What are we doing to ourselves, and to our children? This is a question I am pondering a lot as of late, as I watch our nation, and so many parts of the world, racing to embrace ever more extreme and ever more destructive forms of anti-life and anti-family ideology.
With a kind of reckless abandon, we are casting aside common sense principles that have guided individuals and societies towards health and well-being for countless generations, replacing them with untested, unproven, and often flagrantly absurd ideas about sex, gender, marriage, family, life, and death.
In a way, I suppose I am “used” to the radicality and irrationality of the anti-life and anti-family revolutionaries. I expect bad and absurd ideas. After all, what could be more absurd than the claim that the unborn child is merely a “blob of tissue,” with no moral weight? And this in the 21st century, when we can watch detailed, 3D videos of the unborn child moving about in his mother’s womb!
And yet there is something that is somehow uniquely horrifying about the speed with which so-called “gender theory,” with its ever more implausible claims, has flooded the airspace in the past decade, going from something that most people had never given a moment’s thought to, to the dominant “social justice” cause of the day, with acquiescence demanded and enforced by the cultural and political elite.
You would think that the burden of proof for the radical ideas of gender theory would rest on the revolutionaries who propose to turn our world topsy-turvy. Instead, however, in the historical equivalent of the amount of time it takes us to blink an eye, a new orthodoxy has swept our culture, quashing all dissent. Any amount of questioning or criticism is shouted down and shunned as a “dangerous” and “violent” assault on a vulnerable minority population.
Even merely to wonder, for instance, whether it is good for children and young teens to take puberty-blocking hormones, or to undergo irreversible surgical interventions, is proof-positive that one is “transphobic.” The only acceptable attitude to gender theory is unqualified enthusiasm. Anything less is a form of intolerance and bigotry that will – we are assured – drive transgender people to self-harm and suicide, and is therefore tantamount to “violence.”
At the moment, most of the enforcement mechanisms are social, rather than legal, taking the form of public shaming, and a growing censorship by private corporations. Any public figures who dare to publicly question any tenet of gender theory can expect an online mob to descend upon them, and for their employers to be pressured to cast them out into the darkness of unemployment. Often, the mob gets what they demand.
Meanwhile, the tech giants are increasingly ensuring that there is little space in the online world for expressing dissent. For years now, Twitter has banned so-called “dead-naming” – that is, referring to a transgender person by his or her birth name and/or biological sex. When President Biden recently appointed a transgender “woman” – i.e. a biological man who claims to be a woman – as the Assistant Secretary for Health, a conservative publication was suspended from Twitter for correctly noting that, biologically, he is a man. In other words, Twitter has formally banned stating a scientific truth as hateful and intolerant.
Recently, Amazon also stepped into the ring. Without notifying anyone, Amazon quietly pulled Ryan T. Anderson’s best-selling book When Harry Became Sally from their online store. Given that Amazon accounts for an overwhelming majority of online book sales, the disappearance of the book essentially makes it invisible to most online consumers. That, of course, is the whole point.
In the book Anderson has carefully scrutinized, and criticized, gender theory. It is worth noting that Anderson is no polemicist. He is a highly competent and highly respected conservative academic. In the book he presents his findings backed up by the best scientific data and takes enormous care to make his case in a way that is respectful towards individuals with gender dysphoria. And yet, none of that is enough for the progressive overlords at Amazon. As many commentators have rightly pointed out, you can buy Hitler’s Mein Kampf on Amazon, but you cannot find what is arguably the best book addressing one of the most hotly debated contemporary social issues.
Amazon eventually issued a terse statement saying that the book violated their “content policy.” That content policy states that Amazon reserves the right not to sell content “we deem inappropriate or offensive” – language that is so broad and subjective that it could be applied to just about anything. As Anderson noted in an article in First Things in response to Amazon’s move, “It’s not about how you say it, or how rigorously you argue it, or how charitably you present it. It’s about whether you affirm or dissent from the new orthodoxy of gender ideology.”
