Transgender tyranny and the defense of freedom
The Declaration of Independence begins with an appeal to the authority of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” — laws at once deeper and higher than those of the king, not subject to personal desires, and which no human law could contradict or modify.
This natural moral law enabled the Founders to assert their monumental claims “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The right of liberty flowed from the natural moral law, authored by God, and could be asserted over and against human tyranny.
Now, 240 years later, liberty and equality have become twisted so as to undermine the natural law. On May 13, for example, the federal government issued a “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students,” providing guidance on the interpretation and application of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The letter establishes, contrary to well-established science, that one’s “sex” is freeform, entirely up to one’s own “internal sense of gender.”
Schools must affirm whatever gender an individual “intends to assert,” with no need for a medical diagnosis or other evidence, on pain of fines, judicial action, or discontinuation of federal funding. On these grounds, boys simply claiming to be girls could enter girls’ bathrooms and changing facilities or play on girls’ sports teams.
On the same day, the government issued its final rule on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, requiring any recipient of federal funding — such as physicians, hospitals and insurers — to provide or pay for chemical and surgical “gender transition” procedures. It gives people who have “transitioned” the same health care rights as people born in that gender. Violators may face action from the U.S. Department of Justice, civil action or the loss of federal funding.
These government interventions radically undermine two types of freedom: the authentic personal freedom of persons experiencing gender confusion or diagnosable dysphoria, and the freedom of religion and conscience of everyone else.
First, the freedom of a gender-confused person is subverted when society affirms a misconception of his or her identity. It traps the person in the slavery of a fantasy and makes it more difficult to accept reality, which is needed for integral healing. Increasing the availability of “reassignment” further restricts freedom: Knowledge of ready access to hormones and surgery distracts from and reinforces the underlying problem, offering an appealing but superficial “solution.” It makes the person less inclined to work at understanding and resolving the mistaken perception of having the wrong biological sex. It’s like affirming an anorexic woman’s perception that she is overweight, providing her with easy access to liposuction, and calling it “treatment.”
We cannot lose sight of reality. In a statement titled “Gender Ideology Harms Children,” the American College of Pediatricians recalls that sex is “an objective biological binary trait,” while gender describes an awareness of oneself as male or female. The former cannot be changed, while the latter is subject to influences that may clarify or confound one’s self-understanding. Believing oneself to be of a different sex than one’s biological sex is “at best, a sign of confused thinking,” and as many as 88% of girls and 98% of boys with such confusion accept their biological sex after puberty. Given this, and considering that suicide rates are 20 times higher in adults who have undergone “reassignment,” the College decries as child abuse “conditioning children into believing … impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful.” A person is not freed by reinforcing self-misunderstanding.
Second, the freedom of conscience of all other persons is trampled by state demands that they become actors in others’ fantasies. The prevailing cultural and media narrative, reinforced by some clinicians who adopt a “gender affirmation” approach, and now by the coercive power of the federal government, would have others treat the confused person in accordance with his or her objectively distorted self-perception. The new guidance and regulations apply to entities that receive federal funding such as schools and hospitals, but this is only a first step toward imposing such standards on our entire society.
For the sake of the authentic freedom of persons experiencing gender confusion or diagnosable dysphoria, and for the freedom of all people in our great nation to live in truth, follow their consciences, and exercise religious liberty, we must pray and work to defend our freedoms against the tyrannical falsehood of gender ideology. In celebrating our independence this July, let us recall the laws of nature and of nature’s God as the source of all claims of liberty.
JOHN A. DI CAMILLO, BE.L., is a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.