Posted on May 27th, 2011
Immanuel member Mollie Hemingway over at Mommyish highlighted the bizarre case of “Storm,” the child who is being raised “genderless.” I was awestruck to read in the comments the opinion that “gender is a social construct.” Some additional reading led me to a 2004 article for First Things by Paul McHugh, M.D. (Dr. McHugh is Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.) McHugh argues against the idea that sexual identity is a matter of choice or something that can be changed.
After he became head of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, McHugh decided to study two things:
First, I wanted to test the claim that men who had undergone sex-change surgery found resolution for their many general psychological problems. Second (and this was more ambitious), I wanted to see whether male infants with ambiguous genitalia who were being surgically transformed into females and raised as girls did, as the theory (again from Hopkins) claimed, settle easily into the sexual identity that was chosen for them. These claims had generated the opinion in psychiatric circles that one’s “sex” and one’s “gender” were distinct matters, sex being genetically and hormonally determined from conception, while gender was culturally shaped by the actions of family and others during childhood.
On the first matter, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jon Meyer was tasked with researching those who had undergone sex-change operations to see how they had benefited. The summary of that study was this: “The hope that they would emerge now from their emotional difficulties to flourish psychologically had not been fulfilled.”
We saw the results as demonstrating that just as these men enjoyed cross-dressing as women before the operation so they enjoyed cross-living after it. But they were no better in their psychological integration or any easier to live with. With these facts in hand I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia. [Emphasis mine]
McHugh went on to study male children who had been born with deformities in their genitalia and urinary tract, and as a result had been surgically transformed into females, put on life-long hormone therapy, and raised as girls. The results were disastrous.
Reiner, however, discovered that such re-engineered males were almost never comfortable as females once they became aware of themselves and the world. From the start of their active play life, they behaved spontaneously like boys and were obviously different from their sisters and other girls, enjoying rough-and-tumble games but not dolls and “playing house.” Later on, most of those individuals who learned that they were actually genetic males wished to reconstitute their lives as males (some even asked for surgical reconstruction and male hormone replacement)—and all this despite the earnest efforts by their parents to treat them as girls.
The last sentence of his essay is particularly sad: “We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.” It seems that so many churches are doing this as well in accepting deviations from the God-given nature of sex: collaborating with madness rather than trying to heal.
I would encourage you, gentle reader, to take in Dr. McHugh’s article in full.