Christians and Culture

04-25-2021Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In these last letters of mine, before I depart, I want to take on some topics that really rise to prominence in terms of how they will impact faith and how they will make it difficult to live as a Christian in our current climate. The issue that rises to the top at this moment is transgender ideology. It is like an 18-wheeler going downhill with no brake. I phrase it as an ideology, not because the issue of gender dysphoria is not real, it most certainly is and those who struggle with it require our love and compassion as well as the very best of therapeutic interventions. It has become an ideology because the therapeutic interventions are only being allowed to go in one direction, namely affirmation, with the force of dogma and anyone who deviates from that dogma, including well accomplished clinicians are being burned at the stake in the modern version of the Auto-de-fe known as cancel culture.

The idea that a person was born into the wrong gender or body, is just that an idea. The resolution of the idea is to explore what it means, why it has occurred and what is the best way forward. In the seventies and eighties, the basic rule of thumb was for a person experiencing gender dysphoria to live as the opposite gender/sex for at least a year before any medical or pharmaceutical interventions. With that therapeutic strategy there was at least an implicit recognition that a person needed to work through other issues before being able to make a fully informed decision and that the consequences of hormonal therapy or surgery were permanent and irreversible. The current strategy is full steam ahead sex change as soon as a person identifies as trans.

What accounts for such a sudden increase in transgenderism? A big piece of it is through indoctrination on social media and internet chat rooms. Transgenderism is presented as the solution to the internal conflict that is going on inside a person. No other solutions are to be considered. Strange how in light of the fact that most medical insurance asks for two independent opinions before agreeing to a surgery but with transgenderism there is no such second opinion asked for or permitted.

This way of framing the issue doesn’t allow for alternative possibilities to resolving the problem. As a result, many people who have gone through the pain of surgery and long term hormonal treatment later regret it. Today there is an ever increasing “de-transitioning movement”. See No amount of pills and surgery can change who you are but rather we must learn and help others to learn to love and cherish who they are.

One of the issues that underlies the sudden explosion of young people declaring they are “trans” is that we have moved away from the idea that character is what matters, to, what matters is identity. The notion that children should be taught “don’t lie, cheat or steal and be a good person” has been replaced by “your outward identity matters most”. In this view, identity most affirms a person and resolves all internal conflict, psychological distress or confusion.

If you are a parent your children are being affected by all of this. Not will be but are being. If you doubt that you are living in denial. You might be thinking where do they get these ideas? It comes to them via social media and their peers. If you are not reading your child’s social media feeds or noticing what chat rooms, text messages, or internet sites they are visiting you are missing what they are learning and being formed and shaped by. The power of social media and peer pressure overrides or will override whatever message you are trying to give to your children. Today elementary age children and up are being inundated by the identity message. They might think of this as putting on a pretend identity like wearing a superhero costume or princess dress that makes them feel good. But this is not pretend and it goes to the core of who they are as humans and affects their futures. Worse still they are being told that their parents don't understand the issue, are too old fashioned and can’t be trusted to understand their struggle. Some of your children are being counseled at schools unbeknownst to you about being transgendered, being given puberty blocking medications and hormonal pills without your knowledge and consent.

Parents need to discuss this issue with their children. Help them to understand what it means to be a human person, how we are made and why we are made that way. As they move into teenage years, they need to hear from their parents that teen years can be challenging, uncomfortable, uncertain, painful, as they are growing and figuring things out. Let them hear your experience as a teen, what were your low points and how did you deal with them and who helped you. Help them understand that when puberty hits, wow, its powerful and wonderful and uncomfortable trying to figure it all out. Keep the door of communication open with your children. Ask questions, listen carefully. They are being affected by all of this and are often being groomed once they express even a hint of confusion, sexual tension or personal struggle. Whether they are transgender or not, your children are being taught to understand themselves and others through the lens of identity. So, when your prepubescent child tells you they are trans, or bi, or gay or lesbian or asexual or any of the other alphabet identities being proposed, don't be surprised but be prepared.

Next week: what happens when your child tells you they are trans? What to expect once you board the transgender therapeutic train?

Fr. John B.