By Selwyn Duke
Because of the controversy this article has evoked, the editor of American Thinker, Thomas Lifson, has requested that I address some of the criticisms I’ve received. And I am happy to do so, as it’s obvious that some critics haven’t read the whole piece, have only skimmed it, or reacted to it so emotionally that they couldn’t digest what was actually written.
Now, let’s start with the more obvious misunderstandings. I mentioned in the piece the father of “gender neutrality” theory, Dr. John Money. Yet despite making it plain that I understood his theory and rejected it, some assumed I was conflating his ideas with today’s prevailing belief that “gender identity” has a biological basis and cannot be changed through conditioning. This is mainly, I believe, because I referred to today’s “transgender” theorists as “today’s Dr. Moneys.”
But the problem wasn’t that I misunderstood the ideas in question but that certain readers misunderstood me. At different points throughout the piece I made it very clear that today’s psycho-babblers were saying very much the opposite of what Money propounded. In fact, I began the discussion of today’s prevailing theory by writing, “Worse still, they have now moved on to their next mistake.” That I wrote “next mistake” should have made it clear that I understood that today’s ideas are very different from Money’s.
So why did I refer to some present-day mental health professionals as today’s Dr. Moneys? Because just as people listened to Money 35 years ago, there are many who unquestioningly accept the theories of these people today. They have the same kind of influence. Moreover, their theory shares something in common with Money’s: neither accords with common sense. They both take an extreme view, proclaim it dogma, impugn those who reject it as being ignorant, and claim millennia of man’s tradition is wrong.
Now, having said this, I don’t dismiss science. Neither, however, do I bow down at its altar. I read about its latest findings and theories and often find many of them every interesting. But then I do something that is grossly out of fashion: I evaluate them under the light of Truth. This is something any wise person does.
Yet there are those who criticize me for supposedly being unaware of psychology’s latest notions (yes, “notions”), as if someone in the media who isn’t Charlie Gibson (who didn’t know about the ACORN story) could have avoided being inundated with them for the last 15 years. But it’s not that I’m oblivious to them; it’s that I tend to reject them. I take G.K. Chesterton’s view, that common sense is “that forgotten branch of psychology.”
As for the specifics here, I’m well-aware of the brain anomalies and chromosomal abnormalities that can exist and influence sexual development. I also realize that they have been discovered by hard scientists, not soft ones. And let me make my position on abnormal sexual development clear. If someone is born suffering with such a problem — let’s say, hermaphrodism (you can use the term “intersex” if you wish, but I don’t glom onto the latest lexical fads) — the best effort to ascertain the person’s true sex should be made, and then he should be helped to live as normal a life as possible as a member of that sex. That’s just common sense. But note that these determinations should be based on facts, not feelings. This brings us to the crux of the matter.
I don’t have a problem with recognizing legitimate physical or chromosomal abnormalities. What is very destructive, however, is treating feelings as if they are credible arbiters of reality. Yet, protest all you want, this is precisely what is done in this debate and so many others. The psycho-babblers today put tremendous stock in “persistent” feelings of this or that, as if it doesn’t matter whether or not they accord with objective reality because there is no objective reality. This is folly.
Now, there is something my critics have done that is very telling. While some have put forth some very compelling and literate arguments, every single one of them avoided addressing a certain point I made regarding using emotion as a yardstick. Here it is:
. . . one of the problems with emotion is that it is by its very nature irrational. And if anyone would defend an emotion-based diagnosis such as "gender dysphoria," note that it's brought to us by the same psycho-babblers who have given us something dubbed "body dysmorphia." This is this persistent feeling that a certain body part, such as an arm or leg (or multiple body parts), doesn't belong on one's body. And if you think it isn't taken seriously, know that doctors have amputated healthy limbs on this basis.
Be shocked — that is, unless you accept "gender dysphoria" as legitimate. Then you'd better be introspective. For what is the difference? Why would you accept the emotion-based diagnosis of gender dysphoria but not the emotion-based one of body dysmorphia? Why are the feelings of those who suffer from the latter invalid but the feelings of those who suffer from the former a credible arbiter? Both groups have persistent feelings that their bodies aren't as they should be. Both groups cannot bear to live in their bodies as they are. Both groups want to have their bodies altered. And both groups have found "experts" willing to put them under the knife. Sure, it strikes us as the most horrid malpractice when a doctor amputates healthy body parts, such as a pair of legs. But, then, should we call it something else just because those healthy body parts are between the legs?
