Cornerstone Forum Dissenters Welcome Here

Submitting a comment in response to Gil Bailie’s posts on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page is chancy. Unless you agree with Mr. Bailie’s worldview, you may find yourself “defriended.” All your thoughtful comments may suddenly vanish, because TCF is a place for genuflection, not robust dialog.

Those concerned about wasting their efforts at TCF may now submit their comments here.

Please use this post’s comments feature for your remarks. Identify the TCF post you are responding to. I don’t mind your pasting TCF’s entire post into the comments field if you think it’s necessary. Just preface it with “Gil Bailie writes/cites… ” and then add your response.

Doughlas Remy / TCF Samizdat

The Church’s Confusion About the “Sinfulness” of Homosexual Desires

by Doughlas Remy

The following comment on a recent Spiritual Friendship article caught my attention:

WSquared:

I’m sorry to hear that some folks can’t accept that a homosexual attraction in itself is not a sin (only the act is). It is, after all, what the Church teaches.

My response:

First, some full disclosure:  I do not regard either homosexual attraction or homosexual acts to be sinful. I am homosexual and recently married my partner of 13 years. We are Unitarians.)

DahliaMy heart aches for men and women who voluntarily renounce all hopes of a physical and sexual embrace with the object of their love and desire. I have seen so many people literally bloom when they fall in love and enter into a committed relationship. Not only is this “blooming” one of life’s greatest joys, but it can and often does have lasting power to foster happiness and emotional stability for the remainder of one’s life.

Why purposely deny oneself an experience that is so richly human and so deeply satisfying?

Gay men embracingI sense a great deal of confusion among gay Catholics about their standing in the Church. On the one hand, the Church teaches that only the homosexual “act” is sinful, but on the other hand, it teaches that impure thoughts are sinful and must be confessed. Jesus’s teaching that “lust in one’s heart” is equivalent to adultery could not be clearer. If the Church did not want homosexuals to feel shame and guilt over their desires, then it would not require that they confess and repent of those desires.

Assuming for a moment that you are a gay man, can you honestly admit to a fellow Catholic (except perhaps intimate friends) that you have lustful thoughts about men? If not, then I think your shame is a testimony to your confusion and the Church’s own confusion about this.

Let the Church unequivocally declare that you are NOT to feel guilty about your desires. But you know as well as I do that the Church will never do this, because your guilt is their tether to you.

Bound man

I shudder when I think of the bargain you’re making with the Church. I hope you can at least understand that you have already entered into a relationship of dangerous dependency. That understanding can be a first step for you, if you are willing to take it.

Totalitarianism From Church to State

Triumph_des_Willens_poster

by Doughlas Remy

Gil Bailie (The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page) quotes from political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism:”

The first disastrous result of man’s coming of age is that modern man has come to resent everything given, even his own existence — to resent the very fact that he is not the creator of the universe and himself. In this fundamental resentment, he refuses to see rhyme or reason in the given world. In his resentment of all laws merely given to him, he proclaims openly that everything is permitted and believes secretly that everything is possible.

The triumph of the will—to borrow the title of the Leni Riefenstahl’s wretched documentary hymn to Adolph Hitler—the triumph of the will doesn’t mean that the will actually triumphs; reality is too recalcitrant. It means that the will lays waste the world in the effort to force reality to conform to whatever ideological make-believe has caught the fancy of the utopian planners.

Timothy Brock responds: (Note: Mr. Brock was “defriended” shortly after posting this comment, and the comment was removed.)

Totalitarianism is always a project of absolute control of every single aspect of a person’s existence, from cradle to grave and beyond. It is antithetical to privacy, because even a person’s most intimate actions, thoughts and desires must become totally transparent to those in control. If one does not voluntarily submit to these intrusions, then one is shamed and, if necessary, coerced. If one does not voluntarily confess one’s crimes, then one is threatened and sometimes isolated or tortured. Totalitarian systems assume that everyone has something to hide and therefore to confess, and yet these systems are themselves highly secretive. While requiring total transparency from those they control, they demand total opacity for their own conduct.