The Equality Act
Given the march towards censorship, it’s hardly surprising that a movement is afoot to take the next logical step – that is, to move beyond shaming and censorship, and to enforce this new ideology using the full apparatus of the State.
Enter the so-called Equality Act.
It is typical of the progressive left that they should disguise something so pernicious in language that sounds so harmless, indeed quite positive and uplifting. Who, after all, could possibly be against “equality”?
The Equality Act, which was passed just a few days ago in the U.S. House of Representatives, would ostensibly ban “discrimination” based upon “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” In other words, it introduces the ill-defined, scientifically unsupported, and revolutionary notion of “gender identity” all throughout federal law.
The effect of the law would be widespread. Conservative commentators, including the U.S. Catholic bishops, have warned that the law would be used as a bludgeon against conscience rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
In a list of the effects of the Equality Act, the U.S. bishops note that it would require “women to compete against men and boys in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower facilities with men and boys.” The bill, they said, also “forces faith-based charities…to violate their religious beliefs,” “forces religiously operated spaces and establishments…to either host functions that violate their beliefs or close their doors to their communities,” and “jeopardizes existing prohibitions on the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortion.”
In a recent letter to Congress, the five committee chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned: “The [Equality Act] represents the imposition by Congress of novel and divisive viewpoints regarding ‘gender’ on individuals and organizations. This includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct.”
They continued, “It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.”
On the question of gender theory, there is no doubt about Pope Francis’ position. He has been vociferous, repeatedly and often condemning gender theory as a diabolical innovation.
During a speech in Poland in 2017, he warned, “[T]oday children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this?” On one occasion, he even compared the imposition of gender theory to the propaganda of the Hitler youth.
More recently in a book prepared by Father Luigi Maria Epicoco commemorating the 100th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s birth, Pope Francis, who offered commentary, was asked where he sees evil most at work today. “One place is ‘gender theory,’” said the pope. The Holy Father continued to say that gender theory is “dangerous” because it aims to erase “all distinctions between men and women, male and female.” It seeks to “destroy at its roots” the creative project that God wanted for each of us: “diversity, distinction. It would make everything homogenous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, on the creativity of God and on men and women.”
Indeed, I fear that we have barely begun to grapple with the impact that the ubiquity of gender propaganda in our schools and universities is having upon the younger generations, and what it portends for the future of our nation.
One shocking recent poll found that record numbers of youth are self-identifying as LGBT. Whereas in 2017, only 4.5% of the population identified as LGBT, that has since risen to 5.6%. A huge proportion of the increase can be traced to so-called Generation Z – that is, people born between 1997 and 2002. Nearly one in six members of Generation Z self-identify as LGBT, compared to 9.1% of millennials, and 3.8% of Generation X.
Pro-LGBT activists are interpreting this data as proof that more LGBT people feel comfortable “coming out,” due to more tolerant attitudes towards diverse sexualities. While it is possible that this is one contributing factor, I think it is naïve in the extreme to discount the ways that constant bombardment with pro-LGBT messages is recruiting more and more young people into experimenting with sexual identities and practices that would never have occurred to them otherwise.
Indeed, there are a growing number of stories of schools and communities where transgender identification has rapidly spread through the ranks of young teens. In many cases, these young people are immediately being shuffled towards “treatments” that are either completely irreversible, or have significant long-term impacts.
Courageous thinkers like Ryan Anderson are precisely what we need, to stand in the gap and question the dominant narrative using the best evidence available. Unfortunately, many people are being cowed into silence by the ideologues, afraid for their livelihoods and their reputations. The problem, however, is that every person who chooses silence and safety over truth is one more person who gives the revolutionaries the space they need to steamroll others, and more of our culture, into acquiescence.
As always, hope in the face of lies and evil is found in adherence to truth and the willingness to fight to uphold it.
It is time for all Christians and people of good-will to rise up. One thing that every American can do today is to contact their senator, urging them to vote “no” to the deceptively-titled “Equality Act.” Do it today. The future of our country, and our youth, depends on it.