Thursday, 16 May 2019

Scary BC Supreme Court Decision on Gender Self-Identity and Pronoun Use

Here is an article about a recent BC Supreme Court decision to force parents to use their child's chosen gender pronoun in all (first and third person) communications or face arrest.  Read the article at First Things by Canadian Theologian Douglas Farrow here.

This is what what Jordan Peterson was fighting in Bill C-16's proposed inclusion of gender identity language a while ago.  Some said that this bill was not about criminalizing gender pronoun use, such as this article argues, and then goes on to conclude that Peterson was therefore wrong in his opposition.  But this court decision makes it clear that this is indeed the point on the radar of at least some courts who will interpret laws this way.  Peterson noted in his arguments that sexual orientation was already included in Human Rights Code and Criminal Code.  If so, why was gender pronoun use being included?  And, one might ask, why not other personally-chosen self identifying titles?  I know of a few people who act as though they would like the world to refer to them as 'your highness', or 'master', or simply as 'god'.  You see, this is not about discrimination against a class of people (remember sexual orientation/expression was already included), but about legislating language use.  Thus, it impacts a fundamental right of all free nations: free speech.  By logical conclusion then, it also impacts freedom of belief and freedom of religion.  This recent court decision certainly justifies Peterson's concerns.

As with so many wrong policy and legal changes, which so often mess with the natural created order of things (what C.S. Lewis referred to as the 'Tao' - see The Abolition of Man), what the legislative branch of government can't pass yet (because they are voted in), the judicial branch of government simply 'interprets', then pronounces and enforces, all with no legal recourse for the individual or the voting populace who may not have approved of such measures had it come to a vote.  Now this father finds himself crushed under the weight of the heavy handed court, assisted so often by the those in the media and academia who are 'religiously' committed to absolute human autonomy even in the teeth of the way things just are by nature. 

Beyond the immediate court decision, I hope that this judge will personally bear the cost of this girl's counseling and any remedial medical operations or reverse hormone treatments that may ensue in the coming years should she go ahead with full-on gender transitioning, something which is frequently recommended to youth in the same head-space as this poor girl.  It is beyond irresponsible for the courts or for SOGI evangelists to expect a 14 year-old, in the midst of all the mental, physical and emotional changes they are going through, and the conflicts that the transition from childhood to adulthood frequently brings in parent-child relationships, to know clearly who they are and what they want in an absolute sense such that they might choose to alter themselves potentially irreversibly and have to live that way for the rest of their lives.  This is likely what this father is afraid of.  The judge gets to be an immediate hero to the girl as well as a darling to the press and to many academics and social progressives.  The father, of course, will be this girl's father for the rest of his life and is no doubt thinking about what that will mean. 

Like Farrow, I have no doubt the relationship between this girl and her father is strained and unhealthy - they are in court against each other, after all - but the father obviously considers as legitimate the natural physical reality of gender and sexuality as humanity has received and accepted it for recorded history up until now and as most of humanity still does globally.  The judge has no such biases; the girl is free to flout such outmoded, millennia-old constructs as gender, sexuality, bodily organs, chemicals and hormones.  I don't know the particular relationship dynamics between this father and his daughter, but I do know that many times, when teens are not receiving the attention and acceptance that they crave and need from their own parents, they will seek out that attention and acceptance elsewhere.  Many times, this relational deficit can be falsely and temporarily compensated for through the attention and support garnered when a child announces their intention to change their gender or self-identify differently.  All manner of minor celebrity ensues, and many within the educational system, the media, social-media friends, and the broader culture will rally round.  This effect is similar to that of a teen indicating their intent to commit suicide, a choice which is often brought on by the same set of factors.  But it is not healthy either.  I can't help wonder if someday school counselors, radical progressives, and some academics will extend the already legal grounds for euthanasia for mental suffering to teens who are going through an emotionally and hormonally dark and dizzying time.  The basis would be the same: absolute personal autonomy.  I wonder if some day the courts will order a father to support rather than argue with a child who has announced their intention to kill themselves. 

