Relativizing Sexual Pronouns: A Passive form of Hatred
By Fr. Chris Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner
“The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” since believing we have “absolute power over our own bodies” might lead to the belief that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
– Pope Francis
As a child I always enjoyed playing RPG games. Role-playing-games offer us a world of our own making, and often an opportunity to “create a character” as we would prefer them to be. In the fantasy genre, you not only had the opportunity to pick your gender, but you could also choose a race, your hair-colour, your skills, your class, et cetera. This world of self-creation is of course attractive but it is also an illusion – a game, but not a reality. The issue of transenderism today is not totally unlike this, except that an RPG game can be turned off, but for those experiencing gender dysphoria, their affective preference remains, and can weigh heavily upon them. Their subjective experience is not trivial like a game, but such affective inclinations are also not grounded in an ontological reality, either. Today however, instead of helping others find self-acceptance in the context of reality, psychologists are entering into their patient’s own delusion or dysphoria, thereby doing harm.
It is my philosophical view that today the world has now erased that line between preference and reality – and no longer bothers to make such a distinction. Even within the scientific field where once transgenderism was considered gender-dysphoria, now it is merely a matter of catering to the person’s subjective/affective preferences and allowing them to dominate or violently impose themselves upon reality.
Bishop Robert Barron has discussed this as nothing more than a recapitulation of the early heresy of Gnosticism, which ascribes to the view that one has a type of “knowledge” that does not necessarily manifest within concrete reality. In other words, “mind over matter.” Instead of reality informing us on what the truth is, our mind dictates to the matter what the truth is – and as a result one can slice and dice at our own world in order to conform it to our own affective preferences.
Another term for all of this could be existentialism. Existentialism ascribes to the view that things of themselves do not have any intrinsic worth or even a definition or nature. Rather, man has the capacity to create for himself his own definition, simply by willing it. This type of philosophy is predominantly expressed by Mr. Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed that terms such as “good” and “evil” were merely social constructs, typically proclaimed to be “objective” by the powerful as a way of allowing the state or Church to impose its own “will” upon the people. However, this notion of “objectivity” was merely itself a social-construct, having absolutely no real value. For Nietzsche, in order to become enlightened man had to transcend the concepts of good and evil, and decide for himself right from wrong. The man who could accomplish this was termed the “Superman.”
Often what is true of the individual is true of the social momentum within a movement. When there is an objective reality to morality, there is a specific way to think and argue a point. However, when one proposes a view that is only elicited by personal preference or an affective inclination there is no real ground to develop an argument. Therefore those who seek to impose their own will, which is not grounded in logical discourse (that of itself appeals to the logos, or objective reality), only can do so with violence or logical fallacies (sophistry). What means, therefore, does such a group have to impose its own affective preference upon the society it belongs to? The answer is simply violence. It has been a long-time view of classical philosophers that those who begin to personally attack others or interpret arguments as personal attacks, they have already lost the argument.
Recently there has been an increase in not only seeking what are considered “rights,” but imposing this way of thinking upon others, without an argument. There is nothing objectively wrong with imposing upon a society laws which safe-guard the rights that belong to individuals, but those rights need to be grounded in something more than consensus and individual preference. Rather, the rights should be grounded upon rational discourse and logical assessment of what reality for itself says about what it means to be a human person.
What I would suggest however is that society’s approach to logic and preference is disingenuous. Rarely will you find a person who is willing to admit that they reject objectivity in every sense of its possible meaning. This conclusively means that the good instinct to cling to reason over gnostic preference still remains within man – except man offers himself an exception when his preference or inclination would have to be sacrificed to spirituality subsist within reality/reason. That is a common-plight – we all have moments where reality is challenging, and love demands of us to let go of our preferences and immediate desires for the good of another. A parent who hears a child crying is objectively in need of their parents, and despite the fact that the parent would rather rest, he or she gets up to care for that child. A good parent does not define the reality of their children’s need, subordinating to what is comfortable to them – they know that the needs of their child remains nonetheless the same, regardless of whether they return to sleep.
Rationalization, however is a common-tendency within the human person, when reality clashes against our preference for what is not real (an illusion). Rationalization often can be done by an individual, but when he clashes his views against a society, it can become more difficult to maintain the weak arguments that are constructed not from reason but from preference. As a result he can attempt to lie, deceive, and convince others of his views in order to gain their own consensus. Once he has their approval he reinforces the rationalization and subjectively begins to convince himself that what is an illusion is actually a reality, even though deep-down he knows otherwise.
When a Christian community continues to boast of what the truth is, what the objective criteria is, it naturally creates and fosters conflict. And this naturally wounds others for many reasons. One of the reasons could be a misapplication of the argument. For instance, often the narrative within the LGBT is that Christians view those who experience a same-sex attraction are automatically going to hell. Therefore, when Christians speak about the subject, the natural responses for such individuals to take offense, and therefore to not realistically entertain or even discern the logic in such arguments. There is a fear and dread at the prospect of being condemned so arbitrarily. However, with the exception of a few forms of Christianity, this simply is not a true narrative of Christianity. Catholicism for instance speaks about the acts of homosexuality as being gravely sinful, but does not suggest that if a person has a same-sex attraction they are “de-facto” condemned to hell. People are held accountable for choices, not for things that they did not choose, such as a sexual orientation.
