Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
The first thing you learn about Andrea Long Chu, a self-identified “transgendered woman” and the author of a very strange opinion column in the New York Times, “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy,” is that he does not expect to feel any better after undergoing lengthy and painful sex reassignment surgery today.
The estrogen he takes has already begun to stir up suicidal thoughts, and “more or less guarantees a good weep within six to eight hours.”
When the surgery is completed, Chu, a doctoral student at New York University, expects to feel even worse.
“Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain.”
After taking in Chu’s deeply pessimistic view of his forthcoming surgery, the average reader would likely assume that he is about to argue against aggressive medical intervention for people who believe they are trapped in the wrong body.
But Chu plans to go through with the surgery.
“This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to.”
The second thing you learn is that Chu maintains an enemies list that is a mile long.
He is infuriated by conservatives, who view his struggle as a “clinical delusion; hence, feeding that delusion with hormones and surgeries constitutes a violation of medical ethics.”
Chu’s pediatrician father is no better. He “once remarked to me that he would no sooner prescribe puberty blockers to a gender dysphoric child than he would give a distemper shot to someone who believed she was a dog.”
These swipes are predictable. But the typical Times reader will be brought up short when Chu goes after liberals who justify aggressive medical intervention to help people like him.
Chu describes the liberal position in this way: “Transgender people are not deluded ... but they are suffering; therefore, medical professionals have a duty to ease that suffering.”
Chu doesn’t buy this argument because it gives doctors an out — they can withhold surgery if they don’t think a patient will actually feel better after surgery.
So even though his suicidal thoughts will likely grow worse after surgery, Chu insists that his physicians must ignore their own professional judgment and facilitate his desire.
The only “prerequisite” for surgery “should be a simple demonstration of want. Beyond this, no amount of pain, anticipated or continuing, justifies its withholding.”
Where did this angry irrational diatribe come from?
On the one hand, it feels like a child’s tantrum. And the reference to his pediatrician father’s blunt professional opinion suggests a painful familial dynamic.
Consider, too, the paper Chu presented at an academic conference, “Did Sissy Porn Make Me Trans?” posted on his website.
The paper looks at disturbing online porn sites that may lead viewers to become obsessed with self-destructive behavior. Could this have something to do with his present state of mind?
But, then, step back, and ponder the fact that the New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, provided a forum for Chu’s argument, and you see that he is also the product of our present cultural and political moment.
We have come a long way from the early days of the sexual revolution, when Americans were exhorted to engage in whatever behavior “feels good,” as long as “it doesn’t hurt anybody.” Today, the heirs of that revolution insist on both their right to engage in behavior that doesn’t feel good, and to demand that others facilitate it.
Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option, who blogs at The American Conservative, makes the following observation about transgender activists, like Chu: “Freeing the autonomous will from sex and gender norms is the summum bonum of contemporary American progressivism. The insatiably miserable Andrea Long Chu is its incarnation.”
The arguments employed transgender activists are rife with internal contradictions, writes Ryan Anderson, author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, but no one seems to notice.
They “promote a radical expressive individualism in which people are free to do whatever they want and define the truth however they wish, yet they try ruthlessly to enforce acceptance of transgender ideology.”
They claim that the real self is something other than the physical body ... yet at the same time they embrace a materialist philosophy in which only the material world exists.”
Meanwhile, Chu’s apparent disregard for the ethical reservations of physicians who work with transgender patients points to another ominous development. Old-style liberalism, and its respect for free speech and conscience rights, is out. A new intractable militancy is on the rise. The Times understands this, and now its readers must get with the program.
“Society is a clash of oppressed and oppressor groups.”
In this new order, virtue is not to be found in the practice of compassion or prudence, “but in the self-display of a certain indignant sensibility, and anybody who doesn’t display that sensibility is morally suspect,” Brooks observed.
And yet, political militancy doesn’t fully explain the story of Chu, a very modern dictator of relativism.
The spiritual vacuum at the heart of mainstream American culture has left the young, including Andrea Long Chu, ill-equipped to deal with the reality and the mystery of human suffering. Instead of bringing their pain to the cross, they want others to pay for the unhappiness and injustice they have experienced.
“Christ's mercy is not a grace that comes cheap, nor does it imply the trivialization of evil,” said Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, in his homily before the 2005 conclave where he was elected pope.
God “himself suffers for us, in the person of his Son. The more deeply stirred we are by the Lord's mercy, the greater the solidarity we feel with his suffering — and we become willing to complete in our own flesh ‘what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.’" (Colossians 1:24).
Many in our culture have come to see this astonishing truth as un unwelcome burden to the human spirit. And many are taught to defy the immutable biological reality of the human person, “male and female he created them.”
“We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires,” continued Cardinal Ratzinger.
The disciples of Christ, “however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism.” Our friendship with him safeguards our own humanity, and “gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.”