The individual’s sexual behavior—and even his or her innermost desires—are of particular use to the totalitarian mindset, because shame is one of the most powerful forces in the human psyche and can be leveraged for total control. Once an individual is made to feel ashamed of any sexual desire that lies outside a very narrow spectrum of social utility, he or she can be manipulated to an astonishing degree.

Once the Church lost the power to exert this level of control, is it any surprise that the state stepped into the breach?

Is Same-Sex Marriage Eroding Religious Liberties?

Lesbian weddingby Doughlas Remy

In a continuation of his ongoing “Tolerance Vigilantes” series, Gil Bailie takes us to the National Review Online, where Kathryn Jean Lopez (“Will Religious Liberty Survive Same-Sex Marriage?” 8/23/13) opines about the demise of religious liberty in a recent ruling by Justice Richard C. Bosson of New Mexico’s Supreme Court. Citing New Mexico’s anti-discrimination laws, Justice Bosson denied Elane Photography the right to refuse services to a lesbian couple who were about to have a commitment ceremony.

Justice Bosson wrote the following opinion:

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins [owners of Elane Photography] have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship. I therefore concur.

Mr. Bailie quotes Jim Campbell, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund:

The idea that free people can be compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives as the price of citizenship is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom.

Mr. Bailie deleted the following comment from Timothy Brock not long after it was posted:

Timothy Brock:

Thanks for posting this. The NM case is similar to ones in five other states, and I think they give us an opportunity to reflect again on whether the state should ever impose any restrictions on religious liberty.

“Religious liberty” sounds like a wholesome concept that everyone should support, and in fact it goes more or less unquestioned until one person’s expression of it rubs against another’s or impinges on our basic civil rights. Then, there is a variety of possible responses, including (a) “Freedom for me but not for thee” (my religion trumps both your religion and your civil rights), and (b) the kind of compromise that Justice Bosson sees as necessary to “lubricate the varied moving parts of us as a people.”

I think Justice Bosson has it exactly right, and he expressed his position very eloquently.

So the answer to the author’s question—”Will religious liberty survive same-sex marriage” is unquestionably “yes,” but that liberty will not be absolute. It never was, at least not in this country.

Randall Jennings responds:

This article goes through some of the more prominent legal entrails of the decision. I come to the opposite conclusion from that of the author. Most interesting for me is the fact that one legal precedent is conflating the idea of a ‘practice’ with one’s person. I suppose some of these individual ‘practices’ are deemed more worthy of legal protection than others.

“Brubaker5” responds to Ms. Lopez’s article with the much-worn “halal butcher” argument: 

ImageI wonder, would a halal butcher be required to carry pork because customers demanded it? It’s a butcher shop. They sell meat. The only reason they don’t sell pork is their beliefs. Should that Islamic butcher be compelled to serve couples who are openly homosexual? Should Islamic beliefs be dismissed like Christian beliefs?

The only rational response would be to repect the beliefs of atheist, Muslim, Chistian and Jew alike. What actual public good is served by using the force of law to coerce people into selling a product or service which their beliefs would prevent them selling? To do so, as in this case, is quite simply and transparently vindictive.

My response to Brubaker5:

Just think about it. A photographer running a photography studio sells photography, not sculpture. A halal butcher sells beef and chicken and lamb, but not pork.

Neither the photographer nor the butcher is required by law to sell other products. However, neither is allowed to discriminate against any of their customers on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

So the Halal butcher serves anyone who enters his shop, and the photographer serves anyone who enters her studio.

If a customer says to the photographer, “I want sculpture, not photography,” then the photographer refers that customer to an art gallery. She does not do so because she disapproves of the customer’s preferences, but because she is in the business of photography.

