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Can I Change My Gender?

Couples Figure Skating Expressing Gender in Human Nature

Let’s begin our exploration of the way in which human nature is essentially expressed through gender by taking a look at the current lay of the land on sex, sexual preference, and gender.  What, in other words, do our universities, entertainers, and cultural elites showcase as the truth of the matter on these issues?


When you see the term “sex” on a government form, you are supposed to understand that as requesting information pertaining to the biological equipment with which you were born.  Thus, “sex” refers to one’s possession of female or male genitalia.  “Sexual preference” on the current cultural view refers to the desire or orientation one has for sexual intercourse.  The straightforward options are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.  Curiously, a plethora of additional sexual orientation/desire options are floated about the internet, but what these actually mean isn’t entirely clear.  Finally, again on the current cultural view, “gender” is viewed as that inner subjective state of a person in which “he” or “she” feels most in common with what is taken to be the consciousness (the emotions, desires, and aspirations) of the historic biologically grounded sexes.  One “identifies” as whatever one feels, independently of what one’s sex or sexual preferences are.


Let’s use an example.  Suppose a man identifies as a woman.  He thinks that his emotional and aspirational conscious states are in keeping with how women presumably experience the world.  As such, he concludes that he is (gender) a woman, even though he has a penis.  His sexual preference may, again on the current cultural view, nevertheless be directed to women, men, or both.  It follows, then, that were this man to desire women sexually, he would conclude not that his sexual orientation is heterosexual but is, instead, lesbian, because he “identifies” as a woman and desires women!


Things become more confusing when you consider the emerging doctrine of sexual and gender “fluidity.”  Since sex reassignment can allegedly alter sex, since hormones can modify the body and the emotions, and since people change in their sexual desires during their lifetimes, the notion that any of this is fixed by birth, by biology, or by gender is increasingly being rejected in favor of a fluidity in which people can be whatever they wish sexually with respect to all three of these categories: sex, sexual preference, and gender.  It might, therefore, be surprising that the very advocates of the fluidity doctrine nevertheless continue to trumpet the “born this way” slogan, since they simultaneously deny that birth determines anything!  However, insisting that people cannot control any of their feelings or behavior on these matters—that they are matters of how they were born—has proven critical to flipping the moral high ground from traditional biologically based understandings of gender and sexual propriety where the capacity to choose is a given to the new “anything goes” cultural view.  If people cannot control these matters, it is argued, then there can be no basis for condemning their behavior.

We couldn’t understand what “identifying as a woman” means if we didn’t antecedently know what a woman really is.


But a second irony emerges from the fluidity doctrine, since the fluidities are expressed in terms of the very gender and sexual polarity they are alleged to displace.  We couldn’t understand what “identifying as a woman” means if we didn’t antecedently know what a woman really is—implying that being a woman is something real, something independent of what we happen to desire or feel at the moment.


Third, the fluidity doctrine ultimately negates the meaning of men and women altogether, since according to the culturally accepted view of gender, whatever the meaning of one’s identity as a man or a woman means is entirely determined by the individual.  If there is no inherent content to saying, “I am a woman,” (because to insist on such content would prove “offensive,”) then being a woman becomes meaningless, becomes useless for including or excluding any persons whatsoever.  The result?  A man who “identifies as a woman” thereby also lays claim to the hard-fought legal protections that women’s rights groups have achieved over the last century and a half, something that is deeply troubling, because it is real women who have suffered for millennia at the hands of real men.  A man who “identifies as a woman” may also lay claim to the private spaces that have hitherto shielded women from the untoward gaze and assault by men.  A man who “identifies as a woman” may also demand entry into women’s sports, in spite of the fact that those sex-differentiated sports divisions were established by law both to protect women’s bodies from the greater power found in male bodies as well as to allow women to compete fairly only against other biological women.  A man who “identifies as a pregnant woman” (and yes, the academic gender-twisters are now insisting that men can get pregnant) should likewise be able to qualify for employment protections designed to preserve women’s competitiveness in the marketplace.  A man who is convicted of a felony but who “identifies as a woman” may insist that he be incarcerated with women at a women’s prison!


So, the consequences of Gender Fluidity are really quite shocking.  And to think all this chaos originated from the sentiment that we wish to be sensitive to how people feel about their bodies!  Or did it?


Actually, what holds all this current gender/sexual fluidity doctrine together is the underlying philosophical principle that thought causes reality, that desire creates who I am, that consciousness determines being.  This principle is a well-known philosophical principle that arose in the 1800’s in Germany and is then found again in the existentialist philosophers in France in the 1960’s.  But it has since moved well outside of abstract philosophical circles and has emerged as a potent cultural phenomenon in America coupled to an audacious neo-morality of “how dare you question me?”  So, the origins of this movement are not so innocent.  Nor are they remotely American.  They are German.


Moreover, when did anyone ask whether it is true that thought causes reality, whether I really can change who I essentially am by desiring to be someone or something else, whether a shift in my feelings recreates who I am?  Why would we believe that thought implies being?