These false-narratives often foster or compound a victim-culture. This does not diminish the fact that many are factually victims of discrimination, which the Church also condemns, and rightfully so. But in replacement of an argument, appealing to being a victim often is nothing more than a recapitulation of the logical fallacy of an “appeal to emotion” whereby an argument is shut down, not because it lacks merit, but because it doesn’t make another person feel good. I once encountered a religious leader who wanted to share wisdom from his diseased mother, wisdom she offered on her death bed. However, what his mother said was not wise, but to voice disagreement with her view would have seemed insensitive – and therefore he was able to facilitate within the venue he offered an argument that everyone was timid to disagree with publically.
Please do not misunderstand this point to imply that we should not be concerned with those who subjectively perceive themselves to be victims. If a person truly believes this, even if it is not grounded in an objective experience, they are nonetheless still wounded, and wounded as a result of the false-narrative.
Applying everything I have said before now I would like to apply to the whole question of pronouns being relativized to cater to the preferences or affective inclinations, specifically for those who decide for themselves what their pronoun ought to be. Specifically transgenderism. In this regard, an argument can be made that the Canadian government has passed a bill which will necessarily interpret those who do not cooperate with this relativistic philosophical system of pronoun-assignment as a form of hate. But I would argue to the contrary. While it may cause pain to a person to know that someone disagrees with them on a subject as sensitive as this, it does not denote hatred.
What we have, in an objective world that insists upon its own ordering subordinate to consensus and individual preference is a consensual hallucination. When a voice speaks to the contrary it comes at a great cost. When St. Thomas More did not compromise on his faith toward Henry VIII, he, as a friend to the King did not endorse the rationalized course of behaviour that he wanted to have validated. As a result he was imprisoned and eventually killed. In this regard, I would say that a healthy Christianity is not one that compromises with the government or the mob or the powerful, but rather the one that is willing to be imprisoned with Christ and St. Paul and all the saints before us. Selling out Christ for 30 pieces of silver is perhaps just another recapitulation of the dark-side of the gospel that continues to be re-echoed to this day and is found in God’s providence, but this doesn’t denote that we ought to find it favourable or even cooperate with it. As a Church we need to resist this way of living. Of course, one needn’t even appeal to matters of faith to understand why morally speaking one should not subordinate pronouns to cater to the preferences of others. While it might be considered in some cases to avoid offending someone, we must not see this as the supreme good of a healthy relationship. If reality is itself what is offensive, than it is truth that is unjustly offended by those who promote such an illusion.
Furthermore, for a person to passively reject their own ontological configuration as a man or woman is to passively hate themselves. The irony here, therefore is that hatred is actually being endorsed by the government, on behalf of those who would prefer they were a different sex than what they truly are. One, as a Christian or a man or woman of philosophical logic, cannot cooperate with such an illusion precisely for reasons of love. When one fosters the illusion that truth is always subordinated to our own personal preferences there is no limit to what this type of thinking can accomplish. At this point in time, man knows he does not existentially dictate to himself that his eyes are for the purpose of seeing, or that his ears are for the purpose of hearing. These are truths grounded in the very anatomy of the body. Yet, in our civilization, when it comes to matters of sexual organs these are relativized even though biologically we know better. This inconsistency must be attributed to the fact that remaining in the truth of this, with an affect that does not line-up with the nature of the body (for whatever reason) requires integrity to nonetheless subsist, spiritually, in truth. For such an individual, subsisting in this type of truth would likely require sacrifice, and that sacrifice is painful and uncomfortable. Nonetheless, to subsist in reality is what permits one to have any authentic (truthful) experience of joy and interior freedom. Man is not a beast. Beasts get “fixed” because they cannot control themselves, whereas mankind also gets “fixed” because he begins to resemble less of an intelligent being, and rather one controlled by impulses. Why else do we have people turning into a stampede, killing other humans in a shopping mall on Black-Friday?
St. Thomas Aquinas defines pride as a problem precisely because man clings to his own fallible judgment that is enslaved to his impulses and affective preferences rather than what is true. Pride is therefore an exaltation of our own will and intellect beyond what is actually reasonable: beyond what is good or evil. What Nietzsche espoused was nothing new, in fact, it was already written about in the book of Genesis when discussing man not having the prerogative to decide for themselves good from evil (eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). The humble disposition that requires self-mastery and interior strength is not to subordinate reason to our preferences, truth to our subjectivity, but rather to examine reality and allow ourselves to discover it, rather than invent an illusion and coerce others to follow it.
Therefore, I cannot cooperate with any notion of referring to a person to another gender than what they are objectively – precisely because who they are, as an ontological reality is worth loving, even if they cannot. This is the type of love that offends, and actually makes love seem like something that is desirable to crucify. Yet, it must be done anyways – because if no one loves such individuals, who will? The whole culture, collectively wants us to mutually hate each other, and label it as love. We consider legalizing prostitution as a liberation of women (and men), and yet all it is, is the commodification of one’s sexuality – reducing their dignity to something that can be sold. Our culture really has, in many ways turned away from love, while nonetheless nominally labeling hatred as love, and love as hatred. In a purely subjectivist society, this is possible – anything is possible, except truth. Truth is not something merely exterior to the individual, the individual themselves is a truth, is a reality. That reality is made up of matter and soul – and that individual must be loved as who they are – not in a gnostic way, but ontologically (who they objectively are).