After generations of focusing on economics as the key to the liberation of humanity, the political and cultural left has, in the wake of the collapse of communism, moved on to sex and religion as the new focus of attack on the culture inherited from the pre-modern past. This involves the regulation of ordinary, everyday life according to the values of social engineers, replacing religious belief and the family as the basic, stable unit of society. There is “no fault” (really unilateral) divorce, a commercial culture that emphasizes gratification and scorns traditional values and duties, and in the more liberal jurisdictions, human rights commissions staffed by social liberals who apply their ideologies to regulate ordinary life in the interest of protecting minorities.
A growing – and very fundamental – line of attack is the denial of parental rights. This was also seen under communism, and really can be expected whenever the government holds an official doctrine. People who disagree with the doctrine are then in danger of losing control of their children. This is now being seen in the Western world as social liberalism in practice becomes state doctrine. The entire Western world is affected, although at this point the grievous cases happen only in more liberal jurisdictions.
Recent cases in Europe show both secular liberalism’s animosity to traditional Christianity and its desire to control the details of ordinary life. One of the longest running cases is that of the Swedish couple, Christer and Annie Johansson, who lost their son, Dominic, in 2009 at age 7, when he was seized from a plane before it took off to leave the country. Claiming poor dental care and lack of a vaccination as the justification, Swedish social services also objected to the homeschooling which the Johannsens intended for their son. In the nearly 10 intervening years, they have ultimately been denied all contact with their son, and the Swedish court system has repeatedly refused to restore their child to them.
Another more recent case in Norway involved a more frank attack on religious education of children by their parents. In late 2015, a Romanian Pentecostal couple, Marius and Ruth Bodnariu, were deprived of their five children by the Barnevernet, or child protective services, because it objected to their teaching that God punishes sin. This resulted in thousands of Romanian Pentecostals protesting, after which the Barnevernet agreed to return the children to the parents in the first half of 2016. As the LifeSiteNews article cited points out, the Barnevernet can take action from its own nonpublic deliberations and need not justify its actions in open court, although they can be challenged there.
But in another case involving the Barnevernet, the agency seized an American child because it objected to the mother’s breastfeeding, and has kept him for six years. As with the Johannsons in Sweden, in this case legal options within the country have been exhausted, and the parents are looking the European Court of Human Rights. That court, however, also exists in the environment of social liberalism favored by the Western elite. Yet another Barnevernet case involved a Canadian child forcibly removed from his family because of their decision to home school him after he was bullied at the public school. He was returned to his family in late February, after his family agreed to give up their passports until May. As these cases show, publicity, more than anything else, keeps these cases alive with the possibility of a just restoration of families.
The appearance of transgenderism, or self-defined sexuality, on the cultural scene in the Western world adds a dramatic new dimension to the struggle between the family and the state for control of children. This was recently underscored when an Ohio family lost custody of their 17-year-old daughter, who claims to be a transgender individual (i.e., really a boy) and wanted to begin sex transitioning, which her parents blocked. A description of sex transitioning, the current emphasis of legal efforts to require transitioning of children, and its threat to parental rights, families and the freedom of everyone was discussed by Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation at the Catholic Information Center on February 27, discussing his new book, When Harry Became Sally.
Anderson recounted the history of transgenderism in this country, which began decades ago, but only succeeded in capturing establishment support in the last several years. He said that decades ago, Dr. Paul McHugh, Psychiatrist in Chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, “thought he had convinced the vast majority of his professional colleagues not to go along with radical claims that were being made about the human body and the human person back then.” McHugh “shut down Hopkins’ then new sex reassignment clinic” in 1979. This decision was made on the basis of a study he had done of the long-term result of surgical sex reassignment. The clinic remained shut down from 1979 to 2017. It was reopened, Anderson said, “not in light of new evidence, but in light of new ideology.”
Unhappily, transgenderism, the belief that one is really of a different sex than the sex of one’s body, is now focused on children, and the taking of medical action to reorient them to become a member of the sex that they claim to be part of. There are now 45 pediatric gender clinics, Anderson said, which use puberty blocking drugs to stop the onset of puberty and ultimately give the child the hormones of the opposite sex. This is held to be necessary for happiness and prevent suicide. Anderson said that this treatment is contrary to evidence, which shows that 80-95 percent of children with gender dysphoria (identification with the opposite sex) naturally grow out of it and that long-term sex assignment doesn’t provide happiness and wholeness. He said that 41 percent of persons who have had sex reassignment surgery attempt suicide, and they are 19 times more likely to actually commit suicide than the general population. Anderson therefore argues that “Dr. McHugh got it right back in the 70s … human nature hasn’t changed in the last 40 years.” The biological basis of sex is strongly supported by “biology, psychology, and philosophy.”
