What if it were NASA that said the Earth is flat?

My pastor drew my attention to this BBC article last week. I’m not entirely sure how much this is new news, and how much old news repackaged, in that I have been aware that “gender identity disorder” has been rebranded in various national indices of medical disorders as a “gender dysphoria.” The “news” seems to be the ratification of this by the “World Health Assembly” last week, so it will appear in ICD-11, the international gold standard of diagnostic categores, as “gender incongruence, a marked and persistent incongruence between a person’s experienced gender and assigned sex.” The article quotes a WHO “expert” (who? Expert in what, exactly?) to say the WHO now understands transgender is “not actually a mental health condition.” If it is not a disorder, the theoretical assumption, clear from the deficition, is that, following the teachings of John Money of John Hopkins Medical School that I learned in social psychology, the gender assigned at birth is merely a social construct.

Any dysphoria resulting from incongruence between that and what someone comes to think they are must be, in the end, the fault of the parents and society, much as if you became justifiably distressed because your parents brought you up as a poached egg. The index case for gender being assigned, Bruce -> Brenda -> David Reimer, who was still a child of six when I studied the issue, is actually strong evidence against the assigned gender theory, as his tragic story shows. A solid scientific basis for it seems lacking, so maybe the WHO believes in a gendered human soul, and a God who gets it wrong sometimes. If not, what do they believe that separates personhood from biology?

Now, it is true that those suffering from “gender dysphoria” show absolutely no physical evidence of being other than what their midwives and parents discovered at birth. There are no unusual chromosomal or genetic traits, there is no evidence of hormonal differences now or during development, and both physical and brain function are entirely consistent with chromosomal sex. In fact, the only evidence of “the wrong gender” is the testimony of the patient about their feelings.

One must indeed, then, either conclude that it is a purely psychological disorder, or no disorder at all, and the WHO has clearly opted for the latter. They have abandoned the psychiatric dictum that “feelings are not facts,” and it is not clear why.

The “patient,” then, in this view is “actually,” (whatever that may mean) a normal woman in a man’s body, or vice versa. But this is not normality as it’s been known throughout history and, indeed, ever since organisms decided that two sexes (rather 3 or 50 genders) were better than one several hundred million years ago.

This, in contrast, is the kind of normal sexual health that requires irreversible major surgery, including bilateral mastectomy and the construction of a pseudo-penis from grafted arm skin, in the case of female to male transexuals, and castration and construction of a pseudo-vagina in male to female. Both require lifelong hormone therapy, with its long-term side-effects, are sterile, and are also likely to have physiotherapy to teach them to act like the opposite sex, and speech therapy to get them to talk appropriately. Additionally, this kind of normality is associated with a whole raft of psychiatric disorders, including a suicide rate some twenty times normal both before and, in the only large-scale long-term follow-up study, after gender reassignment. I’ve mentioned before that even the patterns of self harm match the biological, rather than the transitioned, sex.

Some of the societal complications of this new kind of normal state have come to the fore recently, in the business of having to redesign the world’s public toilets, and in complete confusion over making a level playing field in women’s sport. This normality even re-writes the past as, in this country at least, official records of birth are altered in retrospect to match the new gender (perhaps now a gender that didn’t even exist at the time of birth).

Less well-known in the news are the large numbers of sufferers seeking (impossibly) reversal of their reassignment, of whom I knew two even in my limited experience of “gender dysphoria” as a GP before the current explosion of the issue. We hear little about these awful dilemmas because, although sufferers are genuinely vulnerable, their activists are quite capable of shutting down university research funding, and demonizing those mentioning it in a public forum as “transphobic.”

But this is the stuff of George Orwell’s 1984, actually, where truth is whatever authority tells you, even if all the evidence of experience, science and logic screams out against it. In one scene in that dystopian novel, an official addressing the crowds on the sixth day of Hate Week against the enemy Eurasia is handed a piece of paper, and in mid-sentence substitutes “Eurasia” with “Eastasia” as the sworn enemy. Not only was Oceania now at war with Eastasia – Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. All that remained was for people like Winston Smith, the protagonist of the novel, to correct the “errors” in every single documentary source suggesting the opposite. Thus expunged, the contradictory past ceased to exist.

In 1984, Smith’s perception of truth is finally “corrected” by months of torture, starvation and psychological manipulation, so that when his oppressor holds up four fingers and says there are five, Smith can actually see five. Perhaps. The novel ends with Smith as a mere shell of a man, playing out his days drinking raw gin and playing chess in a party-members’ café, and finally truly loving Big Brother. At last he is normal and happy – but this, too, is a very strange kind of normality.

I haven’t, yet, been conditioned and brainwashed to the point where I see fingers that are not there, and I can see from 67 years experience of life, medical practice and science that all this is not only false, but that it is nonsense on stilts. But here’s the chilling part – the stilt-walker is now the body entrusted with oversight of the health provision of the whole world.

The WHO carries authority to casual lay readers of the BBC news, and indeed for the non-medical journalists round the world who are our only source of knowledge on such matters. But it is also an organ associated with the United Nations, which in turn will make authoritative recommendations to the world’s political bodies such as the EU or Canada, which in turn have powers over individual countries like Britain or individual states like Alberta. Legislation and human rights based on the madness trickle down to all of us in this way, dictating that we agree or else leave public office, that our children must be indoctrinated in it at primary school, and that developing countries must comply or not receive aid and trade deals.

