There seems to be a desire among those on the right to downplay the so-called “transitions” of adults who have gender dysphoria. The argument goes like this: “I don’t care what adults want to do to their bodies. They can chop off as many pieces as they want. Just don’t touch kids, because kids are too young to make those decisions.”
This isn’t the moral position that so many claim it to be. If we accept that mutilation is unhealthy and harmful—shouldn’t we be willing to say so? People who desire to change their sex fit into at least one of two categories and often both:
- Mental illness causes them to believe they should be the opposite sex.
- They suffer a type of despair, in which they fail to see their own inherent value as they were created.
Affirming their self-destructive choices is not an act of charity but of cowardice. It’s the easier position to take. Focusing only on children is easier in an age of moral relativism, wherein conservatism has largely been replaced by laissez-faire libertarianism when it comes to social/moral values. By focusing exclusively on children, one appears to be taking the moral high ground. Don’t be fooled—this is an appeal to sentiment cloaked in moral probity.
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This moral concession, undertaken to avoid unpleasant and likely costly conversations with adults about adults, is similar to what happened with the battle over homosexuality. That fight quickly slid from “We don’t care what you do in your bedroom” to “Civil unions are fine, just don’t call it marriage!” to “Marriages shouldn’t be licensed by the government anyway” to, finally, “Just don’t teach it to our kids.” And now…here we are…
There’s a modern reluctance to even assert what is moral, deferring instead to the ascendancy of individual consciences (which are often poorly formed because people are being raised in an age of decadence). Engaging in this resignation avoids conflict and might best be summarized by the contemporary adage, “You do you.” Such people pontificate about “freedom” with an air of self-approval, as if they are completely opposed to all laws that are rooted in morality and, further, that such a preference is somehow deeply American.
This seems to stem from a misunderstanding of what freedom is, for the modern conflation of freedom with the license to do what you want was hardly the American norm at its founding. In that era, sodomy was punished by the death sentence (though Thomas Jefferson did try to reduce the maximum punishment to castration). Freedom, as described by learned men of better times, is the unimpeded ability to do what is good.
Just laws are a reflection of true morality. That is what gives them their binding character; just laws make a claim upon our conscience because they articulate what is truly good and truly evil. Just laws that proscribe wicked behavior do so because of the recognition that moral evil is corrosive of individual and communal flourishing.
Unjust laws are at odds with true morality, supporting what is evil, inhibiting what is good. Unjust laws by their very nature make no claim upon our conscience. Although it is true that not all of morality need be codified in public law, we fail as individuals and as a community if we fall silent in the presence of manifest wickedness that causes lasting harm to society and its members.
The modern desire for an amoral state is part of the problem. While those on the left have sought (and accomplished) a government that promotes their causes, as seen by the display of the LGBTQ+ flag on government buildings, many on the right seek only a “morally neutral” government.
A “morally neutral” government, however, is a mythical creature—as unreal as the amoral man. If it were set up, it would immediately drift to one direction or the other, for it wouldn’t have the moral grounding to resist the current. It’s thus entirely self-defeating. The dream of so many American conservatives for an amoral government (or at least a government of moral minimalism) is something that has never existed and could never be sustained.
So, if we accept that there is and should be a moral basis for what we allow, let us return to our current dilemma. It is still accepted (sadly, with notable exceptions) that when someone has body dysmorphia and therefore wishes to remove an arm or become blind, it is unethical for a doctor to cooperate with the request. That’s because the problem is not his physical body, which is working as it ought, but his mind. The goal must be to help his mind, not to harm what is working well (the arm or the eyes, in the aforementioned examples).
If it’s acceptable for us to refuse to mutilate these poor souls—whether children or adults—then we should be willing to say the same of those who wish to mutilate their genitals, take hormones that cause irreversible changes, or have their breasts removed. They are likewise seeking to “treat” that which is functioning as it was designed.
Thus, these are not medical procedures because they are not healing. They do not have the potential or even goal of healing, only of placating an ill mind. Mutilation harms the individual in distress, denigrates the medical profession, and sickens society.
Those who demand that the procedures be performed are known for being fervent and even aggressive, but that alone isn’t reason to concede to actions that ultimately harm them. No matter how much a suicidal person asks for assistance or permission to end his life, we don’t kill him, we work to heal him. We see the dignity and value of his person even when he cannot.
There’s nothing wrong with focusing our lens on the most innocent and vulnerable of victims, those being children, and working to prevent them from being exposed to this dangerous ideology; but we cannot stop there. We must be willing to assert that these behaviors are harmful at any age and that it’s a disgraceful (and sinful) action to play any role in encouraging or facilitating them.
Any culture that deserves to endure must be capable of discerning, expressing, and encouraging the good. It must be willing to say no to perversions and activities that will cause its rot. We must have the wisdom to recognize that we are not only fighting for the children of today but for the tomorrows that they will inhabit.