The forecast for Victoria is a wintry cold and damp. There will be moments of sunshine and blue skies, but thunder is already rumbling in the distance, preempting a storm of gigantic proportions.
Living in Melbourne, predicting the weather each day is near impossible, let alone knowing what it’ll be like from one hour to the next. But the spiritual climate of the once ‘Garden State’ is in perilous shape. There is a storm approaching and I’m unsure if Victoria is prepared.
Australian media are beginning to wake up to the fact that not all is well on the gender front. Something dangerous is taking place inside medical clinics and school classrooms, such that insurers and courts are now being warned to take stock and reconsider their policies and approaches.
While the issue of gender dysphoria is nationwide, in 2021 Victoria introduced the world’s strictest and harshest laws against persons who fail to support gender transitioning. For example, parents must affirm their children who are questioning their gender and proceed with a gender transitioning plan. Failing to do so can see the parents charged with abuse. Also, if an individual struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity asks for prayer, the person praying will have broken the law and can face a term in prison. If a Christian shares the Christian view on human sexuality with an individual, they can face criminal charges. On top of all this, the Andrews Government has recently reaffirmed its commitment to expand anti-discrimination laws in order to stamp out speech that doesn’t fit ‘accepted’ views on sexuality and gender. As one member of Victoria’s Legislative Council recently pondered, will it become illegal to state there are only two genders?
Activists, HR Departments, and politicians have successfully stifled debate on this vital area of concern. Anyone who dares raise their hand to ask a question, let alone, offer a differing perspective, is quickly shouted down with an endless line of derogatory name calling. Let’s be honest though, there is some hateful speech. There are some truly awful words said by persons across the political spectrum and we don’t want to encourage or support those. But signalling concern over current gender thinking isn’t inherently hateful, and suggesting so is intellectually dishonest and morally lazy.
Professor Patrick Parkinson is among the growing number of voices who are trying to bring common sense to the discussion. One need not agree with everything he says, but he is rightly pointing out that we need a better way to discuss what is happening to our young people. He writes,
“The transgender movement has been based on one truth and a thousand lies.”
“the notion that there are not just two sexes, or that it is actually possible to change sex or be “non-binary”, or the idea that every child has an innate gender identity that awaits discovery. Most people know these things to be nonsense, but in polite society we have been asked to pretend otherwise….activists aren’t able to agree on whether gender identity is fixed and innate, fluid or socially constructed. Fashionable ideas about sex and gender do not matter too much if no harm is done, but the medicalisation of vulnerable children and adolescents, with lifelong adverse consequences, deserves the most careful scrutiny”
Children who are wrestling with their identity and struggling to reconcile feelings with their physical bodies deserve our compassion and care. The speed at which young children are now encouraged to question and reject their gender is scary. In some circles, this is believed to be morally good. I think of one young woman who is socially ostracised because she isn’t experimenting with gender fluidity. To be heterosexual is thought of as repressive and uninteresting. More than that, once a child suggests discomfort, the social and legal funnel leads children down a path to hormonal treatments and eventual surgical removal of breasts and penises; this needs to be challenged.
The issue doesn’t end with gender; I am hearing stories of transpecism among children, where children no longer identify as human, but as cats and dogs and even trees. Most of these children may not be taking it overly seriously but in the pursuit of self actualisation, more glass ceilings need smashing. The current framework surrounding gender will struggle to attend to these children because if our truest self is what we feel inside, how can we deny their chosen reality?
This year’s Australian of the Year is Taryn Brumfitt, a woman who is fighting to help children accept their bodies. Brumfiit is highlighting a massive societal issue where children’s mental state is conflicting with their physical bodies.
”We really need to help our kids across Australia and the world because the rates of suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, steroid use, all on the increase related to body dissatisfaction.”
Brumfitt argues that this relationship with our bodies results from ‘learned behaviour’. Key to her message is that “we weren’t born into the world hating our body”. In other words, our society is teaching and influencing our children to have negative thoughts about their bodies, which of course can lead to serious consequences.
Australia has an uncomfortable relationship with the human body. There exists a sizeable disjunction between the message Brumfitt is advocating and what is now mainstream thinking about the human body.