But to say, “I only do photography for heterosexuals” is undisguised discrimination, and there is no other way to construe it.

Brubaker5:

That’s an interesting line of reasoning, but it sidesteps the essence of my point:

The halal butcher sells a variety of meat, but doesn’t sell pork—because of his religious beliefs. The photographers sell photographs, but not for homosexuals—because of their religious beliefs.

Despite your attempt to rationalize different treatment, each business is making a business decision regarding which products or services they will provide, and they are doing so based on their religious beliefs.

Bottom line: The first time that I see a Muslim successfully prosecuted or sued for exercising their religious beliefs, I’ll get on board for forcing Christians to violate their beliefs.

My response to Brubaker5: 

While it is true that both the halal butcher and the NM photographer are motivated by religious belief, their intentions are not equivalent. The butcher has a niche market for customers who want meat slaughtered in a particular way, and pork is not on the menu. His intention, much like that of a vegan restaurateur, is to serve a specialized clientele. He obviously has no intention of excluding anyone, and if a Christian omnivore enters his shop to buy meat, he will serve them. This is no more discriminatory than opening a coffee stand without putting beer on the menu.

The NM photographer, however, is clearly offering her services to everyone EXCEPT homosexual couples. Whereas the butcher will sell his meat to anyone, the photographer is excluding certain customers because of their sexual orientation. Such discriminatory treatment frays the social fabric and sooner or later creates an underclass of people who can only find goods and services within their own communities, which are known as “ghettos.”

Regarding your comment about Muslims: Why do you think that they are not constrained by U.S. law? Stoning adulteresses is just fine under Sharia law, and it is practiced in Saudi Arabia, but we don’t find it happening in the U.S. Neither do we find female genital mutilation among Muslims in this country except where it is practiced secretly and outside the law.

So my response to your comment about Muslims is a challenge:

If the Muslims can bend to the laws of our country, why can’t Christians?

Aaron Taylor Sees Need for Gay and Celibate Saints

Early European gay men 2by Doughlas Remy

Today, Gil Bailie has linked approvingly to an article by Aaron Taylor in Spiritual Friendship, “Why the Church and the World Need Celibate Saints.” (8/19/13) Hoping to address gay Catholics reading the article, I responded to it directly. Below is a copy of that response:

First, let me just sum up what I think Aaron Taylor has proposed. He envisions a Catholic response to “the increasing acceptance of homosexual relationships in the West.” In order to show “gay people [not just gay Catholics] that the Church has something to say that is worth listening to,” the Church must encourage celibate gay Christians to “speak openly about their experiences of reconciling sexuality and faith.” What the Church has to offer gay people is the shining example of gays who have, at least momentarily, successfully suppressed their sexual and affectional longings.

I’m sorry. It’ll never work. Fewer and fewer gays, even Catholic ones, are any longer “struggling” with their sexuality. Celibacy isn’t a failed goal. It just isn’t a goal at all. And why should it be?

Well, if you are in the Catholic thought-frame, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. If all you young gay Catholics believe that, then go ahead and waste the only youth you’ll ever have. Beat yourself up. Twist yourself into a pretzel. Your rewards will be your aura of sanctity and your relief from the guilt that has been crushing you all these years. Tuck yourself into the folds of your big, warm institution and give up thoughts of ever tucking yourself between your sheets to snuggle in your lover’s arms. You will have missed out on one of life’s greatest joys, but at least you be spared all the perils of taking risks, finding the right mate and settling down. Best of all, you’ll have the approval of your church.

Or will you? This is where I’m afraid you may be disappointed, because the Catholic Church will never treat you with the respect you’re longing for (and that is your due). You will always be in the lower echelon of sinners, well below the adulterers. You will be marked as “disordered” because of your very desires, despite every attempt you make to suppress them. But your Church will have the satisfaction of knowing it owns you.

At the rate homosexual relationships are gaining acceptance, the Church is going to have to crank out a huge number of gay saints, and fast.

