May 19th 2018

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COVER STORY The real cost of institutionalised child care

EDITORIAL AGL dismisses $250m bid for Liddell Power Station

GENDER POLITICS As Queensland transgenders birth certificates, 300 women quit UK Labour Party

CANBERRA OBSERVED No pressure on Malcolm to call election this year

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Can Greens regenerate, or are they mulch?

POLITICS Conservative shift in the Victorian Liberal Party

OPINION No fairytale ending from the Land of a Fair Go

LAW REFORM The Nordic Model: proven to curtail sex trafficking

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Committal hearing dismisses main serious charges against Cardinal Pell

GENDER AND ETHICS Transgenderism and the dissolution of identity

PHILOSOPHY The supercharged cheetah

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS One Belt, One Road: China's new empire


MUSIC Business as usual: The sweet tinkle of falling coins

CINEMA Avengers: Last Flag Flying and Infinity War

BOOK REVIEW A hungry beast that ate up 4 million lives

BOOK REVIEW Skewed analysis of republic in crisis



CANBERRA OBSERVED Bill Shorten's Budget-Reply speech: for what ails you

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement

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Transgenderism and the dissolution of identity

by Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen

News Weekly, May 19, 2018

“Sex” as a classificatory system for human beings (at least) as defined by the religious tradition from Sinai consists of male and female and a category traditionally known as the hermaphrodite and nowadays called “intersex”. What are ultimately determinative are the actual reproductive organs and genitalia. The “intersex” person is one with reproductive organs and genitalia of both sexes.



Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization, Inc. He is the author of several books, including The Theory and Practice of Universal Ethics: The Noahide Laws, and Homosexuality, Marriage and Society. Rabbi Cowen’s latest book is entitled Contemporary Politics and Social Policy in the Lens of Traditional Faith and Universal Ethics and will be reviewed in a future edition of News Weekly. Rabbi Cowen delivered the following talk to the 2018 National Conference of the NCC in February.

In the tradition from Sinai, the rare phenomenon of the intersex person does not constitute a “third sex” or the possibility of other kinds of “sexes”. Rather, it represents, according to various views, a compounded or doubtful status arising from the male and female features in that individual. Thus, the tradition looks at which male and/or female obligations and prohibitions bind an intersex person in view of the complex-compounded male-female elements in that person. One conclusion, for various reasons (which I will not go into here), is that, according to the tradition, an intersex person may marry a woman, but not a man.

In general, sexual identity – male or female – is significant because of the sometimes-differing moral obligations which these different roles confer in accordance with the laws given to us by our Creator. The most salient of these has to do with marriage and procreation.

For the purposes of procreation, a male is bound to join with a female, and a female with a male. Men are not permitted to marry men and women are not permitted to marry women and simply “outsource” the procreation. Marriage and procreation go together: only in this way is the identity of the generations protected and honoured – the parents know the child as the offspring of their union and the child knows itself as the child of its parents.

Accordingly, with regard to marriage, a physiological male cannot be anything other than a physiological male with all the attendant obligations upon him; and so too a physiological female; and a member of each of the opposite sexes is needed to come together for marriage. The fact that certain societies have enacted “homosexual marriage” does not change the law of our Creator; it transgresses it.

The ‘subjective’ definition of sexual identity

In recent times there has been an attempt to introduce into society a “subjective” concept of sexual identity, which has appropriated to itself the term “gender” and changed its meaning from physiological sexual identity to what it is that a person “feels” one is.

This is part of a broad ideology which states that what the person “wants”, the person may have, so long as it does not get in the way of another’s enjoyment. It is part of a materialistic and hedonistic worldview that has brought with it the substantial collapse of the family and a culture of youth violence and drugs, which also expresses a spiritual void and absence of meaning.

The religious tradition maintains that a human being should be guided not by impulse but by conscience; and that conscience makes reference to a Divine template of eternal values. It well understands the difficulty and suffering involved in the struggle between conscience or the soul and bodily passions, but it does not renounce that struggle.

Conscience – the internal sense and resonance of those universal and eternal values willed and expressed by the Creator – constitutes us in the Creator’s image. These play out in a society characterised by stability, cohesion and continuity. If one experiences an impulse of aggression or greed, one must contain and, hopefully, transform it. Similarly if one experiences a sexual urge for a relationship that is prohibited by our Creator, one must work to contain and, hopefully, to transform it.

The desire for something contrary to the mandate of conscience with its Divine template is therefore either immoral, or, if it deeply and seemingly involuntarily takes hold of the person, it may also be a sickness, physical or psychological, deserving of help.

In either case, desire, feeling and want do not define morality. Rather – and this can sometimes be hard work – morality needs to define our desires, feelings and wants.

