Parsing the “T”

George Weigel

About five years ago, a friend took her son with her when she went to a beauty shop to get her hair cut. The hairdresser was snipping away and the boy was engrossed in reading on his Kindle when another mother came into the shop with her daughter in tow. The daughter was carrying an American Girls doll, and the mother announced to the entire beauty shop, “We’re here to get the doll’s hair cut. We’re transgendering her!”

Thankfully, my friend’s son, a big-time reader, missed all this. But if her seven-year old had asked, “Mommy, what’s ‘transgendering’?” what, my friend asked me, was she supposed to say?

What, indeed?

Many people seem tongue-tied when it comes to the “T” in “LGBT.” The virtue-signaling mother in that beauty shop notwithstanding, there’s an intuitive understanding that we’re dealing here with real psychological distress – “gender dysphoria” in the technical vocabulary – and that this and similar problems ought not be political ping-pong balls, because lives are at stake. Unfortunately, that reticence to discuss the “T” storm inside the broader “LGBT” tsunami leaves the field to partisans of “gender reassignment” in all its forms, which now include prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to pre-pubescent children claiming to be something other than what they are. Moreover, nine states, the District of Columbia, and thirty-three local jurisdictions have laws banning mental health professionals from offering “conversion therapies” to minors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. California, leading the Gadarene rush over the cliff as usual, now provides state-funded “sex-reassignment surgery” to prisoners; the first recipient of this “benefit” was Shiloh Heavenly Quine, a first-degree murderer/kidnapper serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.

No one familiar with the relevant literature denies that gender dysphoria is real, or that the formation of gender identity is sometimes a complicated and tortuous business. In today’s cultural and political climate, however, to suggest that the current stampede to accept claims that a decade ago would have been regarded as signs of serious psychological disturbance – and that are still regarded as such by eminent psychiatrists – is to risk being shamed and cast to the margins of society as a bigot. Like the rest of the “LGBT” phenomenon, the “T” has become thoroughly politicized, indeed weaponized.

For those concerned that men, women, children, and their future happiness are being seriously wounded in all this – and that grave damage is being done to medical ethics and law – a good place to begin examining the whole “T” phenomenon is Ryan T. Anderson’s recently published study, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment (Encounter Books).

Anderson (whose accomplishments include playing the hammered dulcimer) is one of America’s most engaging young intellectuals. And his virtues as a scholar – solid research, rigorous thinking, careful judgment, and a profound compassion for troubled human beings – are on full display in his book. So is his courage, having taken a public bludgeoning for his defense of marriage rightly understood prior to the Supreme Court’s imposition of “same-sex marriage” on the entire country. Ryan Anderson has now tackled another fevered social issue from what today’s cultural tastemakers and enforcers regard as the wrong side of a red line. He did it, he tells us, because of stories “from people who had detransitioned” (i.e., had recognized that their “sex-reassignment” was a terrible mistake). Those stories, he writes, “are heartbreaking. I had to do what I could to prevent more people from suffering the same way.”

Would that a medical profession increasingly cowed by politically-correct bullying would display a similar compassion. Or a similar integrity, for, as Anderson writes, “the largest and most rigorous academic study on the results of hormonal and surgical transitioning . . . found strong evidence of poor psychological outcomes.” But as on euthanasia, as first on abortion and now on “transgendering,” the Hippocratic Oath seems to have fallen into the dustbin of history.

Lent is a good season to reflect on the givens of life, and how denying those givens inevitably leads to unhappiness, sorrow, and even self-destruction. The revolt against Things-As-They-Are began in Eden; it continues today, and it always leads us away from the beatitude for which we were created. Ryan Anderson’s book is a thoughtful reminder of that hard, but ultimately redeeming truth, and an oasis of sense in a desert of nonsense.

COMING UP: Should the Church talk about money? If we follow Christ’s teaching, yes.

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

In Luke Chapter 3, three different groups asked John the Baptist what they should do to bear the fruit of repentance. John gives three answers: 1) Everyone should share clothes and food with the poor; 2) Tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money; and 3) Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money. Each answer John gives is related to money and possessions, but no one asked him about that! They only ask how to demonstrate the fruit of spiritual transformation. They don’t grasp John the Baptist’s perspective, that he could not talk about spirituality without talking about how to handle money and possessions.

Jesus puts some harsh words in God’s mouth in the “Parable of the Rich Fool.” In Luke 12:20, we hear: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Alternatively, Jesus provides some great promises on both sides of that parable. In Luke 11:41: “…give alms and behold, everything will be clean for you.” And in Luke 12:33: “…give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.”

When my wife Cathy and I were experiencing our conversion to the Lord in the early 1990s, we decided we were going to try to live out our Catholic faith to the full: in our attending Mass every Sunday, in our family and in our checkbook.

So, despite four young kids and no way of knowing if we could afford to send them to Catholic school or college, we started tithing. One thing it dramatically did was contribute to our growth in faith and trust in God. We truly believed in God’s promise that He never will be outdone in generosity. And now, 25 years later, we can only rejoice that we still are doing fine despite paying for Catholic schools, colleges and three daughters’ weddings! So what, that we are driving two cars that have 365,000 miles between them!

When we created our will back then, we decided to leave 10% of our assets to the Church. After I became President of The Catholic Foundation in 2012, we became aware of the concept to “treat the Church like one of your children.” We thought that made a lot of sense, so we changed our will to do just that … such that our four children and The Catholic Foundation will each receive 20% of our estate.

Today, we are not sure how our kids will be able to do what we did; with Denver’s crazy housing market, how will they be able to afford Catholic school for their kids, future colleges and, someday, weddings? It looks daunting for them. Shouldn’t we leave them 100% instead of just 80%? For us, it was an easy decision—better to give them a portion with God’s blessing than to think they’d be better off with it all. Besides, they are helping themselves have the best chance possible.

How? By doing their own tithing! I remember years ago, when the business manager at our parish called me to ensure that it was okay that our daughter had made a large contribution to the parish. Cathy and I were unaware she had done so. What had she done? She had tithed her high school graduation gift money. You can imagine how proud we felt.

A “planned gift” through a will or another avenue is the easiest gift to make because it only gets made when we can’t use it anymore – at least, not in this world. Maybe it can be better used by God and his Church. Listen to Revelation 14:13: “I heard a voice from Heaven say, ‘write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, said the Spirit, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’ ”

Cathy and I want our works to accompany us, as we are sure you do, too. We have been saved by Jesus for eternal life – let us make sure our faith in that is manifested in our living and in our giving.

Would you prayerfully discern how God is calling you to steward the assets He has entrusted to you? We hope we and you hear these words someday from Jesus (Matthew 25:34): “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Deacon Steve Stemper is CEO & President of The Catholic Foundation. Please contact him at (303) 468-9885 if you would like a meeting to discuss how your planned giving can be used for God’s Kingdom.