But will it really do any good? I’m still not sure what the Church thinks it can offer gays that is better than what they are now being offered—a place at the table and a chance to live a full and joyous life.

Bailie to follow Cardinal Dolan’s lead on Francis’s new “tone”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

by Doughlas Remy

(This is a follow-up to my recent post, “Will the Pope’s new tone regarding homosexuality ripple into The Cornerstone Forum?” (7/30/13), where I invited speculations about Mr. Bailie’s reading of Pope Francis’s recent remarks about homosexuality. I wondered if Bailie would follow Cardinal Dolan’s lead in denying that anything is afoot.)

So far, Mr. Bailie is channeling Cardinal Dolan on this, i.e., “Okay, just move along now, there’s nothing to see.” (Bailie links to an article by James V. Schall, S. J., in The Catholic World Report of 8/3/13.) The conservative spin on Francis’s new tone is captured again today in a Crisis Magazine article entitled “Pope Francis Will Enliven the Benedict Legacy,” by Jeffrey Tucker. (Notice the title is not a question inviting discussion. ) Tucker takes the liberal media to task for reading too much into the new Pope’s words:

The line [is] that he is overturning all previous ways of doing things. He is embracing progress over tradition, loves the poor and not the rich, favors people over ritual, and is willing to rethink fundamental teachings and reopen the debate over moral issues.

What’s true and what’s not in this line of thinking? Very little of it is true at all.

Did I get this right? Tucker is claiming that there is no essential difference between Francis and Benedict? No change was needed because everything was just fine under Benedict? Neither Francis NOR Benedict favor people over ritual? (astonishing admission!) Neither of them loves the poor and not the rich? (another startling admission!) Neither sees—or has seen—any need for progress or change in the Church’s financial dealings, its stance toward gays, or its policies regarding cover-ups of child sexual abuse by priests?

Tucker’s piece is unadulterated propaganda. Who can ever forget Benedict’s Prada shoes, his extravagant costuming, his bullet-proof Pope-mobile (Where’s God when you need him?)? Who can ignore Francis’s easy mingling with crowds and his exhorting young Catholics to “protest,” and to “shake things up” in the Church?

The Church does change when its feet are held to the fire, as we saw in the aftermath of the child-abuse scandals. The Church is as fragile as a man’s ego, which is all the more reason why women should be welcomed into the priesthood. The Church would just like you to think that it is a rock, and this is where Jeffrey Tucker and Crisis Magazine come in with their propaganda machine.

“Move along, everyone! There’s nothing to see here.” (Sub-text: “We haven’t screwed up. We can’t screw up. We’re all males. You’re in good hands. Trust us. Just trust us.”)

Responses to Gil Bailie’s TCF Posts For August-September 2013

Submitting a comment in response to Gil Bailie’s posts on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page is chancy. Unless you agree with Mr. Bailie’s worldview, you may find yourself “defriended.” All your thoughtful comments may suddenly vanish, because TCF is a place for genuflection, not robust dialog.

Those concerned about wasting their efforts at TCF may now submit their comments here. Every two months, TCF Samizdat will offer a  safe repository like this one, duly dated and permanently floating on the front page for easy access.

Please use this post’s comments feature for your remarks. Identify the TCF post you are responding to. I don’t mind your pasting TCF’s entire post into the comments field if you think it’s necessary. Just preface it with “Gil Bailie writes/cites… ” and then add your response.

Doughlas Remy / TCF Samizdat

Will the Pope’s new tone regarding homosexuality ripple into The Cornerstone Forum?

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

During a return flight to Rome following his visit to Brazil, Pope Francis seemed to set a new tone regarding homosexuality in the priesthood when he answered a journalist’s question about it thus: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and good will, who am I to judge that person?” He added that gays should never be marginalized: “The problem is not that one has this tendency (to homosexuality); no, we must be brothers. This is the first matter.”

