena” in courts of law; they employ the Constitution, not the Scripture, and Martin Luther King rather than the Holy Fathers. In the public square, they and their clergy argue we are spiritually “archaic,” homophobic/transphobic, and uncharitable, but these arguments are independent. You would note that we – even at the last moment – are left to “preach to the choir” outside the courtroom, and public opinion is influenced and formed by judges, lawyers, politicians, pundits, and sloganeering. We have allowed ourselves to be pushed out of a position of influence because of a fundamental lack of voices of moral authority, and the moral decisions of our society are being settled by the legal and legislative aspects of our society, without much, if any concern for our input. And while I certainly support the “militancy” I read in the excerpt from Fr. Alexander Webster, I was uncomfortable with the letter of the Houston clergy in the sense that it had an “axe to grind” with its elected officials personally, and went to the level of politicking. Nevertheless, we must start somewhere, and I am supportive, at this point, of any action that openly challenges what is contrary to our Faith. Nevertheless, we virtually conceded these – and sadly for the time to come – issues to the realm of “social” rather than “spiritual” phenomenon. Are they “at heart” spiritual issues? Certainly. But we seem to be at a loss as to how to make ourselves again a moral voice.

  4. You’re absolutely right about those not calling Mr. Jenner, “Caitlyn” will be called haters, etc. In a recent FB post share about this very subject on my FB wall, I was astounded at the rude comments I received … and from my followers no less! I believe I could argue all day with those praising his “courage” and never get anywhere with them. Thanks for this article! Very well spoken!

    • Ryan Hunter :

      Thanks very much, Danielle! I was astounded at the negative reaction as well — all very unfortunate. Let us hope, perhaps in vain, but hope nevertheless that gradually, as our generation matures, that cooler heads begin to prevail and people begin to once again see the light of reason on this contentious issue.

  5. M. Stankovich :

    Christopher,

    For one who speaks so frequently of the “new anthropology,” your comment suggests you are confused as to the “old anthropology.”

    Too often, commentators do not clarify the significant difference between the creation as it was “in the beginning,” and that which exists as a direct consequence of our fallen humanity in the context of this broken creation. We know from St. Athansius the Great that our humanity was not an “afterthought,” but a necessity of “Him who is good and the author of goodness,” to share of Himself “so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise.” Thus, He created us in His “image and likeness” [κατ᾿ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾿ ὁμοίωσιν] and “gendered” [ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς] (Gen 1:27); tasked to “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the seas and flying creatures of heaven, and all the cattle and all the earth, and all the reptiles that creep on the earth. According to St. John of Damascus, “An angel, then, is an intelligent essence, in perpetual motion, with free-will, incorporeal, ministering to God, having obtained by grace an immortal nature: and the Creator alone knows the form and limitation of its essence.” The angels are tasked with “prompt[ly] to fulfil the will of the Deity, and their nature is endowed with such celerity that wherever the Divine glance bids them there they are straightway found. They are the guardians of the divisions of the earth: they are set over nations and regions, allotted to them by their Creator: they govern all our affairs and bring us assistance. And the reason surely is because they are set over us by the divine will and command and are ever in the vicinity of God.” Obviously, in the beginning, the “angelic life,” and its imitation, was reserved for the angels.

    While the Patristic Fathers happened to be monastic, they never disparage Christian Marriage as a “lesser” or inadequate, or insufficient path to salvation. I highly recommend to you Fr. Georges Florovsky’s essay, “Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert,” found in his Collected Works, Volume II, Christianity and Culture where he warns of the danger of establishing dichotomies in Christian life, monastic vs. “secular.” In the beginning, we were not created to be virginal nor celibate, and obviously, there was no point in imitating the “angelic life.” It is only in the context of this fallen & broken world does it even make sense, and St.Paul, after all, analogizes the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church with Christian Marriage, and it is Jesus Himself who declares marriage “honourable” by His presence at the marital feast. Even in Jesus’s response to the Sadducee’s, “In the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30), St. Chrysostom emphasizes “as the angels, shall they not marry or be given in marriage,” (not speaking of those already married), and that we must recall the words of St. Paul, “For the manner of this world passes away.” (1 Cor. 7:31) As you allude to in your opening paragraph, the Orthodox Service of Marriage closes with the commemoration of the Great Martyr Pochomius for a reason: marriage too is a form of martyrdom/witness.