The judge says that the father may continue to think what he wants to regarding the gender of his daughter.  He simply must not communicate those thoughts to his daughter or anyone else.  It is not too difficult to see this, in the not too distant future, being applied to medical professionals who refuse to conduct gender-transitioning operations and treatments: they may be personally against it, but they must conduct the operations/treatments anyways and keep their thoughts or doubts to themselves.  The absolutely personally autonomous individual customer is always right.  Except that there is good empirical evidence for why many doctors are hesitant to prescribe such 'treatments', the most basic being that no one knows what the long term effects are of fighting against the actual physiological sexual constitution of one's healthy body is.  It is not too difficult to see the courts also forcing such rules upon the rest of society in general, and religious groups as well: you may believe what you want about sexuality and gender but you may not communicate it.  Keep your private thoughts inside your head.  What you say out loud, no matter what your beliefs are, must be to celebrate the conclusions of a minuscule minority of people (whether considered historically or globally). 

As is so often the case, the clear reasoning and prophetic wisdom of C.S. Lewis sheds light on this:
     This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value.  It is the sole source of all value judgements.  If it is rejected, all value is rejected.  If any value is retained, it is retained.  The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory.  There never has been, and never will be, a radically new judgement system of value in the history of the world.  What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) 'ideologies', all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess.  If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity.  If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race.  If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity.  The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves.  The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value system then of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in....
     Outside the Tao there is no ground for criticizing either the Tao or anything else.
                                                      - The Abolition of Man, ch.2

Of course, Lewis is right to note above that what people claim to be new systems of morality are actually simply constructed by taking one aspect of the Tao (or we might say, revealed morality) and blowing it out of all proportion and forcing it to bear the entire weight of a society's life and moral order.  This is the case with those who preach absolute personal autonomy to the point of approving of and celebrating gender transitioning.  This is based on a good aspect of the Tao: that of personal freedom of choice.  Humans are free moral beings and as such, we must be free to make choices.  This is one of the aspects of humanity that gives the race its dignity.  But to foster such extreme individual personal autonomy as to declare physical reality and "the givenness of things" (Wendell Berry's term) as irrelevant compared to my preferences and present personal feelings is to take that one aspect of the Tao and to allow it to swell until it is warped beyond all recognition and displaces equally important aspects which must also be retained for actual reality, proper balance, proportionality, sanity, and true good to flourish.  Lewis again:
     Does a permanent moral standard preclude progress?  On the contrary, except on the supposition of a changeless standard, progress is impossible.  If good is a fixed point, it is at least possible that we should get nearer and nearer to it, but if the terminus is as mobile as the train, how can the train progress towards it?  Our ideas of the good may change, but they cannot change either for the better of the worse if there is no absolute and immutable good to which they can approximate or from which they can recede.  We can go on getting a sum more and more nearly right only if the one perfectly right answer is 'stagnant'....
     If 'good' means only the local ideology, how can those who invent the local ideology be guided by any idea of good themselves?  The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike....
     Unless we return to the crude and nurserey-like belief in objective values, we perish.
                                                      - 'The Poison of Subjectivism', Christian Reflections         

Happiness, the good, human flourishing, cannot truly be realized when we push in the opposite direction to created physical and moral reality but only when we go "with the grain of the universe" (to borrow a phrase from Stanley Hauerwas) as God has formed it.  God created human beings in his image, male and female.  Both sexes reveal and reflect something of the image of God.  Humans do have real free choice, but there are bounds.  I cannot self-identify as whatever I want and demand that the world make it so (a billionaire, perhaps, demanding free money I have not earned from those who have earned it, which would be a moral wrong; or a humming bird, and demand modern biology do everything in their power to transform me, which would be an ontological wrong).  I cannot self-identify as god and expect everyone else to ratify this identity and bow down to my whims.  But that is the extreme to which absolute personal autonomy will inevitably push.  In fact, that is the real seed of any personal freedom that strives not merely to alter or improve the changeable factors and temporal conditions in life, but metastasizes into absolute personal autonomy and demands a reweaving of the integral moral and physical fabric of created reality itself.  This is the impulse that first took shape in the words, "did God really say...?"