Thursday, May 7, 2015

Face Off

Less than 3 months and already another blog post? What's the world coming to?! My stars and garters!

So let me preface these comments with a very prominent disclaimer: I'm not in these comments attacking or disputing the existence of God as you - if you - believe him to exist. Those who know me know I've grown up in mostly Southern Baptist Churches, and those who know me reasonably well are aware there's still a license to preach in a box 'round here somewhere with the name I no longer claim on it. I can't say that I am, any longer, a fan of man-made orthodoxy. While the Bible says that Scripture is not of any private interpretation, it also says that each person gives an account to their own master, not to other people.

I have spent some time sorting out whether the things I believe are supported more by Scripture or by religious tradition, and that alone can cut away a lot of weeds, but also, I've tried to re-examine some on-the-surface irrational things and reconcile them with a point of view that doesn't go so far as "made-up-by-sheepherders." To the traditionalist believer, it's "falling away" at best, to the skeptic it's rationalization. Be that as it may, I still believe there is a real deity behind the New Testament concept of God  (i.e. a God of grace, not a god of law). But for the purposes of the rhetorical conceit of this post, I'm laying that aside. In some points here I'm saying "you" or "they" when technically it would be correct to say "we" but I think that would get confusing.

Hat-tip, by the way, to Jillian Page for her post which inspired this one - hopefully I can elaborate on the thought, and not just re-word it.

One of the fundamental premises of Traditionalist (i.e. Fundamentalists, Evangelical, Orthodox Catholics, Mormons and most Charismatics - as distinct from all Christians) hold about trans people is that we suffer a "delusion." Basing their entire concept of sex/gender on genitalia (except when they style themselves clever and bring in DNA) they insist it is self evident that one who believes they are authentically the gender that doesn't align with their genital sex is delusional. But as Page points out, there's a big elephant in that room - they believe in something much less objectively proevable than I do.

Go back 30 years and it would have been hard to say that. Until recent innovations in medical technology, claiming that a transsexual was "born that way" was necessarily a highly subjective claim. Most of the available evidence to be analyzed relied on the patients (collective) account of their internal perception of self, and the manner in which they dealt with it - and that reaction too subjective in that it couldn't be divorced from environmental factors (for example, in 1980 it wasn't the same thing to come out in California - difficult - as it was to come out in Mississippi - virtually impossible). It's only in the last couple of decades that we begin to accumulate objective observable evidence that there is a biological basis for the condition.

But that evidence has now been observed and the database of such is constantly growing. It is not entirely conclusive how it happens yet, though there are some pretty good hypotheses, but few things in science are conclusive. So the claim of the trans person is no longer entirely based on subjective "feelings" and, moreover, as more and more trans kids come to light the more popular "alternate explanations" for transsexualism can be objectively demonstrated to not be credible. In short, my so-called "delusion" has scientific credibility that is objective and not dependent on my subjective opinion.

Now contrast this to any system of organized theistic religion you might wish to name. For example, the religion I was brought up in. That system of belief holds that the Earth and all creation are considerably younger than the scientific evidence would suggest (by many orders of magnitude), it holds that the origin and history of life (as we know it today)  was radically different than what the science seems to suggest, and from there it holds one long series of claims after another than to the rational mind seem insanely improbable (i.e. that it's possible to cover the entire surface of this planet with water for just one example) and along the way cite the infallibility of a book they then have to work very hard to explain on some points (the idea that the sun stood still in the sky, for example, or that God commanded a pack of bears to kill children for mocking the baldness of his prophet). Yes, it is possible to rationalize much if not all of that and not kill the whole point of reading the book at all, but what I mean is the things that are held without being explained away (for example, taking the Noah story at face value rather than as a fable with a moral lesson.

Beyond that, the whole Christian experience, in the best light, could - by the unbeliever - be called delusional. You'd believe, at a minimum, that there is a being whom no one has ever seen, and for whom all evidence is subjective; a being wo, among many other puzzling aspects, was able to both pray to himself and answer his own prayers, to sacrifice himself to himself and resurrect himself from death; to whom the prayers of the righteous are persuasive even when they pray for contradictory outcomes; one who is always to be praised if we survive the tornado but not to be faulted when our neighbor does not. Some of you believe that being placed under the water for a few seconds is the difference between eternal bliss or eternal pain to name one of a hundred variants of ritualistic behavior, none of which have any objective evidence for their claims. Heck, the very claim of eternal bliss/damnation has no objective evidence.

But it is nevertheless passionately believed. To many people, including many who once believed it, that's the ultimate in "delusional" and yet it is THOSE people who MOST passionately condemn what they see as "delusion" in the trans person.

Am I arguing that religious beliefs ARE delusional? No, I'm not. Rather, I'm arguing that if the Traditionalist critic of trrans people is evaluated according to the very calculus they wish to apply to trans people, they score FAR worse on the "potentially delusional" tally. I'm suggesting that given that their belief system, AND MINE, is based on a big steaming pile of subjective experiences and speculative conclusions, that any such person is poorly positioned to question the legitimacy of my gender identity claims. Put another way, if you want to believe that the Earth was created in a week six thousand years ago, and you want to believe that any day now the true church will be Ruptured out in advance of Seven Years of Tribulation and you want to believe that all of humanity save eight people were destroyed in a flood - GREAT! Knock yourself out. That belief alone does me nor anyone else any harm (there are religious beliefs that do others harm, but lets not get too far into the weeds with the comparison).  I'll not call you delusional or try to get in your way.


You are not then in a position to criticize people who have actual objective tangible scientific evidence
in their favor as being victims of delusion who must be saved from their own error. At least have a little bit of intellectual consistency and self awareness.