I don’t know Brumfitt’s views about transgenderism and how she makes sense of this new and sudden wave of bodily denial, but one thing is for certain, her calls to embrace our physical body is at odds with the ideology that is now sweeping our society and being forcibly taught and embraced from GP rooms to school classrooms and TikTok ‘programs’.
Our culture has adopted a modern day gnosticism, where the ‘truest’ self is divorced from the physical. We are taught that the real you isn’t the physical body you inhabit but the immaterial desire and feelings that one experiences in the mind. Gender has been divorced from sex and personal identity cut away from physicality. We can’t of course reduce our humanness to physicality for we are spiritual and social beings and thinking and feeling beings. We are more than flesh and blood and DNA but we are not less than those things.
We are witnessing a generation of young people who no longer feel comfortable in their own skin, but are now taught from school to TikTok that their physical bodies betray them, and they may well be living in denial of their true selves.
The result is that a significant percentage of 18-24s (some studies suggest it’s as high as 30%) no longer believe they are heterosexual (embodied beings attracted to the opposite sex), but rather they are spread across an imprecise and growing spectrum of self-defining and often bodily denying sexuality and gender.
Many girls and boys now undertake psychological and medical pathways to transition away from their physical sex. The number of young people beginning hormonal medications, psychological treatments, and eventual surgical mutilation of the body, is skyrocketing. We are talking about an increase in gender dysphoria by 1000% in just the space of a few years. Call me, Wiliam of Ockham but this drastic and sudden increase cannot be explained by natural selection. There is something else in the water. Indeed, the iceberg that looms beneath the surface is rightly scary and we are ill equipped to do little more than chip away at it.
Do we see the confusion? Here I say confusion because one wants to think the best of people‘s intentions. Parents who see their children in torment will do anything to find relief. And so if a doctor or counsellor says transition, then I understand them trusting the advice of the professionals. But surely there is also an ear of hypocrisy as well. How can we preach on the one hand, ‘be comfortable in your body’, and then insist on the other, ‘you can reject your body and have it mutilated and permanently altered’ in the name of this gnosticism?
In her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, journalist Abigail Shreier explores the transgender phenomenon. She blames an ideology that has captured the heart of Western cultures. It’s what Carl Trueman refers to as ‘expressive individualism. Gender expression has become the trend, and because it’s now described in terms of human rights, no one is allowed to question, doubt or help adjust a child’s sense of identity.
Those living with discomfort and disconnect with their bodies need our care, not hatred, our kindness not our complicity with a dehumanising project. As much as awareness of these issues helps and as much as positive thinking and imaging may benefit youth as they learn to live in their body, I think Christianity has something to add. The Bible gives us what I believe is an even better message, one that is more secure. The ultimate resolution doesn’t lay in the self, for the self is existentially unstable. If the best of me can fail and disappoint, what about the rest of me? If this was not the case, we wouldn’t have a generation of Australians journeying down this dangerous and harmful pathway to physical destruction and mental anx. The Bible gives us a better story and greater hope.
Psalm 139 exclaims,
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Grounding our personhood in the knowledge that we are wonderfully made by God, is liberating and securing. But the Bible’s story doesn’t end there. The Scriptures also acknowledge ways we often hide from ourselves (and from God). The Bible points out the realities of the darkness in the world and in our own hearts. The story however doesn’t end with darkness and despair, for the Scriptures move us to the culmination of the story,
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason, he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)
There is a constancy in our world of body image flaws and troubles. There is an anchor for all the spiritual and material wants and sins. This Jesus, the eternal Son of God, didn’t abandon the body; he became human for us. He entered the physical and spiritual turmoil that fills the world, taking its sins and shame in order to bring redemption and life. He understands. He makes atonement. He helps. That is a good news message for Australians today.
My encouragement to those in the halls of power in Victoria, is this, for the sake of the children, pause the aggressive divorce that is being forced between mental health and physical appearance. Even now, some of these kids and their parents are realising that while they were promised much they have been betrayed in the most egregious way. It is no wonder that insurance companies and legal minds are ducking for cover as the storm clouds approach. But is there the political humility and moral will to admit wrongdoing and change course?
Part of this article is originally published earlier this year, ‘why Australia has a body image issue”