Transgender at Georgetown

This piece takes a serious look at transgender life and approaches the topic in light of medical science and Catholic teaching.  It should be read in full with an open and questioning mind, one which grapples with the arguments contained within instead of simply dismissing them because you don't like the conclusion.

The appropriate way to respond is by marshaling opposing evidence and arranging it to provide a logical and coherent argument for why the post is incorrect.  Who knows, you might even persuade us.  We've been persuaded before.  

The wrong way to challenge it is to not challenge it.  By this we mean doing what every single person who has been commenting lately has been doing.  Instead of saying our ideas are invalid simply because we're anonymous, how about you actually state why they are invalid?  Continued threats about punishing us for doubleplusbadthink and more false accusations of racism, sexism, transphobia, etc., will still leave the question unanswered.

We invite everyone to contribute in the comments.    



When Lexi Dever's op-ed "The Georgetown That Saved Me" was published last week in The Hoya, we posted a photo and video of Dennis Anver, also known as "Stalking Cat," who, due to his obsession with becoming a female tiger, spent all his income on cosmetic surgery to the point where he was destitute and reliant on the charity of others in order to survive. Anver later died alone, found dead in his garage after committing suicide.

The video showcasing Anver is extremely important to watch.  Most people who see it probably find it funny. To us it is depressing as it shows a man who has lost touch with reality. Even more disheartening is how he is indulged and encouraged along in his delusions by those around him, including various medical professionals, who after he killed himself would be accused of malpractice.  

Recently, the story of a women in North Carolina claiming she persuaded a psychologist to drop drainer cleaner into her eyes went viral.  Why did she do it?  

Because she identifies as blind.

From the original news article (note the use of the word "rational") . . .

Jewel Shuping was born with perfectly healthy eyes, but she told Barcroft TV in a recent interview that growing up there was always something missing.
“By the time I was six I remember that thinking about being blind made me feel comfortable,” she said. She fantasized constantly about losing her vision, and spent hours staring directly at the sun after her mother warned her that it would damage her eyes.
At first, Shuping simply pretended to be blind, going about with sunglasses on, her eyes closed, and using a cane to navigate. She also became fluent in braille. But after a while, that just wasn’t enough. 
“By the time I was 21 it was a non-stop alarm that was going off,” she says in the video. So, she did the only rational thing: She got a sympathetic psychologist to pour drain cleaner in her eyes.
“I laid down on the sofa, and he sat next to me, dropped two drops into each eye,” she says matter-of-factly. “In the moment, all I could think of was ‘I’m going blind, it’s going to be okay.'”
“When I woke up the following day, I was joyful, until I turned on my back, opened my eyes, and could see the TV screen,” she says. Then, thankfully, over the next six months her eyes gradually failed due to the damage, and Shuping was finally blind like she’d always dreamed. She says she has no regrets.
“I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth,” she told Barcroft.

Any of this sound familiar?

At first we thought this was all a hoax, so we checked to see if there was any validity to the story.  Snopes doesn't debunk it and its reporting appears to confirm the basic facts.  

For those unaware, there is a medical condition known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), which causes able-bodied people to believe they are supposed to be disabled.  Here's a fascinating New York Times article about BIID, an interview in New York Magazine with an individual who is craving an amputation and an in-depth feature from Medium on people who suffer from the illness.

And who can forget Rachel Dolezal, a white women who in June became the subject of national derision because she identified herself as black?  

Ironically, not even the transgender community or their allies accepted her desire to live comfortably the way she identified.


We could go on presenting many more cases, including an exploration of the Otherkin community, whose members don't identify as human.  But we think you get the point.

At TGA we take mental health very seriously.  And because we do, we believe it is important to talk honestly about the subject.  That may mean emotionally-fragile and at-risk people who disagree with us will hear things they would rather not.  We want to stress that in expressing our views we do so not out of any desire to harm, but to help and contribute to the discussion. Oftentimes truth is the best medicine.  

As we noted Monday, we put forth our views recognizing we'll be subjected to attacks from those "tolerant" liberals and social justice warriors at Georgetown who wish to make unemployable and socially ostracize those who dare to disagree with them.  At the very least, we know we'll be called hatemongers and other negative words in an attempt to discredit us without having to engage with the quality of the arguments we make or the ideas we bring up.  We know this because it is already happening.  

When we wrote the original piece on LGBTQ History Month at Georgetown, we said this: 

At TGA, we believe in Georgetown providing a welcoming place for all students, regardless of background, and to be specific in this situation, regardless of their sexual orientation. We agree with Catholic Church teaching that those in the LGBTQ community should be treated with respect and justice.  We also believe that in a university environment, all manner of ideas, including those we oppose, deserve open and fair discussion.  