Postmodernism, Anderson said, has not rejected metaphysics, but promotes an alternative metaphysic, one in which the individual establishes truth. He quoted Pope John Paul II to say that at the bottom of the trials of the twentieth, and now twenty-first, centuries is a “faulty anthropology, faulty visions of the human person.” The fact that some persons identify with a particular sexuality is held to mean that they have that sexuality. This is held to be science rather than philosophy, although it in fact is philosophy. Having originally advanced the concept of “gender” as something distinct from the body, feelings and wishes are now held by activists and their supporters in the medical community to be the essence of one’s sexual identity. The Gnostic denial of the body is the basis for claiming that gender theory is scientific. However elaborate the claims of gender theory about people turn out to be, they are ultimately based on the feelings and wishes of individuals, not physical reality, as science must be.
For children, the process of changing sex involves first allowing the child claiming to be of the opposite sex new clothes appropriate to the opposite sex and access to bathroom facilities of the opposite sex. This can be for children as young as two or three years old, Anderson noted, and the only diagnostic basis for transitioning is the child’s own claims. Secondly, puberty blocking drugs are be used to prevent puberty. Thirdly, cross sex hormones are administered to induce the sexuality of the opposite sex. Fourthly, there are sex reassignment surgeries at age 18 or after.
That self-definition is the ultimate basis of sex then determines what children will be taught, who may use sex-specific facilities (restrooms and locker rooms), regulation of speech to conform with self-definition (i.e., penalties for calling people by pronouns of the natural as opposed to preferred sex), and the requirement that medical personnel accept sexual self-definition as the truth, thus requiring action against conscience to effect desired sexual transitions. Licensed medical professionals should be required to refrain from exploring natural sexuality with their patients, according to this doctrine. It is also the basis, Anderson explained, for public schools withholding information from parents about children who are “transitioning” to the opposite sex. In this way, “parental authority is entirely being sidestepped.”
He said that despite the ideological claims of activists and some medical professionals, sex “throughout the animal kingdom” is defined by the physical organization of living organisms for sexual reproduction. The physical nature of sexual reality is so strong that experimental medicines must be tested on both males and females, to determine its effect on both sexes. One can only change “the external manifestations” of sexual nature, not its essence, which is physical and unchanging.
Finally, although sexual transitioning is supposed to enable wholeness, Anderson said that it in fact denies reality and results in “poor outcomes” even in societies supporting of transgenderism. Although much research does not show significant benefit from sexual transitioning, it is promoted in the media as “a done deal,” a new liberation from the past shown by scientific review to be beneficial. A particularly sad result is that the artificial delay of puberty with puberty blocking drugs is not known to be reversible, as activists claim. Puberty involves many changes in the body, puberty related growth, muscle development, bone density, etc., which cannot be assumed to be reversible if it is delayed for years.
Many young people who go to pediatric clinics for sexual transitioning report that they “feel pressured” to transition, according to Anderson. Other causes than the possibility that the child is in fact trapped in the wrong body are not discussed, nor are other solutions. Many persons who have transitioned “now regret the damage done to their bodies, such as lost fertility.” Anderson said that Dr. McHugh, noted above as having once won the war against the idea of giving priority to feelings over physical reality with respect to sex, “recommends talking” to children about why they believe they belong to the opposite sex. Such rational discussion, however, is not possible in seven states that prohibit licensed counselors from dissuading people from sex transitions.
Indeed, rational discussion about the reasonableness of individual self-determination is what is not allowed by the academic establishment. Anderson said that the majority of persons who were sources of information in the academy insisted on anonymity, because they could lose their jobs if their doubt about sex transitioning were publically known. “That, unfortunately, is how bad it is the academy right now.”
But Christians and parents must resist the corruption of language and law. Historically accused of closed mindedness, we must now be the ones who point to reality, rather than wishful thinking, as the road to an authentic life.