David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement described these words as “a shot—of tolerance and love—heard around the world.” The Rev. James Martin, a U.S. Jesuit and popular author, called the moment a “sea change.”

While it may be premature to infer from the Pope’s remarks that any substantive changes in the Church’s position on homosexuality are imminent, it’s safe to say that Francis’s disposition toward gay priests is more relaxed than that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who said that men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not be ordained. Francis’s use of the word “gay” is a striking departure from his predecessors’ choice of the more impersonal term “homosexual.”

What interests me and many other Catholic-watchers, however, is the “penumbra effect” of these statements. “Tone” is the word being tossed around in the media. Francis is setting a different “tone” about homosexuality—one that is more inclusive than his predecessor’s.

We will  be watching Gil Bailie’s The Cornerstone Forum in the weeks and months ahead for any signs of a reaction to the Pope’s words. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has already denied that the pope’s message is anything new. (Like, “Oh, we’ve been saying this all along!”) This is setting us up for the historical revisionist tack that will play itself out over the next few centuries, i.e., “The Church never persecuted or ostracized homosexuals,” and even, “The Church was in the forefront of efforts to end discrimination against LGBTs.” We’ve seen it before, with slavery and anti-Semitism. The Church is already lining up its revisionist historians to flatly deny that the Church had any role in scapegoating homosexuals.

Will Gil Bailie follow Cardinal Dolan’s lead? Is anyone willing to venture a guess?

What Kind of Catholic Was Walker Percy?

Walker Percy

Walker Percy

Today, Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum posted the following “interview” with Walker Percy (all written by Percy himself):

Q: What kind of Catholic are you … a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means. Do you mean do I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean …
Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and would not let go until God identified himself and blessed him.
A: Grabbed aholt?
A: A Louisiana expression …
A: How do you account for your belief?
A: I can only account for it as a gift from God.
Q: Why would God make you such a gift when there are others who seem more deserving, that is, serve their fellowman?
A: I don’t know. God does strange things …
Q: But shouldn’t one’s faith bear some relation to the truth, the facts?
A: Yes. That’s what attracted me, Christianity’s rather insolent claim to be true, with the implication that other religions are more or less false.
Q: You believe that?
A: Of course.

Timothy Brock comments:

Percy admits he is a dogmatic Catholic and explains why: The alternatives (open-mindedness, other secular and religious ideologies) are simply unsatisfactory because they don’t inspire him. Notably, “scientific humanism,” he believes, robs life of its “delight and mystery.” Walker then defines God as “infinite mystery and infinite delight,” a being therefore deserving of our belief and worthy of our worship.

Assuming for the moment that “scientific humanism” is repellent to mystery and delight (which it is not), what about all the other religious alternatives? Sufism? Judaism? Russian Orthodoxy? Have they neither mystery nor delight? What about all the Protestant offshoots of Roman Catholicism?

But Percy has announced right up front that he is closed-minded, so he will not consider religious alternatives in this interview with himself. Why [is he closed-minded]? Because he is attracted by “Christianity’s rather insolent claim to be true, with the implication that other religions are more or less false.” Note that he has switched the subject from Catholicism to Christianity. Perhaps he could not bring himself to call his own Church’s claims “insolent.”

At the beginning, Percy leads us to expect he will defend his belief in Catholicism, but in the end, he only explains why he is a Christian, not why he is specifically a Catholic. Perhaps Lutheranism is not closed-minded enough for him?

So there are his reasons for belief in the dogma of the Catholic Church. He has worked it all out and decided not to “settle for anything less than” infinite mystery and delight. But wait, if we are talking about a conscious decision-making process here, then how do we account for his answer to the interlocutor’s question:

“How do you account for your belief?”

And he answers,

“I can only account for it as a gift from God” (from which others, as the interviewer explains, have been excluded).

Then he has been chosen by God. No decision was involved. All his “reasons” (mystery and delight, etc.) were ex-post-facto rationalizations.