When a man therefore says, “I feel like” or, “I want to be” a woman (or vice versa), that person is saying I reject the obligations and prohibitions which the Creator has placed on me, created as a male. I want to redefine or reconstitute myself such as not to have those obligations or prohibitions. But there is no subjective definition of sexual identity, just as there is no subjective definition of morality. Identity, and the obligations and prohibitions befitting that identity, are both designated by G-d.

The status of the transgendered person

It follows that simply by calling, or dressing, himself as a female, a man does not become woman (or vice versa). What of the situation where a male undertakes surgery to “become” a female or vice versa? The tradition from Sinai teaches that the identity of such a person does not change. He is a male as before and she is a female as before.

The difference is that such a man becomes a mutilated man, and the woman a mutilated woman. Self-mutilation is prohibited under universal ethics, where there is no benefit. Not only our lives, but also our bodies are not “ours” to harm. The psychological “benefit” which might be claimed by such a person is either immoral or the expression of an illness or disorder, and so does not count as a legitimate benefit.

Apart from self-mutilation, sexual-reassignment surgery will often lead to sexual sterilisation. The person undertaking this has thus forfeited, for no just reason, the ability to procreate. Particularly, where a new culture has arisen, which Heaven forbid, encourages children (without parental control) to follow an impulse to change their sex and follow this up with surgery, a huge injustice is committed. The children are too young to have a driver’s licence or to vote, but it is suggested that they should be allowed permanently to mutilate their bodies and procreative capabilities.

The harm of transgenderism is not only to the transgendered person, who has been persuaded against his or her inner being, but also towards others. Men presenting as women and vice versa can be a source of harassment or immorality. The NCC’s new national president, Patrick J. Byrne, in his forthcoming book on transgenderism, documents the bizarre case of Maddison Hall:

“Maddison Hall (born Noel Crompton in 1964) shot and killed hitchhiker Lyn Saunders at Gol Gol, New South Wales, in 1987. After being convicted in 1989, Hall began hormone treatment while in prison, and was transferred to the women’s Mulawa Correctional Centre in 1999, where it was alleged that Hall had sexual relations with several female prisoners.

“After three months, Hall was alleged to have raped a woman and was returned to a male prison. Hall was charged with rape, but charges were dropped after the alleged victim was released, returned to New Zealand and refused to press charges.

“After being in male prison, Hall sued the state of NSW and received an out-of-court settlement for $25,000, which was used to fund Hall’s sex reassignment surgery in 2003.”

The consequences of a culture of transgenderism

A 2014 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, of transgender individuals (prior to or without surgery) reports a prevalence among “transgender” individuals (that is, those who identify as the opposite sex) of suicide attempts at 41 per cent, alongside the national (North American) average of 4.6 per cent. Another report states that people who have had sexual reassignment surgery are 19 times more likely to die of suicide than the member of the general population. Whether or not the surgery is a factor in increasing the suicide rate in this group, we see that the condition is a profoundly morbid one.

The salient point is that a culture that cultivates transgenderism, including among highly susceptible and impressionable children – the overwhelming mass of whom would develop into normal male or female roles – cultivates a high morbidity within its object group. Instead of helping to a normal development and treating persons with gender dysphoria, the dangerously fallacious decision to make transgenderism co-normative with heterosexuality, compounds the malaise in transsexuals and creates new ones.

The first and deepest victim of an “affirmative” transgenderism is the “trans” person him or herself, and then more, who in effect are recruited into it in suggestible early childhood by this cultural program. It is an illness that requires care and treatment, rather than a condition that we can elevate to a cultural “norm”.

The attempt to bend, blur and cross boundaries in the Creation is in effect a rebellion against the Creator, who fashioned the species and kinds, enjoined them to keep to their species and kinds, and endowed them with unique purposes. Here is another attempt, not only to dissolve the moral template – or compass – of humanity, but also to dissolve human identity itself. The Creator fashioned man and woman (and the rare intersex person) and charged them with their unique obligations.

A parable

The cultural dissolution both of the moral compass and of human identities themselves is captured by the parable of a recent Sage in the religious tradition. It relates to the king of a principality and his adviser, which I’ll modify slightly here. It goes as follows:

“There was a king of a small principality whose top adviser had information that the grain harvested that year was tainted. Anyone who would eat from it would became insane (a human version of ‘mad cow disease’).

“‘What can we do?’ said the king. ‘It is not possible to destroy the crop for we don’t have enough good grain stored to feed the entire population.’

“‘Perhaps,’ said the adviser, ‘we should set aside enough grain for ourselves. At least that way we could maintain our sanity.’

“The king replied: ‘If we do that, we’ll be considered crazy. If everyone behaves one way and we behave differently, we’ll be considered the not normal ones.