I ask you, why would my critics behave as if this point was never made? Some would think it’s because they can’t really refute it. But let’s expand on this a bit.
Now, as my above example illustrates well, feelings simply cannot be used as arbiters of reality. It really doesn’t matter what idea you think of — it doesn’t matter how preposterous it is — someone’s feelings will tell him it’s reality. So, let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the critics are correct in saying that you can have the brain of one sex in the body of the other. Are you going to assert that this is the case every time a person feels he should have the body of the opposite sex? Are you saying that there’s never a case in which — in just the same way feelings can incorrectly tell one that a limb doesn’t belong on his body — a person’s feelings incorrectly tell him he should be the opposite sex? Never, ever? Come on.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “Passion governs, and she never governs wisely.” It is madness to exalt feelings the way we have today in our relativistic age, an age in which, because we are oblivious to Truth, emotion is the only yardstick we have left for making decisions. And this applies to everything, not just the issue at hand. So if you want to make the case for “gender dysphoria” or anything else, go ahead. But you’d better find a basis for it in Truth, in objective reality. It is lunacy to look anywhere else.
The last thing I’ll address is the idea that we have to socially re-engineer society to accommodate abnormalities, that we in fact should do this to such an extent that the very idea of normality will be discredited so that there will be nothing viewed as abnormality. This is not only destructive, it’s evil.
Of course abnormalities exist, and those suffering from them should be treated with compassion. But the majority, mankind itself, should also be treated with compassion. And there is nothing compassionate about destroying norms that constitute the glue binding civilization together.
What I mean is, some think it’s liberating to spread the idea that, well, you can be just whatever you want to be — a man, woman, something in-between or something different entirely — it’s whatever works for you. They often defend this with the silly idea that everything is inborn and that this is synonymous with it being positive, so you won’t become anything you “shouldn’t” be anyway. Besides, you can’t trump nature.
But this is the same kind of radicalism of which Dr. Money was guilty. Just as he assumed everything was nurture, today’s fashions say everything is nature. Yet wise people have long understood that man is shaped by a combination of the two. Conditioning matters.
This is why this feelings-rule, whatever-works-for-you theory is so destructive. Loosed from the guiderails of morality and a proper conception of normality, people who would otherwise not descend into abnormality will do so. This is a fact. This is because people are flawed; they often go through phases where they have strange temptations, feelings that will go away if they aren’t indulged. And it is only that instruction manual for operating man, morality, that allows them to distinguish between what should be indulged and what should be purged.
This malleability of man is indisputable. As to this, most of us have seen documentaries about primitive tribes. There is one tribe in which all the men run around with long, thin cones on their private parts; there is another in which the members incrementally add metal rings to their necks to make their necks longer. We also know that the Japanese used to bind women’s feet and that some Muslim societies advocate female circumcision. The point is that people can be conditioned to accept most anything as normal. This doesn’t mean, however, that they’ll be happy, prosperous and psychologically healthy in such a state.
Now, more to the point here, this malleability has been demonstrated in the area of sexuality as well. We know, for instance, that in ancient Spartan military camps, a 12-year-old boy would be attached to a man in his 20s, who would become the boy’s mentor — and lover. We aren’t sure exactly what behaviors were indulged, mind you, but it’s clear that these relationships were homosexual.
Would any of you say that every single one of these men, or even a majority, had a gene for homosexuality? No, this obviously is an example of the power of conditioning. It is undeniable that nurture can play a very powerful role in shaping man’s behavior.
This is why it’s so destructive to convince people that whatever they want to do is just peachy keen because it’s all “natural” (inborn) anyway (not to mention the justification that there’s no Truth so nothing can be wrong). Whether you believe our nature is naturally flawed or supernaturally fallen, it’s obvious that it is flawed. Thus, errant instincts must be identified and tamed. And this is a prerequisite for maintaining civilization. Man will go awry — and badly so — unless governed by a correct conception of moral reality.
If we normalize abnormality, more people will descend into it. If we say there is no perversion, more people will become perverted. And if we say there is no Truth, no right or wrong, more people will do wrong. That is the way it is, the way it always has been, and the way it always shall be.
© 2009 Selwyn Duke — All Rights Reserved