My feeling is that Percy wrote this imaginary interview to fend off massive doubts and uncertainties. Born into a family scarred by multiple suicides, Percy saw open-mindedness as a dangerous tendency leading to loss of control. The downward spiral had to be aborted at any cost, even the suspension of one’s critical faculties.

What is most peculiar about this interview is its tension between what is essentially an experience of “openness” (to mystery and delight, whose supreme expression is God), and Percy’s own rather weary embrace of closedness and his attraction to “insolent claims” of exclusive truth.

Anthony Esolen’s Hatred of Nature and of Sex

Terre Thaemlitz

Terre Thaemlitz

Shortly following the publication of Anthony Esolen’s article “Hatred of Nature, Hatred of Sex” on Crisis Magazine, Gil Bailie posts a link to the article with this short introduction:

This Anthony Esolen satire is essential reading. It is Chestertonian, and that is high praise indeed.

Comments:

Preetha Valentine:

Outstanding article! Identity crisis

Caroline Gissler:

Emperor Norton was ahead of his time.

Timothy Brock:

Esolen’s cruel and tasteless “satire” does nothing to address the problems that transgendered individuals face. I cannot imagine Jesus showing such callous indifference toward them.

How about some constructive suggestions instead of just more of the same poisonous ridicule? Esolen’s article perfectly exemplifies the attitudes that transgenders have to face daily. That it could have been published on a Catholic website is absolutely appalling.

Caroline Gissler:

It’s the rest of us who look at our bodies and know what we are by the evidence in front of our eyes who are being ridiculed when we are in essence told that it is all in our heads.

The Cornerstone Forum:

Esolen is not mocking people suffering from confusion about their sexual identity. He’s mocking the ideologues who think they are doing those people a favor by abandoning reality. The long term damage will be to the very people who think they are being helped.

Timothy Brock:

Two days ago, I was at the hospital with the family of a man who had just had open-heart surgery. We were in the surgery waiting room when the surgeon came in to report to us how the operation had gone. He conducted us into a small private room, where he described the patient’s condition and advised all of us about what to expect and how to help in the recovery.

We listened to the surgeon with total reverence and respect for his skills and his knowledge. Not one of the eight of us ever raised a hand to object that something he had instructed us to do didn’t seem “common-sensical.” We were in the presence of scientific knowledge on which the man’s life absolutely depended at every single moment for the next five days.

Which one of you thinks you have the authority or the expertise to insist, contrary to all available scientific evidence, that gender is what’s between your legs and not what’s between your ears? To me, it is simply appalling (1) that you do not already know this and (2) that you presume to question pediatricians and psychologists who do.
For the sake of our friend’s recovery, we listened with rapt attention to every instruction the surgeon gave us. Our friend’s life depends on it.

For the sake of our children, we must start listening to those who actually have a scientific understanding of gender identity. Let’s set aside folk wisdom and pre-scientific ideas for their sakes, please. Let’s listen to the doctors.

Gordon Savage:

“Which one of you thinks you have the authority or the expertise to insist, contrary to all available scientific evidence, that gender is what’s between your legs and not what’s between your ears?”

Timothy: Putting aside for a moment your Ad verecundiam argument to simply shut up and submit to authority, what exactly do you mean by “between the ears”? The “social constructs” that Esolen critiques are between the ears in one sense, the interplay of brain and hormones is between the ears in another. And this seems to me a perfect example of the our Postmodern culture confusing its reverence for the plasticity of social constructs with the very concrete needs bio-social needs of children.