“‘Rather,’ the king continued, ‘I suggest that we too eat from the crop, like everyone else. However, to remind ourselves that we are not normal, we will make a mark on our foreheads. Even if we are insane, whenever we look at each other, we will remember that we are insane!’” (From Avraham Greenbaum, Under the Table and How to Get Up. Jewish Pathways of Spiritual Growth, Jerusalem: Tsohar Publishing, 1991)

That mark on the king and his adviser’s foreheads is the recollection that there is a moral compass. People of faith, true to the tradition that underpins our civilisation, have that mark on their foreheads. It is the moral template that G-d imparted to the human soul, through which a person imitates G-d, and is able to carry out one’s purpose, with good and G-dly behaviours in Creation.

It is the morality for which the world was created, and in accordance with which it operates harmoniously and with the ultimate goal of becoming a residence for the Divine.

The contrary worldview, which is absolutely opposed to the G-dly template for creation and the G-dly essence of the human being, has arisen and gained a certain dominance in the last almost 50 years. I have called it hedonistic materialism. The materialism, which preceded it as the opponent of the human spirit, was that of communism, called dialectical materialism. It came from a late 18th and 19th-century doctrine that saw the human being – also “emancipated” from what it understood to be the chains of religion – as a promethean figure. The human being would become the master of nature, unlimited in his or her self-fulfilment.

That vision left out G-d from the universe and the soul from the human being and produced the horror of communism, which only recently the Eastern European bloc threw off. Still it had a stable concept of the identity – if not the morality – of the human being.

The new materialism, I think, has its roots in Freud and Darwin. From Freud it takes the primacy of the pleasure principle and instinctual – primarily sexual – gratification. From the ideological overlay of Darwinism, it takes the concept of the human being as a mutant member of an animal kingdom.

Human becoming replaces human being

For both Freud and Darwin the human being is a morphing higher animal, unlike the human being in Marxist theory, who was still a human being, something different from the rest of nature. It was simply that Marxism did not grasp the difference of the human being as consisting in the human soul modelled in the image of G-d.

Hedonistic materialism understands the creation of a vast animal kingdom in which the human being is just one – fluid – species. Indeed, the concept of a “Parliament” of nature has actually been formulated by some of the foremost exponents of hedonistic materialism. Because of the family affinities of humans, orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas, it is appropriate that a Parliament should be constituted out of these species. (See Paola Cavilieri and Peter Singer (eds), The Great Ape Project, 1995)

Ah! There is the problem that orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas do not make great political advocates or representatives. The answer provided by the professors of hedonistic materialism is that they will be provided in this Parliament of nature with human spokespeople, just as disabled people have their spokespeople.

One of the great chieftains of academia who espouses these views, has also found nothing ethically wrong with sexual relations between humans and animals. So, one wonders whether – in the ultimate scheme of hedonistic materialism – members of the animal blocs within this Parliament of nature could, in their scheme, also “marry” within the human bloc.

The fury and indignation with which this suggestion might be met by today’s pundits does not prevent us from asking it. After all, we see a constant drift in the definition of the human being as the process continues of casting off the Divine template etched on the human soul and transmitted also by tradition.

The first step in this was the degradation of the distinction between masculinity and femininity. Instead of honouring the unique and complementary strengths of the mother and the father within the family, a single standard of human actualisation was urged: the ability to wield corporate power, amass wealth and to gratify personal desire.

The unique and distinct qualities of the parenting roles of men and women – in raising up a new generation in transmitted, universal values – were repressed. But at that stage the normative heterosexual family unit was not repudiated.

The next step was that men and women were no longer bound to heterosexual relationships. As noted in my essay, “Heterosexuality and human identity” (First published in Michael Stokes and David Daintree (eds), Dangerous Ideas, 2017; reprinted in Contemporary Politics and Social Policy in the Lens of Traditional Faith and Universal Ethics), the heterosexual procreative unit of the family was the way through which human beings produced offspring that were theirs and that knew themselves, as we have noted, as the product of that union. It was the bond of generations.

“Homo­sexual marriage” throws off that bond. According to our tradition and the laws of G-d, homosexual unions are wrong – wrong both to homosexuals themselves and to the children who are artificially commissioned for them – notwithstanding any compassion that is due on account of the psychological, physical and cultural pressures that work to produce homosexuality. For homosexuality is extraneous to the human essence, to the soul (including the soul of the homosexual) that knows and wants to follow G-d.

Yet, for most of those who mistakenly – in the spiritual darkness of our times – want to afford the opportunity to men to marry men and women to marry women, and for most homosexuals themselves, men are still men and women are still women. They simply want to throw off the obligation that behoves men and women, namely, to procreate with a member of the opposite sex, and to produce children who are truly theirs.