Suppose you are standing on the railroad tracks and feel the vibrations of an approaching train in your feet.  You are schooled well enough to know that trains are composed of an enormous mass of metal moving at significant speed with enough resulting force to shatter a human being.  However, because you now believe the idea that thought causes reality, you decide to believe that the locomotive is in fact made entirely of Jello.  When it hits you, it will ooze around your body in a thrilling cool refreshment of textures, aromas, and taste, transporting you to ecstasies comparable to heroin!  What is going to happen when the train crashes into you?


Reality does not conform to the way we want things to be, does it?  If it did, we’d all be happy!  We’d remake the world in our images such that happiness was simply the achievement of our desires, desires that now possess the god-like power to effect whatever we wish.  But we’re not happy, are we?  We find very quickly in this tough world that we must conform to its limitations and realities if we even want to survive, let alone thrive.  And how could it be otherwise, since we were born into an existing reality?  We can only conclude that the notion that our feelings possess the power to change our being is preposterous, is wishful thinking run amok in the most dangerous and arrogant manner.  Why?  Because we are not gods.


Who alone has the power to think things into being, to say, “Let there be” and it comes to be?  Only God, who by his eternal Word created all things that exist.  God could transform iron trains into Jello if he wished.  But we can’t.  In fact, it is nothing but rebellious hubris against the Most High for human beings to aspire to what belongs to God alone.  It’s not all that different from Lucifer’s great crime in seeking to displace God with his own distorted will.


So, the question for us now becomes this: what does God have to say about sex, sexual preference, and gender?  And to answer this we must go back to the beginning, all the way to the Genesis account of God’s creation of man:


And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:26-27 KJV).


Notice first that when God refers to “man” being made in his image, that the term “man” refers to our species, human nature.  Of no other creature—including the animals below man or the angels above man—is it said that they are created in God’s image (you will sometimes hear this concept referred to in its Latin form, imago dei).  To identify what being made in God’s image is, then, we need to consider what we human beings alone can do that neither animals nor angels can.  What might that be?  Well, unlike the angels, we human beings can beget.  And, unlike the animals, what we beget are persons.  God, too, begets, namely the only begotten Son, a Person eternally begotten of the Father.  Thus, a significant part of what it means to be made in God’s image is that human beings are possessed of this capacity for begetting persons.


But God doesn’t stop there, for notice that he referenced himself not as an “I” but as a plural: “our image.”  From your study of the Holy Trinity, you know that God is three persons in one substance of eternally reciprocating love.  Thus, when God refers to “our image,” he is referencing both that love and that plurality, plus the begetting!  So, it shouldn’t surprise us what comes next: “in the image of God created he him (man, i.e., human nature), male and female created he them.”  The image of God is completed in man through the instantiation of gender in two sexes, male and female, the very coupling necessary for the begetting of persons as well as our participation in the reciprocating community of love.

Human nature is male and female completed through their merger in marriage.

Notice that man (human nature) is male and female.  Not the male alone.  Not the female alone.  Their conjunction.  What follows from this is really shocking, so hang onto your hat!  You are not fully human by yourself.  I am a male, but I do not by myself complete human nature.  My wife is a female, but she, too, by herself does not constitute human nature.  Our completeness as Man is accomplished through our merger as male and female in marriage.


Think about how immature, individualist, and selfish you were before you were married and really began to grow up!  Recall how different teenage boys and girls are from one another (they have next to nothing in common), and yet ten years later they are getting married and forming these astonishing partnerships out of which emerge mutual, mature marital interests, aims, and capabilities.  We don’t really grow up until we marry, do we?  And even then, it’s children that thrust us into human fulness, finally teaching us what self-giving love really is, driving us to emulate the complete eternally loving plurality of persons in the Holy Trinity.  God created our nature as a composite, as a partnership, as a complementarity of persons in one substance, like the Trinity—only our “substance” is Family which begins with Marriage.


Gender, then, is a higher category than sex, contrary to the current cultural view which gets this entirely backwards.  Gender finds its origin within the Godhead, for God reveals himself as the ultimate masculine, the ultimate pursuer, the untamed lion, the bull in the china shop.  When God begets, he does so eternally, not through feminine potentiality, for God’s power is omnipotent and wholly active.  As such, God begets the Son—again, masculine.  When God creates the universe, he likewise does so without any feminine agency, but simply by his Word, out of nothing.  In fact, we don’t find the feminine essentially until the creation, which as a whole is all feminine to God!


That gender is a metaphysical reality far higher than biological sex shouldn’t really surprise us, because we already apply the gender categories of masculine and feminine to things in many languages.  In Star Trek, e.g., Captain Kirk never seems capable of loving a woman, and the ultimate reason for this is that he loves his ship, the Enterprise, a ship always characterized as a “she.”  To this day we continue to designate ships in feminine terms.  They carry us along, they nurture and protect us on our voyage, and then they birth us at our next port.


We also apply gender categories to the angels, where the warrior angels such as the guardian angels and the archangels are all referred to in the masculine “he” even though they have no sex organs at all!  Similarly, in medieval and Renaissance art, we always characterize the fifth rank of angels, the Virtues, in the feminine—"Justice holding her sword”—because of the nature of their activity in drawing human beings toward the instantiation of their namesake virtue, just as a magnet draws iron, a feminine characterization.


