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A Sign of Self-Contradiction

The idea that one’s gender is “assigned at birth” and, consequently, that one can assign oneself another gender by simple fiat has attained the status of received wisdom so suddenly that it seems like it happened overnight. Consider: the time lapse between the American Psychiatric Association’s removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (1973) and the U.S. Supreme Court’s declaration of homosexuals as a protected class under the 14th Amendment in Lawrence v. Texas (2003): thirty years. The time lapse between the APA’s removal of “gender-identity disorder” from the DSM (2013) and the Obama administration’s declaration of transgenders as a protected class under Title IX (2016): three years.

Today, transgenderism is firmly established in the cultural landscape — think of the success of the TV shows Orange Is the New Black, an Emmy-winner that now ranks as Netflix’s most-watched original series, and Amazon’s Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Transparent. Or think of that cultural icon, the Athlete Formerly Known as Bruce Jenner, whose appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair as a “woman” elicited a tweetstorm of praise from various glitterati and even from President Obama himself, who praised Jenner’s “courage.”

Who will cut through the cant, expose the cultural masquerade, and proclaim the truth? Under normal circumstances, we would look to our religious leaders to do so; the great ones don’t fear upsetting a society’s sacred cows or overturning its golden calves. They embrace their duty both to prevent their flocks from straying from the path of righteousness and to preserve them in right relation to the truth.

But the circumstances we find ourselves in are not normal, and our current religious leader, Pope Francis, has, shall we say, a somewhat different understanding of his role as shepherd of the faithful. Never has this been more evident than during his press conference aboard the papal plane on the trip back to Rome from Azerbaijan (Oct. 2). Addressing the topic of transgenderism, the Holy Father said:

Last year I received a letter from a Spanish man who told me his story from the time when he was a child. He was born a female, a girl, and he suffered greatly because he felt that he was a boy but physically was a girl. He told his mother, when he was in his twenties, at 22, that he wanted to have an operation and so forth. His mother asked him not to do so as long as she was alive. She was elderly, and died soon after. He had the operation. He is a municipal employee in a town in Spain. He went to the bishop. The bishop helped him a great deal, he is a good bishop and he “wasted” time to accompany this man. Then he got married. He changed his civil identity, he got married and he wrote me a letter saying that it would bring comfort to him to come see and me [sic] with his bride: he, who had been she, but is he. I received them. They were pleased.

Note that Francis calls this woman a “man,” even though she was “born a female,” and he refers to her using masculine pronouns no less than twenty-five times (all papal quotes have been taken verbatim from the Holy See’s website). And just so we know that it was no slip of the tongue or momentary mental lapse, Francis makes a point to emphasize that “this man” “had been she, but is he.”

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