Dear Friends in Christ,
Gender dysphoria is the name given to the experience some people have of feeling as though their mind or soul is matched with a body of the wrong sex. A woman who identifies as a man or a man who wishes that he were a woman often experience profound emotional difficulties and have a higher risk of suicide than those who are not afflicted with this disorientation, and the risk is even higher in adolescents burdened with this perception. In other words, gender dysphoria is a serious problem, and those who suffer from it need to be treated with kindness and respect by all and receive support and understanding from family, friends, and professionals as they seek a path towards inner peace.
That much has always been true, but in recent decades a new possibility has arisen for responding to gender dysphoria: the attempted “reassignment” of biological sex by surgery and drugs. Joined to this medical innovation is the even more recent rise of the ideology of gender identity which denies that humanity is divided biologically into male and female and seeks to make gender a category of personal choice rather than of genetic reality. And when the medical “reassignment” of sex and the ideology of gender identity are combined, the result is a cultural earthquake that even now is reshaping law and public life throughout the Western world.
The Church is still sorting out the proper pastoral response to these challenges, and a full consideration of all the complications of “transsexuality” is going to require decades, not news cycles. But even as we look for wise and compassionate ways to respond to those with gender dysphoria, the Church must continue to teach the full truth about God and man revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And at the heart of that revelation is the truth that the human race is created male and female by God, and in the differentiation of humanity into two and only two sexes is found the complementarity of human persons that secures the human future – the marriage of one man and one woman. Moreover, the sex of an individual human person is a reality we discover rather than invent or choose, and learning to align our minds to reality as it exists outside of our minds is one of the hallmarks of emotional maturity and good mental health.
To explore these questions in greater depth, I recommend a recently published book entitled “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” written by Dr Ryan T. Anderson, one of the leading public intellectuals in our country today. Anderson was educated at Princeton and Notre Dame and is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Anderson’s book explores many facets of the current debate over transsexuality and exposes the philosophical, anthropological, and legal flaws in the transgender ideology. This is not a problem any of us can ignore, so please read deeply and widely to understand the issues at stake in this debate and the proper response of Christians to this challenge.