Benjamin Wiker is Professor of Political Science, Director of Human Life Studies, and Senior Fellow of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University. His newest book is In Defense of Nature: the Catholic Unity of Environmental, Economic, and Moral Ecology. His website is www.benjaminwiker.com.
By now you have heard of the infamous directive, the “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students,” issued jointly from Obama’s Department of Justice and Department of Education. The point of the pointed letter to public schools is to ensure that the Administration’s most radical wishes for acceptance of the LGBT agenda are understood to be commands.
Many have already commented on the unconstitutionality and immorality of the directive. As to the first, our government was originally designed with three branches—the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial—each with its own functions and limits. Congress makes the laws, the President’s Executive branch enforces them, and the Judicial branch sees that their implementation is done justly. Knowing that Congress would never be able to pass a law demanding that all public schools allow students to choose whatever bathroom or locker room happens to appeal to them that morning, Obama assumed the power to impose his radical sexual agenda through two non-elected Executive branch bureaucracies.
As to the second, immorality, it doesn’t matter whether the President or Congress decides that gender is infinitely malleable. The belief that changing one’s natural gender is as easy as changing one’s mind violates the natural law. We are male or female by nature, not personal or governmental fiat. As the Catholic Church holds, a law that violates the natural law is no law at all, but a kind of tyrannical and unnatural violence against human nature and the human good.
All true, but I would to go beyond the directive’s unconstitutionality and immorality, and comment a bit on its absurdity: that a person’s gender identity is defined by whatever that person happens to think it is, whenever that person happens to think it. In the Administration’s bureaucratese:
“Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth….Gender transition refers to the process in which transgender individuals begin asserting the sex that corresponds to their gender identity instead of the sex they were assigned at birth….The Departments interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity” [emphasis added for absurdity].
There you have it: “I think therefore I am…a woman.” At least for the time being, so I can shower in the women’s locker room this morning.
My spin on Descartes’s famous words is not offered for the sake of blog-chortle. Descartes actually is the ultimate root of a centuries-old philosophical, and then cultural, rebellion against reality that ends today with the seemingly absurd notion that, contra nature, my gender is whatever I happen to think it is at the moment.
Ideas have consequences, therefore bad ideas have bad consequences. Descartes’ are some of the worst. If we peel away all of his disingenuous professions of piety, we find that at bottom Descartes believed that the material world was intrinsically disordered, and that it was the human mind that imposed order upon what had no order of its own—including one’s own nature.
“I think therefore I am” means, on the deepest level, I create myself.
Sound like Descartes was painting himself as a new kind of god? He was. That’s the source of the blasphemous joke cleverly hidden in his famous expression, “I think therefore I am.” The “I” here is Descartes. “I am” is a translation of the Hebrew YHWH.
This new god was also a creator god. Descartes’s self-divinizing “I am” was not merely theoretical. That is, he did not just mean that we must impose intellectual order but also technological order, i.e., we must use human technological power to re-create nature the way that we want it to be.
To take it to our present situation, the notion that my gender is whatever I happen to think at the moment is ultimately part of the larger agenda of technological manipulation of gender that allows for surgical transgenderism.
Descartes considered himself to be the great architect of remaking the world according to human desires. So began the modern quest to remake nature into whatever human beings happen to desire—including remaking our gender. Genesis proclaims, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Our contemporary Cartesians reply, “I am whatever I think I am…until I change my mind again.”