Sunday, February 14, 2021

Transgender Mania and Woke Religion

Today’s Biblical text comes to us from the book of Ecclesiastes:

... the thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

It feels like an apt introduction to Jane Menton’s comprehensive analysis of our current mania about transgenderism in his Manhattan Contrarian blog. (via Maggie’s Farm)

If we begin, she says, by understanding that Wokeism is a religion, is structured like a religious cult, we are led to see that ascetic denial of the body and self-mutilation are common to several forms of religious practice. How better to get in touch with the divine than to deny or even to punish the corporeal? These practices, Menton continues, are forms of self-punishment. In a time when we are exhorted to feel guilty for being American, it should not surprise us that some people, even children, choose to have their bodies mutilated.

Menton writes:

If we recognize Wokeism as a religion, the fact that it has attracted fanatical adherents who engage in self-mutilation and self-punishment is not really surprising. Many religions have historically brought forth, in some of their believers, elements of asceticism, self-denial, self-harm, and renouncement of the human body. Within religions across the east and west, from Christianity to Buddhism, there have emerged those advocating that denial of the body and of that which is “of the world” can lead to a deeper understanding of the spiritual and the heavenly. Simple fasting is one example of a universal religious practice, typically done in moderation, and occasionally taken to an unhealthy extreme.

Among the phenomena associated with such practices is what Rudolph Bell dubbed, Holy Anorexia, in his book of that title. But that was not all. During the plague years, penitents engaged in public self-flagellation, an effort to do sufficient penance to pay off the sins that were being punished by the plague:

Looking back through history, it is easy for a modern person to recognize the extremes as disorders. When “fasting” becomes “starving,” we call it “holy anorexia.” Many” Many self-harm practices that became common among the general population during the medieval period would horrify us today. Some of those included beating oneself with chains; wearing hairshirts; wearing metal weights; wearing a crown of thorns or sleeping on a bed of thorns.

Those who indulge such practices are showing their commitment to their religion. They are exalted as being especially pious. Among them the fourteenth century nun named St. Catherine of Siena. Among her many distinctions, when she married Jesus she believed that she was wearing his foreskin as her wedding ring.

Menton continues:

there is a willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to punish the self because that is celebrated as a sign of holiness and commitment to religion.

St. Catherine of Siena is the most famous medieval example. Today we would say she clearly had an eating disorder that required medical intervention. She literally died from self-imposed starvation and dehydration. Yet her extreme asceticism and self-harm practices brought her renown far beyond her hometown. She consulted with the Pope and other religious leaders. She is one of only four women to become a Doctor of the Church. She was given a platform and a voice in a time when most women had neither. Her asceticism gave her a purpose, a destiny, and connection to a religious zeal.

Of course, anorexia is an attempt to overcome appetitive desire. One understands that it is another variant on sexual desire, also commonly called an appetite. One remarks in passing that today’s psychiatry has described the absence of desire, either sexual or appetitive, as symptoms of depression. 

But the asceticism wasn’t limited to food; many also had a profound hatred for their sex organs and practiced varying degrees of self-punsihment and self-harm. There are several records of sainted women driving nails into their chests or burning their genitals with pork fat. If you’re interested, more details can be found here.

So, transgenderism is a practice of self-mutilation. One might imagine that our science-based culture would have overcome such superstitions, but such is not the case.

Given our modern aversion when we review these historical examples, you would think we would never let physical mutilation occur in our own time. 

Now, we are trying to legislate transgenderism, to make it a perfectly normal lifestyle choice. Didn’t President Biden declare it to be such-- even in children.

And yet, as soon as the word “transgenderism” is associated with physical mutilations, we make exceptions. Actions taken to change one’s sex — e.g. to halt puberty, bind breasts, physically alter genetalia — cannot be questioned as deriving from a place of self-disgust or body image issues. There is actually a bill pending in Congress, called the “Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act,” that would ban “conversion therapy” for sexual or gender orientation. The first line of section 2 reads: “Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender nonconforming is not a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.” The act would apply to all LGBTQ+ individuals, but in effect, it makes it impossible for therapists to question the roots of a transgender person’s stated desire for disfigurement.

Thus, being transgender becomes a step on the road to sainthood, something to advertise:

Announcing that one is transgender has become a way to receive attention, recognition, and affirmation in Woke culture. It’s a way to denote oneself as part of a special minority. Transgender individuals are held up as examples within their schools and communities. Their social media accounts amass huge followings. They often get media interviews where they can share their stories. In the religion of “Wokeism,” transgender individuals have a special, irreproachable rank.

And, of course, as we have often noted, transgenderism has become a social contagion. It is catching:

And with the attention comes the hysteria. Transgenderism has become such a phenomenon that, as Abigail Shrier reported, “Between 2016 and 2017, the number of females seeking gender surgery quadrupled in the United States.” In Sweden, journalists reported a 1500% rise in the number of 13-17 year old girls claiming to be transgender. It’s a rise so dramatic, that you would think people might start to suspect there’s something going on. But so far, adherents to the religion of Wokeism continue to encourage and affirm gender dysphoria, and to condemn those, like Abigail Shrier, who speak out against it.

With the breakdown of Western monotheism, our culture has come to embrace various forms of pagan idolatry. It has suffered such moments in the past. We shall see how long it takes to come to its senses over this.

For further reading, see Tara Isabella Burton’s Strange Rites. And also, James Lindsay’s A First Amendment Case for Freedom from the Woke Religion.


whitney said...

Catherine with a widely recognized saint in her time and is responsible for the papacy moving from Avignon back to Rome. Christ was clearly working through her and still does through those of us that remember her as a saint

urbane legend said...

Quite a few Old Testament verses make it plain that Israel was not to follow the practices of those around them in mutilating or tatooing themselves Jesus never told His disciples nor anyone else that His coming meant those laws had been revoked. The glorification of any form of those practices, including starvation, whatever the approval from any source, is at best misguided and at worst insane.