Furthermore, the WHO sits at the top of the pyramid of academic medicine. ICD-11 forms the basis for national diagnostic standards by governing bodies like the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK; the colleges of other specialities have no choice but to endorse the conclusions of the specialists; and your local consultant or GP will be subject to censure, and quite possibly being struck-off, if their understanding of the science, or their concern for truth, forbids them from joining the madness, which (the evidence suggests) does little for the mental health of sufferers from a complex condition, and diverts scarce medical resources away from treating those whose health isn’t “normal.”

If you’re in some other scientific discipline, professional etiquette demands that you defer to the expertise of other specialities. It is extremely unlikely that the NAS will contradict the American Psychiatric Association, isn’t it?

I can’t be struck off as a doctor, because I left the medical register voluntarily when I retired, thus saving a cnsiderable amount of money. But what is a physician of conscience to do when he not only disagrees with some of his colleagues on how to manage a situation, but realises that the lunatics are now running the entire, global, asylum?

I need to add one other kind of organization that, quite reasonably on the basis of normal human experience of the past, assumes that a body like the WHO represents the pinnacle of scientific and medical expertise, rather than defying the most fundamental biology and normalizing a tragic condition (at the very same time as treating it more aggressively than they do cancer). And that’s the churches, which at the denominational level as well as individually have, quite rightly, usually deferred to the expertise of those with specialist knowledge. But they now find that authority requires them to abandon doctrines that not only come from the word of God, but (in fact) concur with the most rigorous science. It is a sad day when Christ’s healing power is not brought to bear on the sick at heart because the WHO denies the sickness, but it’s hard for church leaders, or anyone else, to believe that our world is governed by idiots.

It is, as Winston Smith found, a deeply disturbing, and precarious thing, to realize that one is the only soldier marching in step – when it appears that one’s platoon is the whole world. Fortunately, we’re not yet in the peaceful world of Oceania, and there are many, particularly amongst the less educated, who know better. It was George Orwell, indeed, who said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” So maybe it’s harder for us educated folks to swim against the stream. But it helps to remember that, like all the major evils of the world, the Spirit of Christ gave us warning about this one in Scripture.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thess. 9-12.)

Are you going to believe the WHO – or your own lying eyes and Scripture?

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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4 Responses to What if it were NASA that said the Earth is flat?

  1. Nick Townsend says:

    Hello Jon et al

    I have recently come across this site and like and admire it.

    Yet, while I agree in a fundamental way with the position Jon Garvey takes here, this post isn’t good enough – it’s not careful, rigorous or compassionate enough. Here are a few points:

    1. At least from the links Jon supplies, neither the BBC report nor the WHO announcement appears to use the term “gender dysphoria” but only “gender incongruence”. Hence that news does not seem to be, as Jon claims, the ratification of a shift in terms from “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria”.

    2. Jon objects to both “gender dysphoria” and “gender incongruence”, but it is not quite clear why he objects to the former as well as the latter. “Gender dysphoria” is widely recognized as an appropriate label for the condition in question (and doesn’t itself imply it is not a medical condition, does it?), including by (probably) the best (evangelical) Christian contributor to discussion in this area – see Mark A. Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015).

    3. Logically it does not follow that, if the condition not a disorder, the gender assigned at birth is merely a social construct. Rather, those who have the condition could be a ‘third sex’, and indeed as such part of the good creation – not a position I am convinced by, but it’s logically possibly (and is argued for by Gerard Loughlin at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0953946818793074).

    4. Jon says, “Less well-known in the news are the large numbers of sufferers seeking (impossibly) reversal of their reassignment, of whom I knew two even in my limited experience of ‘gender dysphoria’ as a GP before the current explosion of the issue.” Appealing to (a) a general claim (“large numbers”) and (b) anecdotal evidence, even from experience within medicine, isn’t good enough. I am no expert in this area but have learned the following from a Christian contributor who is becoming one, David Albert Jones at St Mary’s University Twickenham: “It should also be noted that the overwhelming majority of those who take the step of transition as adults, whether socially, medically or legally, do not detransition (for example only 2.2% of all cases in Sweden over a fifty-year period; see C. Dhejne, K. Öberg et al., ‘An analysis of all applications for sex reassignment surgery in Sweden, 1960–2010: Prevalence, incidence, and regrets’, Archives of Sexual Behavior 4.8 (2014), pp. 1535–45). While they often find that transitioning has not solved all their problems, they rarely regret their decision (thus a follow-up study of 201 cases in the Netherlands found 6% with minor regrets or dissatisfaction but none regretted transitioning; see T. van de Grift, E. Elaut et al., ‘Surgical satisfaction, quality of life, and their association after gender-affirming surgery: A follow-up study’, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 44.2 (2018), pp. 138–48).” (I’m quoting a forthcoming book review in Studies in Christian Ethics).

    5. Gender dysphoria is a terrible condition to experience, no doubt (depending in multiple ways on the contexts in which one does). Even though Jon says that “sufferers are genuinely vulnerable” and refers to the awfully high incidence of suicide (including I believe among those with gender dysphoria who, for whatever reason, cannot transition), his article, with its polemical tone, manifests at best limited compassionate concern for those who suffer it.

    I said at the start that fundamentally I agree with the position for which Jon argues. I suggest that any Christian contribution in this tortured area needs to be much more careful than this post.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    Nick Townsend

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