We also apply the gender category of the feminine to The Church, calling her the Bride of Christ on the one hand and our Mother on the other hand (a name she shares with Mary), even though the Church is full of biological males as well as biological females.  Through this loving unity of Christ and his Church, we see the continual spiritual birthing of persons in baptism, as well as their spiritual feeding and nurture through the Eucharist, and their healing through confession and the anointing of the sick.


But we see something else, too, for just as Christ is the host inviting us to his table (a masculine role), so he is also the host, the one eaten, through whom we have our spiritual life (a feminine role).  Again, he is the good shepherd, giving his life for the sheep (a masculine role), but he is likewise the perfect lamb, slain, and giving himself for us (a very feminine image).


What this demonstrates is something truly astounding: though the persons of the Godhead are masculine essentially, they nevertheless exhibit the full spectrum of feminine modes.  God loves us, he cares for us, he nurtures us, he gives us new birth, he feeds us . . . all this rich feminine imagery.  And here’s what will really blow your mind: these feminine modes are already found within the Trinity eternally!  For as the Father is God loving, so the Spirit of God is God beloved.  The Spirit receives the love of the Father and the Son, the feminine role.  The Spirit also is depicted as the Divine Comforter, the Giver of Life, the intercessor for the children of God, and one who works behind the scenes constantly tinkering with and engineering things to help move us toward full maturity as children of God.  All of these actions fit feminine expression.  So, while we say that God reveals himself as Masculine (and so, we never refer to God as “she” the way the pagans did), we in no wise devalue the feminine, not only because the feminine is created by God (and thus is as good as the masculine), but because the members of the Trinity operate in both masculine and feminine modes with one another as they reciprocate their eternal love for one another.


So, what is Gender?  Gender is a fundamental polarity that runs all the way up and down the chain of being. That polarity makes possible so much love and so much beauty, as when we watch couple’s skating, a stunning expression of the masculine and feminine in cooperative and correlative polarity.  It is the underlying principle behind C.S. Lewis’ “great dance.”

Gender is the higher metaphysical category, while the sexes are the instantiation of gender in biological creatures.


In human beings, gender manifests itself through male and female, our two sexes.  Notice that the sexes partially reveal and partially obscure the genders.  Our gender characteristics are tendencies rather than the more absolute qualities we find in the angels.  Don’t confuse the sexes with the genders conceptually (even though we often do this in our language).  Gender is the higher metaphysical category, while the sexes are the instantiation of gender in biological creatures.


We began this Question with the current cultural view of sex, sexual preference, and gender.  On that view, gender was nothing but the subjective desire of each person to remake himself into whatever he wished.  By contrast, we now understand that the masculine and feminine polarities of gender are fundamental, metaphysical categories that originate in God’s eternal masculinity as Father and Creator.  The feminine exists through creation itself which then replicates the polarity again and again at every level, within human nature in our two sexes, male and female.  It’s no accident that the first thing that God taught Adam was gender and sex!  The sexual instantiation of gender occurs not just within our physical sex organs, but throughout our bodies—in our bone structures, in our curves and muscles, in our brains, in our hormonal systems, even into the very chromosomes that constitute our individual DNA.  You are male or female all the way down.  It accordingly impacts your thoughts, your emotions, your aspirations, all that you are.  It follows that it is impossible to become the other sex, no matter what you do to your body by way of surgery or hormonal therapy.

Just as the mind has a claim on the body, so, too, does the body have a claim on the mind.


Insofar as the human person is a unified mind-body composite, it follows that just as the mind has a claim on the body, so, too, does the body have a claim on the mind.  Neither may subject the other to the despotic powers of enslavement.  On the contrary, both must respect the sacred dignity of the other and their natural, divinely ordered, composite unity.  Hence, the abortionist and now transgender mantra “my body, my choice” is a serious confusion, since it treats the body as a slave, a mere thing to be used and possessed as a demon possesses its human host.  This is a Gnostic contrivance to reduce the body’s value and to degrade it, in keeping with the demonic disgust at human nature.  Abortion, as well as many forms of body disfigurement, as well as nearly all forms of transgender surgeries and hormone modification therapies are versions of this autocratic consciousness fallacy that sees the soul as a captive in its own body and in need of violent liberation.


But what you are as a human person is a composite of both your mind and your body.  As such, your human personal identity cannot leave your body out of consideration any more than it can leave your mind out of consideration.  If I say that I am a rabbit (or I “identity as” a rabbit) when my body is human, then what I am saying is false, for what I say does not alter what I am.  What I am is determined by realities greater than my choices, realities that God coded into us down to our very DNA.  Thus, the gender categories of masculine and feminine instantiated into a human person run all the way down into the chromosomes of every cell.  Our chromosomal biology enables our production of our distinct male and female sexual cells (our gametes) clearly delineating our biological sex, and no amount of consciousness projection (or wishful thinking, as it used to be called) can change this.  Nor should we wish it to do so, for what God made is good, and the proper human response to being made male or female in the divine image should be adoring thanksgiving.


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