    Finally, I would point you to Paul Evdokimov’s The Sacrament of Love, which is a beautiful, coherent, and unconfused exploration of conjugal love as at the heart of the Sacrament of Marriage – quite different than “conditions” such as procreation – such that, “True love is fruitful, but this fruitfulness is not only expressed through children; in can also be manifested through hospitality, through service, and sometimes through a common creation.” By a combination of the Scripture, the Patristic Fathers, and the fathers of our generation, a very different picture of our humanity and our sexuality emerges – “And God saw all the things that he had made, and, behold, they were very good [καὶ ἰδοὺ καλὰ λίαν] – as unconfused, cogent, and consistent in both the context of the creation “as it was in the beginning,” and as we find ourselves in this broken world.

    • Christopher :

      Thank your for your thoughtful reply Mr. Stankovich. Some thoughts:

      While the Patristic Fathers happened to be monastic, they never disparage Christian Marriage as a “lesser” or inadequate, or insufficient path to salvation.

      This is what I thought for 20 years. However, I have recently been disabused of this notion. I quoted St. Gregorys of Nyssa’s description of Christian Marriage as “The last sad stopping place” above. As Fr. Lawrence and Fr. Sergei document in their books, one can fill page after page of quotes from the Fathers (almost all of them the “big names”) that indicate that they indeed think of Christian Marriage primarily as a “concession” to our fallen sexual drive. St. Paul certainly thought in these terms, though he himself elewhere thinks in much higher terms and a deeper mystery. As Fr. Lawrence puts it, (I am paraphrasing) ‘Christian marriage is defiantly an ‘economy class’ way of salvation – monasticism trumps it in some writers’.

      I highly recommend to you Fr. Georges Florovsky’s essay, “Antinomies of Christian History: Empire and Desert,” found in his Collected Works, Volume II, Christianity and Culture where he warns of the danger of establishing dichotomies in Christian life, monastic vs. “secular.” In the beginning, we were not created to be virginal nor celibate, and obviously, there was no point in imitating the “angelic life.”

      Thank you for the recommendation – I saw that you quoted this essay over on monomakhos and I agree, it is a terribly important point. For some reason, I only have Volumes 5-10 (which I received as a gift years ago and have hardly cracked). I will be purchasing this Volume soon…

      Finally, I would point you to Paul Evdokimov’s The Sacrament of Love, which is a beautiful, coherent, and unconfused exploration of conjugal love as at the heart of the Sacrament of Marriage

      Again, thanks for the recommendation. Your the second person to recommend this book based on my recent ruminations. I will be purchasing this one very soon…

  6. Ryan Hunter :

    Dear all:

    Thank you for your comments. I am at work during the day and usually unable to respond. I have a short break now, so I would like to do so.

    Dr Cooper, I appreciate your kind words. It is a joy to hear of an Orthodox psychiatrist! I hope you continue to provide your patients with the care they need. You are quite right to highlight Mr. Jenner’s terrible suffering — for how could one possibly contemplate such a radical move, such a painful and unnatural process as “gender reassignment surgery” if one was not suffering immensely. The Lord’s mercy covers all things, so even if Mr. Jenner takes the radical step of mutilating himself, we can still pray that he will find repentance for the terrible sin of self-mutilation.

    In the meantime, may all who struggle do as you say, and “find both spiritual and lay physicians including psychiatrists to assist on their path to Him.”

    I have not yet read any of Elder Ephraim’s writings, but I will look into his Art of Salvation. Exactly so — no one should make fun of Mr. Jenner, but reach out to him with our prayers and empathy. Our empathy should, naturally, include urging him not to persist in this terribly destructive path which so scars the soul and especially the body.

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