Real scientists who care equally about getting this right are divided over what to do. Ruth Padawar wrote this in the New York Times in August 8, 2012: “Transgender activists have also pressed for changes in the psychiatric establishment, which still officially considers children’s distress over gender identity a mental illness. Now the American Psychiatric Association is reviewing the diagnosis of ‘Gender Identity Disorder in Children’ for the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Critics, though, condemn the association’s choice of Dr. Kenneth Zucker to lead the inquiry. Zucker is the head of a well-known gender-identity clinic in Toronto and the most prominent defender of traditional interventions for gender nonconformity. He urges parents to steer their children toward gender-typical toys, clothes and playmates and advises them to prohibit behaviors associated with the other sex. Zucker’s academic articles assert that while biology may predispose some children to gender nonconformity, other factors — like trauma and emotional disorders — often play a role. Other contributing causes he cites include overprotective mothers, emotionally absent fathers or mothers who are hostile toward men.” I recommend the article.

I’m no fan of the DSM system, but it doesn’t sound like one of the those slam-dunk, “the science is settled so shut-up,” situations.

Timothy Brock:

Gordon, I have a question for you, but it will have to wait, as I am spending lots of time at the hospital with my friend who had heart surgery on Thursday. Watch this space.

Timothy Brock:

Gordon, after dismissing my appeal to the authority of medical professionals, you buttressed your own view by citing the authority of a medical professional.

There’s nothing wrong with deferring to authority when that deference is warranted, as it was in my hospital experience last week (see my earlier comment). But when a non-scientific institution presumes expertise about a scientific question, there is no such warrant.

Psychologists are indeed divided about whether to include transgenderism in the DSM, and I never said they weren’t. On both sides of the issue are people who understand transgenderism quite well.

I know that many transgenders do not want the stigma that comes with classification of transgenderism as a “gender identity disorder.” However, some (not all) transgenders want hormone treatment and medical interventions. These are not covered by insurance unless they are prescribed for a specific disorder. So that is a strong argument for classifying transgenderism as a disorder.

What I said earlier about gender is completely supported by the American Psychological Association (as well as the other medical associations): Sex is assigned at birth. It is a biological status. Gender refers to socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a society considers appropriate for boys, girls, men, and women.

I was surprised that Caroline and others did not know this and that they thought that you could simply “look between your legs” to establish your gender identity. Well, I’m afraid it’s not that simple.

The place to start in understanding transgenderism is NOT in the writings or opinions of a single psychologist. Go to the American Psychological Association’s Q and A:http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx?item=1

Read the sections on discrimination and how to be supportive.

If you’re going to discuss these matters, it’s simply inexcusable not to be informed about them … for the sake of transgendered individuals who suffer daily as a result of your ignorance and indifference.

Gordon Savage:

All this time I was expecting a question.

Authority? Ad verecundiam means “appeal to reverence;” it is not a “dismissal of [your] appeal to the authority of medical professionals,” but a reference to your tactic of shutting down discussion by suggesting those who disagree with you embrace “folk wisdom and pre-scientific ideas” (bogus authority) over science (virtuous authority). And it’s not just about science but brave doctors who save lives in open heart surgery. Give me a break! Ad verecundiam is a way of diverting people from the judicious weighing of the conflicting arguments of equally authoritative sources. Hence my reference to competing authorities in the New York Times article.

But the real mistake was initial your reading of Esolen, that it was “tasteless ridicule” of those who suffer the consequences of gender confusion. The article wasn’t about transgendered children, it was about adults who consider gender wholly a social construct separate from biology. You wouldn’t think of suggesting that social identity is completely separate from biology — hence a man who thinks he’s a horse or Napoleon needs counseling — but you imagine it’s unproblematic to separate entirely social sexual constructs from bodily sexuality (BTW, if you were right, why shouldn’t a parent have the right to steer their minor child toward what they consider the “best social constructs” much like they try to get them in the best school?).

Are those who disagree with you always “ignorant” and “indifferent” or is it just me?