We ended the post by promoting the work of Camille Paglia and Eve Tushnet, two LGBTQ writers we're big fans of, and suggesting the LGBTQ Resource Center bring them to campus for an event.  We also added a link to Catholic teaching on the subject because one of the points we were making was that as a Catholic university Georgetown should at the very least present both sides of the issue.

Now we don't doubt Lexi has suffered more than her fair share of psychological turbulence or unwelcome conduct from others.  We think it's a shame whenever anyone gets picked on, bullied, discriminated against, or threatened, and believe appropriate steps should be taken to immediately end such behavior and ensure it doesn't happen again.

Nor do we doubt life hasn't been difficult for the Jewel Shupings, Rachel Dolezals, or Stalking Cats of the world.  Being severely uncomfortable with the body you're born with is a burden with which few have to deal.  Both compassion and counseling are what's needed for those presenting with gender or body dysphoria. 

Not discussed during LGBTQ History month were the views of Pope Francis on transsexualism or the medical professionals who conclude that sex changes are not clinically effective and that there likely are underlying psychological issues at play.  

As noted in The Guardian . . .  

There is no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals, with many people remaining severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation, according to a medical review conducted exclusively for Guardian Weekend tomorrow.
The review of more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals by the University of Birmingham's aggressive research intelligence facility (Arif) found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.
The Guardian asked Arif to conduct the review after speaking to several people who regret changing gender or believe that the medical care they received failed to prepare them for their new lives. They explain why they are unhappy with their sex change and how they cope with the consequences in the Weekend magazine tomorrow (July 31).
Chris Hyde, the director of Arif, said: "There is a huge uncertainty over whether changing someone's sex is a good or a bad thing. While no doubt great care is taken to ensure that appropriate patients undergo gender reassignment, there's still a large number of people who have the surgery but remain traumatized - often to the point of committing suicide."
Arif, which advises the NHS in the West Midlands about the evidence base of healthcare treatments, found that most of the medical research on gender reassignment was poorly designed, which skewed the results to suggest that sex change operations are beneficial.

The study is from 2004, but a great deal more research has been conducted since then, including a recent Swedish study which concluded that approximately 77-94% of boys and girls who present with gender dysphoria as youths will end up leaving it behind by the time they reach adulthood (which calls into question the appropriateness of puberty-delaying hormone therapies and the sexual reassignment of children and teenagers).  For a site with many links to a variety of more recent studies cataloged at the National Institutes of Health, and which cast a shadow on the effectiveness of sex reassignment, you can go here.  

Lexi is right about one thing: relatively speaking, there are not very many older transsexuals. They die at alarming numbers from drug abuse and suicide.  

This is a tragedy, because all lives matter.  

Now Lexi and others want you to think the suicide rate stems from transphobia, of a bigoted society not accepting transgender people.  However, according to research from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it's overwhelmingly due to underlying mental disorders, perhaps brought on by past abuse, environmental factors, or other causes which may lead to an inability to cope with the body in which they're born.

The question for all of us is how do we engage with individuals who deeply feel the body they're born with is the wrong one for them.  The answer remains what we said earlier: with respect, with justice, and with compassion, (in other words, follow Catholic teaching).  

But does that require we go along with them and use their new opposite sex names or the gender neutral pronouns (zi/zer/zem) they expect us to use?  Our view, at least in the case of the former, is why not?  It's a small thing, and if it makes them feel better, fine.  But that doesn't mean we must take it farther and further validate or encourage the lifestyle. And we still have a responsibility to recognize what's happening is not healthy, and such individuals are likely in need of professional psychological care.

All this begs another question: What do we do for those who think they are other types of beings, like wolves or gods or stalking cats, or who want to be made handicapped?  If we're to cut off penises and carve out vaginal canals, why not do the same for those who believe they are "transabled" (read the article) and wish to slice off their limbs because they strongly feel they should have been born without arms?  Seriously, read the article. 

What do we say to the Jewel Shupings of the world when they ask for drain cleaner to be poured into their eyes?  What do we tell Stalking Cat when he comes in for another unnecessary body modification surgery when he's already living on food stamps and the only reason he has a roof over his head is because of another person's charity?  How would you respond if this was happening to a member of your family?  Recognizing that people should be free to live the lives they choose to lead, is this something you would celebrate and encourage for your mother or father, brother or sister, or son or daughter?

Or would you suggest they see a psychologist?

We'll end here and just say we're pleased Lexi wrote the piece in The Hoya and admire the courage it took to do so.  Such discussion helps to humanize those in the transgender community who are often discriminated against and hidden from view, and in a university it is important for all manner of ideas to be freely aired and debated.  As we've said before on several occasions, addressing diverse and challenging ideas is one of the primary missions of The Georgetown Academy. 

Lexi, as we wrote to you on Friday, we're glad you're on the Hilltop and part of our Georgetown family.  And you're welcome to submit a counter response to this piece.  We'll publish it on our website and let it stand alone without additional comment.  

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