Critique of Christian resources responding to transgender issues
A few days ago, a friend forwarded to me a link to Pints With Aquinas’ Responding to Transgenderism With Truth and Mercy w/ Jason Evert YouTube video almost a fortnight ago. The video goes for just over 2.5 hours, and at times it was painful to listen to.
It wasn’t necessarily painful to listen to Jason’s insights. I’ve read some of Jason’s works before, including that of his wife Crystalina. I’ve enjoyed reading them — I would call Jason a lay version of Pope St John Paul II, and more bearable than Christopher West.
In any case, Jason was on Matt Fradd’s YouTube channel to promote his newly published book called Male, Female, Other? The blurb on his website reads:
What is gender? Few words today generate as much controversy as “gender.” Students, parents, and educators are asking:
How many genders are there?
What if my daughter says she’s trans?
Do some people have an intersex brain?
Should I use their preferred pronouns?
Is gender a social construct?
Does surgery prevent suicide?
Are puberty blockers safe?
What if I experience gender dysphoria?
In Male, Female, Other? Jason Evert addresses the most common claims of gender theory and shows how to respond with charity and clarity. If you care about someone who identifies as trans and don’t know how to respond, or you experience gender dysphoria and wonder what God’s plan is for you, you’ll find the answers inside.
Based on the 2.5 hour interview, it sounds like Jason had thoroughly researched the topic, including having run the book draft by two trans people before publication. It kinda reminded me of Transgender Ideology & Gender Dysphoria: A Catholic Response by Dr Jake Thibault. According to a catholicreads.com review of Dr Thibault’s book:
Thibault concludes with a discussion of virtue as a practical guideline for living out God’s plan for those who experience gender dysphoria. I found this section particularly rewarding because the lessons apply to everyone, no matter what crosses they bear….
And as Thibault doesn’t rely on fiery rhetoric himself, people who want to discuss will find much to engage with. There will likely be people who dismiss this work out of hand, but only those prejudiced to an extreme view. I suspect the reason Thibault included so much content is for the extreme activists so that he couldn’t be accused of omission.
Having listened to the audiobook version of his book, I concur with the book review. Whilst I appreciated that Dr Thibault isn’t a Matt Walsh, I didn’t find his virtues discussion to be particularly helpful. I’ve always thought of myself as female — whenever I’ve tried to not think like that, it never worked, so why would this change now? Easy for others who don’t experience gender dysphoria to tell me how to bear my crosses.
I’m not a gender theorist, I’m just someone who’s dealt with gender dysphoria the best way she can, because what would any of these guys know? I can appreciate the theology of the body without shoving it down my throat. Jason’s a nice caring guy it seems, but Jason does not experience gender dysphoria, and most certainly not my dysphoria. He may think he knows what my dysphoria is, but it doesn’t.
The worst part about the interview was Matt Fradd’s childish carrying-ons, it was anything but a pastoral approach. He could learn from my experience at the 2023 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. But then again, the love of Jesus at Vine Church Surry Hills during Mardi Gras isn’t Matt Walsh clickbait-worthy.
I hate to say it, but these Catholic resources have been a disappointment. Add to that Dr Ryan T Anderson’s atrociously titled When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment — perhaps Fr James Martin SJ does have a point after all. You could say that I have an Anglican / Anglo-catholic bias (Vine Church is Anglican, for example). So be it, especially given that I honestly could only recommend one (evangelical) Christian resource for responding to trans issues: Mark Yarhouse, PsyD.
In spite of probable theological differences, I highly recommend his fairly recent book Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth. Here, Mark builds on his three models for responding. Model 1 is the Integrity model, and an example evangelical resource of this that I would not recommend is Andrew T Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible actually say about gender identity?
Model 3 is the Diversity model, and an example evangelical resource of this that I would not recommend is Austen Hartke’s Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. Model 2 is the Disability model, which appears to be the model Mark leans towards, and so do I. This model acknowledges that God’s plan is good, but never straightforward in this fallen world of ours.
The Disability model seems to align with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Position Statement 103, a reasonable statement I might add. Through the Disability lens, the true, good and beautiful is messy. Mysteries are not meant to be solved, they’re meant to remain as mysteries. Why is it, for example, that I do not regret my gender transition? It’s an interesting mystery, but not one worth fixating over.
Other than some sound pastoral approaches not too dissimilar to Vine Church’s, Mark does not pretend to know the answers, despite being a clinical psychologist. His humility in this regard, without compromising on principles, is very much appreciated, and it was a pleasure to be on the same Undeceptions podcast episode with him: https://undeceptions.com/podcast/trans-gender/.