Saturday 3 January 2015

Sexuality and suicide

Suicide is a terrible thing. 

I have known a few people who have taken their own lives, and it is always unbelievably distressing for all involved, and indicative of extreme distress.

Whilst I fully understand, and indeed agree with, the Church's condemnation of suicide, I am also strongly of the view that in many cases, the notion that someone took his or her life 'while of unsound mind' is the most accurate description; and that of course reduces the moral culpability of the person concerned, so that I hope that we may hope for his or her eternal salvation.

All of which is by way of preamble to what I really want to write about. A young man who identified himself as a woman, and therefore as transgendered, recently committed suicide. He left a note, blaming, inter alia, the fact that his parents could not accept that he was a woman.

The LGBTQetc activists, their ideological allies, and many of sympathetic mind, all hurried to seize and control the narrative. Twitter and other media have been awash with comments to the effect that his parents effectively killed him.  They point to the high incidence of suicides among transgendered people, and some are calling for the prosecution of his parents for referring him to Christian counsellors who tried to help him reconcile with the fact that he was a boy, not a girl.

There are, of course, conflicting views of reality here. On the one hand, his parents subscribe to the view that if you are born a boy and believe yourself to be 'really' a girl, the problem is a psychological (or even spiritual) one.

On the other hand, the LGBTQetc lobby and their allies believe that one's natural sex is irrelevant, a social construct based on the flimsy evidence of biological difference, and that what really counts is how one self-identifies.

What is apparent to me is that neither view is provable empirically, from evidence. Each rests on certain anthropological and philosophical assumptions.

According to the first theory, the high level of suicides amongst people who identify as transgender is most likely to be because such people are psychologically disturbed, and are living with an irreconcilable contradiction about their very identity.

According to the second theory (whose advocates will certainly see me as 'part of the problem' because I have used masculine pronouns about someone who identified himself as a woman) the suicide rate is most likely to be attributable to the persecution transgendered people suffer in a society that systematically oppresses them.

Thus those in the second camp are clear that the parents of the poor young man who killed himself are responsible for his death as they did not affirm his chosen identity, but rather persecuted him, as they sought to solve what they saw as his psychological problem.

But from the other perspective, one could as well say that it is precisely the LGBTQetc lobby who bear some moral responsibility for this young man's death. By affirming that he was right (and had a right) to identify as a woman, and further that the appropriate way to interpret his parents' concern was that they were hateful and oppressive, they could equally be said to have contributed to the dreadful despair that led to his suicide.

Of course, those who accept the whole intellectual framework of victimhood which is an integral part of the LGBTQetc movement will point to my privilege and my lack of personal experience of the issues involved here, and conclude not only that my arguments are invalid, but also that I have no right to comment.

I reject that approach to thinking and discourse. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made for the fact that we are not alway the best judges in our own cases; that someone disinterested may often have a valuable perspective to bring to bear.  The fact that this poor young person genuinely felt oppressed by his parents' behaviour does not mean that such behaviour was necessarily oppressive (it may have been of course: I am talking about the logic of the argument, not the facts of this case - not least because I mistrust all the reporting I have seen from both sides of the argument).  By the same token, my arguments may be valid or invalid: but that should be proven by addressing them, not by writing them off a priori.

I will also, doubtless, be branded as transphobic, and probably as a hater, for writing this; though in fact I have no ill-will towards people who identify as transgendered. I simply think that they are acting on a false set of assumptions and beliefs.

But the problem remains: how can one decide which account of the variations in human sexuality is correct? One can't appeal to the evidence, as all evidence is subject to interpretation according to one's philosophy. So the argument is a philosophical one; but that is glossed over in the media, and the cumulative effect of repeated assertions about 'equality' and 'inclusiveness' and 'acceptance' have so deadened the intellectual attentiveness of so many that most do not realise that there is an argument to be had.

Which is why I wrote this.


As ever, I am open to correction and discussion if I have misunderstood or misrepresented anything in this post.


Please remember to pray for all those suffering from disordered sexuality - which, let's face it, is all of us -  and particularly for parents and children who are struggling to understand and respond to such difficult issues; and for the repose of the souls of all who have taken their lives while of unsound mind.


Mary Kay said...

