To change or not to change. That is the question.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services departed from a long-standing policy when they agreed to use taxpayer dollars to pay for the sex change operation of a 74 year old Army Veteran who wants to be a woman.
While the decision does not create a right to have taxpayers fund sex-change operations, it opens the door for those who want to make the request and paves the way for the argument that sex changes are medically necessary and therefore must be funded.
Marissa Richman, the secretary of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, in response to the decision said that, “Everybody here is just really excited and elated that we are going to be able to help a lot of people who couldn’t get help and might have suffered depression or even tried to commit suicide because they didn’t have the resources to fulfill their dreams.”
The argument is that sex change operations reduce stress for those who want them by helping their body conform to their perception of themselves.
The facts don’t seem to support the premise though.
A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden followed 324 people who had sex change surgery and found that after 10 years, those who had sex change operations are twenty times more likely to commit suicide than the comparable non-transgender population.
Johns Hopkins Hospitals stopped doing sex change operations in the 1970’s because their studies found that psycho-social adjustments after surgery were no better than those who dealt with gender identity issues but didn’t have surgery.
In other words, it didn’t help people feel better.
Still, the fact that sex-change operations don’t actually help anyone isn’t the most concerning thing about this movement.
You may recall that earlier this year there was a significant effort in the Washington State legislature to outlaw therapy to help minors eliminate or reduce unwanted same-sex attraction. This bill, which passed the House of Representatives, would have outlawed this kind of counseling from a licensed therapist even if it was from a church employee or pastor, inside a church building, and done at the request of the client.
Both New Jersey and California have already banned the practice.
We have apparently reached the place where gender is fluid but our sexual impulses are unchangeable; we need not submit to our DNA but we must submit to our feelings.
We are told that it is wrong to prevent someone from changing their gender but it is equally wrong to help someone change their sexual desires.
These positions can only be reconciled if we believe that reality is defined by how we feel.
But is it?
One of the things that separates us from animals is the ability to have rational thoughts about what is good, true, and beautiful separate from what we feel. However, the entire effort to redefine marriage, family, gender, and parenthood is built on the premise that reality is defined by how you feel and how you feel cannot change.
That isn’t simply a disservice to people who struggle with their sexuality or gender, it’s a disservice to all of us because everyone struggles with impulses that, if acted upon, will ruin their lives and the lives of those around them.
Those who never learned to distinguish between how they feel and what they ought to do fill our prisons and asylums.
Those who did are honored in our monuments and museums.
We honor them because we acknowledge that the ability to distinguish between reality and how we feel is not only possible, but the only path to the kind of world we want to be part of.