I think many of us are puzzled by the dramatic rise of the “transgender” issue as a focus for equality campaigners. Yes, we had known that some individuals felt they were born in the wrong body, but we had assumed that this was a rare form of “body dysmorphia” – that is, a mentally distorted sense of one’s own body (just as stick-thin anorexics imagine they are overweight) – or an equally rare form of wrongly identified sex at birth.
But transgender politics has now become mainstream, and we are told that even young children need to be taught about “transgendering”, and given medical and perhaps even surgical therapies to help them change sex if they believe they are “trans”. It is claimed that there are at least 650,000 people in Britain today who are, or wish to be, “transgendered”.
It’s the Year of Mercy, and most Christians would surely wish to extend compassion to any individual who suffers from confused feelings about their sexual identity. But what seems to me to be lacking in the debate is some real, hard biological science. For example, is the biological sex of a person defined by their genitals, or by their chromosomes?
I have always understood that XY chromosomes make you male and XX chromosomes make you female. Is this now deemed incorrect? Or is it that “gender theory” has now overtaken – in medical science itself – natural biology? Gender theory holds that you can “choose” your gender. Sex is mere biology, whereas gender is a “social construct”.
Simone de Beauvoir set the bar when she proclaimed that “one is not born a woman – one becomes one”. Biologically that is tosh: most women are born female. The “right to choose” has, it seems, now trumped nature and science itself.
Certainly, some newborn infants have been assigned the wrong sex, because their genitals are ambiguous. Biographers have claimed that the late Duchess of Windsor was, biologically, male – and wrongly identified at birth. Lady Colin Campbell, who has recently gained celebrity on a reality TV show, was also wrongly assigned at birth.
Mistakes occur. But this must be different from “choosing” to change sexual identity based on chromosomes. We need much more genuine biological research into the ever-widening question of “transgendering”.
Ireland is engaged in a heated debate about lifting the traditional ban on selling alcohol on Good Friday – which falls on March 25 this year.
Irish pubs and off-licences have been closed on Good Friday since 1927. Secularists now say it is archaic to uphold a religious tradition in a changed world. They are strongly supported by the drinks and hospitality industry which claims that €6 million in trading revenue is lost because of the prohibition. Moreover, bewildered tourists allegedly wander the streets of Dublin on a Good Friday thirsting for a dram in some tavern once mentioned by James Joyce.
Campaigners against alcohol abuse ask: “Can’t we do without booze for just one day of the year?” And Christians generally feel it is sad to lose yet one more signal that Ireland was once an affirmatively Christian nation. Unlike in much of continental Europe, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Ascension, Assumption and All Saints’ Day – once formally observed holy days – have all dropped out of sight.
The secularists and the publicans’ lobby will probably win the Good Friday battle. And so, 400 years on, Thomas Cromwell’s (and perhaps Oliver Cromwell’s) work is done.
According to his obituaries, the publisher Lord Weidenfeld, who has died aged 96, was as “obsessed” with popes as he was drawn to attractive and intelligent women. Lady Antonia Fraser wrote that he had the greatest “chat-up” line of all, to any ambitious female: “Have you ever thought of writing a book?”
One of my oldest friends was approached by George Weidenfeld who offered her not only a book commission but an operatic weekend in Vienna. (She desisted.) And yet, it was noted, he was so fascinated by popes that his flat was filled with books, busts and portraits of various pontiffs. He visited Pope John Paul II at Castel Gandolfo. Jewish himself, he possessed a special affection for Christianity. What a colourful mixture human personalities can be.