I will venture to make a comment outside of the 'religious' sphere (if that is at all possible): I live on the West coast of the US. I have worked in my city as a registered nurse for 25 years. Nursing is a very dogmatic business. We are told to point our patients in the right direction, gently or otherwise. The diabetic cannot keep ignoring his (her) sugar and carbohydrate intake! One way or another, we try to get people to follow the rules that are necessary for their health.

Unless those people are LGBTQetc. In this case, we are told (by the very prim people who dictate to us about our diabetic teaching)that we must understand that our LGBTQetc people smoke A LOT, and they also have other perhaps unsavory habits, as well as a high rate of depression and suicide. And we MUST be understanding and not treat them the way we are supposed to treat our non-LGBTQetc patients. We must sympathize with the extreme need for nicotine, and perhaps sedative medications, and otherwise ignore the rules of good health, in the case of this particular populace, according to the 'scholarly' journals I read.

It is definitely a case of preferential treatment. I am sorry for the suffering loved ones, but there would be far fewer if we did not constantly expose our young people to aberrant behaviors.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for your interesting comment. I did not know this.

However, it makes perfect sense to me. If say a particular group can diagnose their own state based purely on their desires, how could we reasonably prescribe or proscribe anything that is not in accordance with their desires?

Rita said...

I have written a reply of sorts on my own blog, and will link it to yours, if you don't mind. I think we are saying much the same thing. Thank you for your thoughtful piece.

Unknown said...

I just wanted to comment from the point of view of medical science. I am doing PhD in the philosophy of the biology of sex development in humans. This is research And I have no professional experience of Trans issues. Basically I think that the idea that sex and gender are different is recent is a fairly recent one - promoted, ironically, by feminist writers. I think it is probably incorrect. The problem is that the biology of sex development in humans is loads more complex than was realised in the past- with- for example- half the genome involved in forming the testis. There are loads of divergent pathways. Now I realise that Trans is not usually considered in the same way as intersex- but I do think that it is not out of the question that it will be explicable biologically. We just know so little about the biology of women with testes, men with uteruses- both of which are not that uncommon. Nothing to do with Trans, I know- it's just I think that there is so much to learn about biology in this and I believe- in other related areas. I can say more- well I am saying more- this is my thesis!

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks: I have read your post with interest and appreciation - and by all means link to mine, if you so wish.


Thanks: interesting stuff! I think that we should be wary of making the leap from 'naturally occurring' to 'neutral' or 'benign'. I am not saying you are making that leap, but many do.

Humans are born with all sorts of defects, through no fault of their own. But they remain defects.

Whether transgenderism is a defect is at the heart of the matter. Some believe that it is, others that it is not.

The question remains, regardless of the cause of the problem: what is the best way of understanding, and therefore relating to and supporting, someone who experiences such feelings?

Unknown said...

Well of course in the medical world -my usual world- we do usually view variation, though natural, as pathological. In many cases there is no doubt about this. But in the world of philosophy of medicine this view is sometimes challenged! I just really wanted to put the point that understanding of sex development is - like much of medicine and human biology - a growing area of knowledge. Yes I get your point- you are questioning the current standard model of Trans. of course it it important that there are challenges to and arguments for and against models models- it is through this that truth is reached. I think it would be rare in medicine that we know exactly the right thing to do in a given situation. Most areas are works in progress

Patricius said...

I wonder: isn't the desire to have one's sex altered tantamount to suicide? At the very least it seems next door to it because one's sex- i.e. one's being either male or female- is quite simply an integral part of one's being. To attempt to change that simple fact (which permeates every cell of our bodies) involves, it seems to me, the attempted destruction of one's existing self. Is not the person so tempted asserting "I would be better were I not me"?
We take steps to keep those we know tempted to suicide apart from the potential means (e.g. poisons)of carrying out such desires. Gender ideology undercuts such preventative measures as might otherwise seem reasonable. One might begin by asking "To whose
benefit?" In view of the fact that our sex permeates our very bones and cells I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that medical people employing chemical and surgical means in pursuit of "gender reassignment" are simply perpetrating a monstrous lie upon the bodies of these poor deluded individuals. For it is surely a delusion no less than that suffered by those who imagine that they were someone else "in a past life". At root seems to be a dualistic view of reality in which the soul is viewed as the "ghost in the machine". Perhaps the cure would be an emergency course of metaphysics - maximum strength!

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for the additional comment - and you discern my intention very accurately.


I think you are on to something; and your theory would provide a very clear clue as to why the suicide rate amongst such troubled people is so disastrously high.