The Group So Marginalized They Are Forgotten

In all the calls to remember the "marginalized," one group that doesn't even get mentioned is boys. Yet marginalized they are.

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I have been seeing ads put out by a conservative organization urging us to protect girls and women who want to play sports but are devastated to realize that they will never be able to compete against biological males—boys declaring themselves to be girls and barging in on the girls’ teams. When we ignore the basic facts of our biological nature, the voice-over says, “it is always women who suffer the most.” It’s not just that the girls are disappointed or frustrated. One of them points out that it puts college scholarships at risk.

Meanwhile, Catholics have heard of another wolf in the garb of shepherd, this one a Belgian bishop who admitted fourteen years ago that he had gotten into a habit of sex play with one of his nephews and then with a second one for good measure. I wonder whether the only reason why we know the sex of his victims is that English does not have a general word for the child of your sibling. To be sure, the peculiar nature of the harm he did to those boys is not to be discussed, not to be considered, perhaps not to be conceived.

Instead, as the collapse of healthy relations between men and women continues to accelerate, given fresh impetus by the anonymity and unreality of the internet, Catholic attention is to be focused on gay couples presenting themselves for blessings in church. For they are the “marginalized.”

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Thirty years ago, Camille Paglia, a lesbian who likes men and an atheist with a sense of the proper power of religious faith, had a good laugh at liberal Presbyterians trying to be hip as they gutted Christian sexual morality but did not want to admit that that was what they were doing. They tried to dress it up with nice, old-ladyish sentiments, stipulating that of course we should be caring and gentle and respectful. Organdy covers a multitude of sins. 

They, too, brought up the “marginalized,” a word that Paglia said she detested, reading it always as margarinized. For Paglia was, unlike the Presbyterians, quite aware of the terrible power they had invited into their midst, and she was not going to pretend they could tame it with good feelings. I am reminded of the words of Christopher Marlowe: “Love is not full of pity, as men say, / But deaf and cruel where he means to prey.” You do not make margarine out of blood.

It pains me to see that my Church has adopted the foolish word, and, having adopted it, applied it where everybody else does; misapplied it, rather. Boys, especially the fatherless and aimless and dispirited, get no commercials on their behalf, march in no special parades, have no special flags, are to be inspired by no special heroes, are celebrated by no one in the entertainment industry, have no advocates in the schools, no advocates in political parties, no advocates in Congress, no advocates at national conferences of bishops, no advocates in the Vatican. Marginalized? If only! They don’t even make it to the page. Boys, especially the fatherless and aimless and dispirited, get no commercials on their behalf, march in no special parades, have no special flags.Tweet This

Consider, for example, that advertisement for sanity in girls’ sports. I agree with the girls entirely. They should not be compelled to compete against boys. I feel sorry for them. And a big-boned boy galumphing down the soccer field can put them at risk for serious and wholly unnecessary injury. If we are going to have girls’ soccer, it must be for girls, and that’s it.

Yet, I hedge when they say that when biological realities are ignored, women and girls suffer the most. Late in the game, that. Of course, I know they have a message to deliver, and they do so with great assurance, as if being wronged were a mark of personal pride, or a trophy to earn. I can’t blame them for that. That is the style that being wronged assumes in our time. The writers could hardly have them speak or look otherwise. You could not say, “Boys and girls both suffer, and here is one way it hurts us girls.” People might then shrug and say, “So long as boys are suffering too, it is no big deal.” And that would defeat the purpose.

Worse, you might get people to consider that ignoring the differences between male and female has hurt the boys for more than fifty years now. You might get them to wonder why, for example, the numbers of boys and girls playing high-school sports should be held equal when boys are much more interested in playing, when they are better at it, when many of them appear to need it for their healthy development as boys, especially if they have no fathers to guide them, and when their sports generate more interest in the local community. If it’s a matter of money, I will wager that plenty of boys would finance their own teams if the schools would allow them the use of their fields and courts and name, so that it would cost the girls nothing at all.

That brings me back to the bishop’s nephews. What he did was vile and despicable. Had the victims been his nieces, it would have been vile and despicable in a particular way I think we would all acknowledge. How could they trust a man when their first sexual encounter was with a predatory monster, grinning? How could they not feel themselves to be vulnerable? Men are all selfish, they must think; men cause pain; men want only the body part, not the person. 

But the victims were nephews, not nieces. So the harm is somewhat different. The bishop did not overpower his nephews. He seduced them. It was playtime. What did that do to them? How did their bodies betray them? What did it do to their sense of themselves as male? How did it warp their imaginations? How did the unnatural character of the abuse harm them as they grew older?

I don’t say I have the answers to those questions. I am noting only that they are never asked. Twenty years ago, when I first broached the subject, I noted that they were never asked. To ask them, you have to stop folding boys and girls into one sexless category, “children,” and then you have to stop assuming that because girls and women are the usual victims of one sort of crime in one sort of society, boys are never the usual victims of another sort of crime in another sort of society. After all, in the case of the perverted priests, we know very well that boys were the usual victims, to a staggering degree.

One last word. When you comfort the comfortable and ignore or afflict the afflicted, when you praise those whom everybody else is praising and pass by the injured man on the wayside because everybody else is passing him by—indeed, they have shoved him into the ditch in the first place—and you don’t want to miss the parade, the whole world will speak well of you. 

But the world is mad. Sometimes it is mad for war, sometimes it is mad for money, sometimes it is mad for physical delights. In our time, it is mad for madness. It will always be something. So, I call on my fellow Catholics to cease going mad for madness. And I call on them to consider, at least one day in the year, those unconsidered people in our midst. It is not too much to ask.


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