Timothy Brock:

Gordon, first of all, I did not “mis-read” Esolen. He’s a clever but very transparent writer. His article is clearly about California’s directives regarding transgender children in the schools. The photo at the top makes that explicit. The lengthy analogies with race and class are only intended to set us up for the “the real offense against nature,” which is even “crazier,” he says, than the objects of his ridicule (the Prince of Pasadena and the Queen of San Quentin). Can you not see that he is comparing transgender children to these delusional individuals, and then ridiculing the whole lot of them and the legislators who allow them to self-identify? Do you imagine that when Esolen writes about the “trans-blacks,” he is not analogizing with transgenders? All are delusional, in his view. All arel crazy. So, apparently, are the two APAs.

He writes, “…if I say that a boy may be a girl or a girl may be a boy, I do in fact reject the healthy and the normal.” And the legislators are “mad” for going along with such “delusions.” They “hate reality.” So, apparently, do the two APAs.

Esolen does not understand that there is a difference between a “transman” and his hypothetical “trans-black” because he is not interested in understanding. He writes regularly for Crisis Magazine, an ultra-conservative Catholic publication. He’s an ideologue who starts with conclusions and distorts facts to fit them. He knows nothing about transgenderism. Some of his statements are absolutely bizarre from the perspective of scientific understanding. He writes that “sex is not a social construct,” as if anyone had claimed that it is. Gender is partly social construct and partly a result of genetic influences, prenatal hormone levels, early experiences, and experiences later in adolescence. But it all comes through biology. Even the experiences are processed by the body-brain. Gender is not the same as sex. Esolen appears to think it is “insane” to believe that one is a female when one has male genitals, or vice versa. He has not, and could not have read scientific literature or given any serious thought to what he has written. I’ve blogged with Esolen many times, and this is completely typical of him.

So why does he called his article, “Hatred of Nature, Hatred of Sex?” Is he suggesting that transgenders and those who try to help them, such as the medical establishment, hate nature and sex? Don’t you find that a bit bizarre? Personally, I think it’s very hateful.

Timothy Brock:

Gordon, I have no interest in “shutting down discussion,” but I believe it is morally wrong to slander groups of people out of sheer ignorance. I am not a moral relativist or a post-modernist, and ignorance is not a social construct. It is an absence of knowledge and understanding. Rather than stop a discussion, I would like to stop slanders and encourage people to take responsibility for the damaging things they write about other people, especially entire groups such as transgenders. It’s one thing to praise another person or group out of ignorance, but it’s quite another to disparage them or to suggest that they are “crazy,” “unnatural,” and “unhealthy” when they are not. The psychologists and psychiatrists at the APAs are not “insane.” (These are all Esolen’s words.)

Esolen throws around expletives like “objectively disordered” when he is himself objectively ignorant of what he writes about. He is ideologically opposed to all the letters of LGBT, and arrogant in his presumption of expertise.

By all means, judiciously weigh the conflicting arguments of various sources, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they are all “equally authoritative.” There is a big difference between an authority and a shill. Look for consensus opinions of medical professionals on topics like these. They may not be perfectly reliable, but they are the best we’ve got.

Gordon Savage:

Timothy, Perhaps, as you say, you’re not a “moral relativist or post-modernist,” but you are a slanderer for continually dismissing all of those who differ with you as ignorant. I’m done with this.

Timothy Brock:

Gordon: In fact, I do not dismiss all those who differ with me as “ignorant” of the matters under discussion. As I indicated earlier, I am very respectful of people who have genuine expertise, especially if they represent or express a consensus view in the sciences. Although I know that modern medical professionals can occasionally be wrong, their training and certification tells me that they are far more trustworthy on medical matters than people without such backgrounds.

We have not been talking theology here. Transgenderism is a condition that is best approached through scientific inquiry.

If there’s any area where ignorance and knowledge are sharply differentiated, it is science, where one opinion is not just as good as another.

This is why I am offended when Esolen ridicules transgenders and their advocates. Esolen is not a scientist and he apparently has little respect for scientific inquiry. His is not a trivial offense, in my view. It fuels the scapegoating of transgenders and its end result is more wounding. Transgenders need genuine understanding, not ridicule.