Devotees of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe know the lament of Strephon who was half man and half woodland sprite: “My body can creep through a keyhole, but what’s the good of that when my legs are left kicking behind?” This came to mind when a picture of Bruce Jenner dressed as a woman appeared on a magazine cover. He received ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award for having “shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years.” Sixty-five years, that is.Anyone who can remain awake listening to the conversations of sedentary former athletes on ESPN is perhaps unable to think clearly on any subject of significance, but the declaration that a man is a woman must astonish alert minds, including the Olympic judges who awarded him a medal under the impression he was a man.
The longest-simmering heresy in Christian history is Gnosticism, which opposes things spiritual to things material, with the consequence that one’s authentic identity is “trapped” in the body. The Christian knows that the body is a temple and not a prison. Philosophers like Immanuel Kant gave Gnosticism a sophisticated veneer, but the invariable result is always a creature like Strephon: in mind one thing and in body something else. John Milton wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Modernity paid the price for opting in favor of Gnosticism when the myth of Superman replacing God led to a world war. In 1941, Cardinal Gerlier preached in Lyons: “The world of the future will be Christian or it will be hell.”
Our culture is succumbing to a predilection for a mental construct that seems not far from hellish. I received a questionnaire from Google asking me to check: 1) Male 2) Female or 3) Other. The Book of Revelation (22:15) speaks of pharmakos — with reference to illusions induced by drugs. Science prefers truth to pharmakos even when the truth at first may seem only an hypothesis. In 1965, the Johns Hopkins Hospital pioneered sex-change surgery. Since “gender” is a grammatical term with no proper application to biology, the term “transgenderism” had not yet been coined. Such surgery has been stopped there, and Doctor Paul R. McHugh, Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explains that sex change is “biologically impossible,” that those who want it are mentally ill, and that those who promote “sex-reassignment surgery” are promoting mental disorder. Women make excellent women, but men do not. The imitation is bound to caricature feminine grace, as if the ideal woman were Mae West on steroids.
Pope Francis compared the destructiveness of gender confusion and its consequent mutilation to the effects of nuclear annihilation, adding: “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”