Surgical Fantasy

Robert Hart on Biblical Compassion for Sex-Change Confusion

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Cor. 14:33)

The invention of a new "civil right" is being forced upon us. I believe that if the great martyr of genuine civil rights could see what is being done in the name of his cause, he would be displeased—that is, if the things he actually believed in his lifetime are taken into account. In recent months the world has been subjected to the sight of Bruce Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, calling himself Caitlyn and appearing like a woman.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins Hospital is bucking the trend. As CNS News reported on June 2 of last year:

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a "mental disorder" that merits treatment, that sex change is "biologically impossible," and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.

He also reported on a new study showing that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people.

Johns Hopkins, one of the finest hospitals in the world, used to perform such operations, but does not do so anymore. The CNS story continues:

Dr. McHugh also reported that there are "misguided doctors" who, working with very young children who seem to imitate the opposite sex, will administer "puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous—even though the drugs stunt the children's growth and risk causing sterility."

Such action comes "close to child abuse," said Dr. McHugh, given that close to 80% of those kids will "abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated."

To actually change one's sex, one would have to change every cell in the body, as well as brainwave patterns. The frontal lobe of the brain would also have to be transformed.

What people are saying about Touchstone:

"Sex change is biologically impossible," said McHugh. "People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder."

It is time for the Church to look this matter squarely in the eye, and determine how to respond to it in the light of doctrine, including sacramental theology. 

Charity & Truth

Obviously, we want to respond to all human needs with compassion, and to share the hope offered only by the gospel of Jesus Christ. What does this mean for a person who feels "transgender"? What does it mean for a person who has undergone the surgery? This problem did not exist in the days of the apostles in exactly the way it exists today. We must, therefore, draw principles from Scripture to guide us rightly. Here, I seek to demonstrate that both receiving and performing this surgery is a sin against the Creator. Those who are in pastoral ministry must urge anyone considering such surgery not to go through with it. To those who have already been so altered, pastors must offer forgiveness on the same terms as for any other sin: confession and repentance. That is the only way to walk in charity and truth.

The first chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans shows two things that are revealed from heaven: on the one hand, the righteousness of God and the message of salvation offered to everyone who believes; and, on the other hand, the wrath of God "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." In the latter category belong all those "who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." These latter are those who act "against nature." Essentially, their entire treatment of created things, including human sexuality and their own bodies, is a form of idolatry that pulls them into every kind of evil (see Rom. 1:16–32).

I am sure that Paul is not speaking here of confused people who suffer a genuine crisis of identity, and certainly not of minors. But we live in a culture so corrupt that it is coming to look more and more like what he describes in Romans 1. The "misguided doctors" that Dr. McHugh mentions are part of this modern culture. Minors are easily influenced, and the adults who encourage their confusion, and problem, are acting dangerously. In a very real way, they are setting a stumbling block before children (Matt. 18:6–7).

Doctors who administer puberty-delaying hormones have no valid medical justification for doing so, and they ought to have their licenses revoked. Doctors who perform sex-change surgery, which is really just sexual mutilation and plastic surgery, are performing no genuine medical service at all; they also ought to have their licenses revoked. Beyond that, a whole set of politicians, celebrities, publishers, and others, perhaps even counselors in various schools, are part of a trend to "change the truth of God into a lie."

People trapped in their confusion and in need of psychiatric help (and, no doubt, spiritual help as well) live in a culture that is increasingly offering them the opposite of what they need and is encouraging them to make a disastrous choice. In the midst of such a culture, the Church must, for those who are vulnerable, be a safe place of refuge from the pull of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Sacramental Doctrine

The truth of God, concerning the sexual nature of the human race, his creation, is best summed up in Genesis: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply'" (1:27–28).

We have already had to deal with the current confusion in the world concerning marriage, specifically the problem with what is called same-sex marriage. We need to understand, as well, the added problem that "transgenderism" brings to the table. As Dr. McHugh has stated, sex-change operations are a lie, a lie carved into one's flesh and supported by ongoing injections, but a lie nonetheless. No such thing as a sex change is possible for human beings—or, for that matter, any species of mammal. All that can be done is mutilation that creates sterility.

The matter of sterility is no minor detail. In truth, persons who have this surgery done are not changed from one sex to the other; rather, they are rendered eunuchs. Their ability to "be fruitful and multiply" is destroyed. In a sense, such surgery is an outworking of "the culture of death," as it necessarily embraces sterility.

So what ought a member of the clergy to do if a real man wants to marry a "transgendered" woman, or a real woman a "transgendered" man? Sadly, some modern Evangelicals have exhibited a readiness to treat the world's lie as if it were the truth. Some Catholic clergy want to corrupt Roman Catholicism in the same way. But such a marriage would be just as much a fiction as a so-called same-sex marriage. It cannot be reconciled with sacramental theology, or even with simple reality.


Radical feminists have coined a new term: "cisgendered." It refers to a person who identifies with his or her own sex, and it often carries the implication that there is something somehow wrong, or at least stodgy and conformist, with accepting one's sex as part of one's identity. In actual fact, of course, the opposite is true. For, as Dr. McHugh states:

This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.

I am very happily "cisgendered." I like being a man, and I feel like a man. My wife likes being a woman, and feels like a woman. To be unhappy with the nature God gave you is to be unthankful, and is also quite sad. The fact that having sex-change surgery increases one's likelihood of committing suicide twenty-fold shows that it is anything but compassionate to support such a decision.

Rather, anyone who is unfortunate enough not to be "cisgendered" is deserving of pity. Such individuals need psychiatric and spiritual help. To encourage their psychosis is simply to take part in the culture depicted in Romans 1, a culture with which Christians must have no fellowship. • 

The CNS News report quoted in this article can be found online here.

Robert Hart is rector of St. Benedict's Anglican Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Anglican Catholic Church Original Province). He also contributes regularly to the blog The Continuum. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

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