Now, as noted above, we have come one step further. It is not only that men no longer have the obligations incumbent upon men and women the obligations incumbent upon women with regard to procreation within the heterosexual family with its needed identity of generations. In transgenderism we are revising the concept of what a man, and what a woman, is.

In 50 short years, this society progressively degraded masculinity and femininity within the family, then threw off the concept of the distinct moral obligations which behove men and women, and then proceeded to disintegrate the very concept of what a man is and what a woman is. This is the ultimate dissolution of the boundaries: the eclipse of G-d, who placed on us those boundaries and obligations, and of the human spirit or soul, which knows it.

The politicians, pundits and academicians who advocated and achieved homosexual marriage will have to answer to a generation of manufactured orphans, children created not to be raised by both of their biological parents, for homosexual couples.

The politicians, pundits and academicians who have advocated for transgenderism and who seek to implement it through programs such as the so-called “Safe Schools” program, and to form a culture that encourages children to follow impulse to mutilate and sterilise their bodies will have to answer to a generation of boys and girls who, after “transitioning”, whether surgically or psychologically, are still boys and girls, but now physically or psychologically mutilated boys and girls.

If they succeed in their plan, G-d forbid, they will have driven children and adults against themselves, against their own souls and hence against their innermost being.

A second parable

I conclude with another parable from the modern Sage I quoted earlier:

Don't be that turkey.

“There was once a prince who took ill and decided he was a turkey. Stripping off his clothes, he crouched naked under the royal table, refusing to eat anything but crumbs that had fallen to the ground. The king was greatly upset. Many doctors were called to the palace to examine the prince but none could offer a cure.

“One day a wise man came to the king and said: ‘Let me live in your home that I might befriend your son. Be patient and I will make him well again.’ Immediately the sage approached the royal table, stripped off his clothes and sat down naked next to the prince.

“‘Who are you and what are you?’ demanded the king’s son. “‘I am your friend, a turkey like yourself,’ the wise man replied. ‘I thought you might be lonely and decided to come and live with you for a while.’

“Some weeks passed. The ‘turkeys’ grew accustomed to each other and soon became good friends. They ate crumbs, drank from tin plates and discussed the advantages of being domesticated birds rather than men.

“One night, when the royal family was having dinner, the wise man signalled to the king, whose servants brought two silk robes and cautiously placed them under the table. The sage quickly donned one of the robes and before the king’s son could utter a word proudly announced: ‘There are some dumb turkeys who are so insecure that they believe putting on a silk robe might endanger their identity.’ The prince thought for a moment, nodded his head and began to clothe himself.

“Some days later the wise man once again signalled the king. Broiled beef, baked potatoes, and fresh green vegetables were brought and placed on the ground near the sage. Looking quite pleased with himself, the wise man bit into his food and exclaimed: ‘Absolutely delicious! It’s good to be a turkey sophisticated enough to enjoy the food of men.’ The prince readily agreed and hungrily ate his fill.

“Eventually, the wise man called for some silverware and asked to be served from the king’s good china. ‘After all,’ he explained to the prince, ‘why shouldn’t intelligent turkeys want the best for themselves?’

“Finally, after many months the sage came and sat by the table. While eating and drinking with the royal family, he called down to the prince and said: ‘Come join me. The food is the same but the chairs make an appreciable difference. Besides, we turkeys have a lot to offer. Why should we restrict ourselves by remaining aloof? Certainly our ideas can benefit the minds of men.’”

This story has a strange relevance, not only because of the thought that the mutations in human identity embraced by hedonistic materialists might also come to fruition, if not in ghoulish human-animal genetic hybridisation, then in macabre surgical sculpture.

The prince in our story who believed he was a turkey (species dysphoria) is like the person who believes he is a transgender (gender dysphoria), because it has to do with subjective delusion. We know that transgenderism is a dysphoria, a delusion, because it is contrary to the plan that G-d has established, and that, once freed, the human spirit – the real human dimension – is at once ratified. People are supposed to be people, turkeys turkeys, men men and women women. The delusion is possible only as long as we shut G-d out of our society and the human soul is eclipsed.

Not only is transgenderism morally wrong (whatever its causes), it leads to personal misery, social havoc and decay. Our society will surely revolt at the mixing of bathrooms and showers and changing rooms. The madness will become self-evident.

To cure this situation we need to bring back G-d and the human soul into our culture. We need psychiatrists and psychologists who themselves know the difference between right and wrong, and who know of the human soul, which knows that distinction and wants its casing – body and mind – to live accordingly.

With G-d’s help and with their help, we can, as one writer once put it, get the turkey back up from under the table.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm