Wednesday, March 29, 2023

How Pervasive is Transgenderism, Really?

An example of the mixed transgender messages in our culture (CDC)
My views are well known by now. I stand second to no one when it comes to feeling tremendous sympathy for what transgender people go through. I can’t imagine the mental anguish of someone who genuinely believes they were born the wrong sex. The mental and physical abuse that so often attaches to people like this when they reveal their true feelings is inexcusable. 

For Orthodox Jews with this condition who wish to remain observant - the pressure is even greater.  Knowing what the Torah says about cross dressing and physically changing their sex coupled with the need to do so must be unbearable. 

Those among us that msitreat transgender people - whether physically of mentally ought to be publicly rebuked by Jewish leaders leaders of all stripes. No one has a right to ridicule, harass, or bully transgender people. As noted by the Gemara (Bava Metzia - 58b) embarrassing your fellow in public is tantamount to spilling their blood.  

Which makes it troubling to me when articles expressing Halacha on this issue do not factor in the damage that might be done by not expressing the slightest bit of sympathy for people with this condition.

In a rebuff to the LGBTQ+ activist clergy whose false interpretation of the Gemara  that deals with issues related to transgenderism, Rabbi Yaakov Menken has written an op-ed in Newsweek that clarifies what the Gemara actually says. He is of course right about that. But the op-ed is not only devoid of any sympathy it practically denies any validity to their claims. Instead saying the following as though it was simply a matter of choice: 

Far better for a person to come to embrace what Divine Wisdom has bestowed upon each and every one of us.

The Jewish people are supposed to be Rahcmanim Bnei Rachmanim -Sympathetic people who genuinely feel the pain of their fellow Jews and all good human beings. Rabbi Menkin seems to have  forgotten that in writing this op-ed, 

That being said, He is not entirely wrong. I had a conversation recently with an Orthodox religious high school teacher and an Orthodox rabbi who is involved in Jewish outreach. Both of them told me that transgenderism has permeated their community. The teacher told me there is a girl in her class right now that believes she is a boy. And the rabbi in outreach told me that he comes across this relatively often these days.

Then there was this reaction by a world renowned Posek to a question asked about whether sex affirming surgery was ever Halchicly permitted. He said that he got this question twice a week! 

This led me to wonder why gender dysphoria is so widespread now when just a few years ago it was practically non existent.  

I’m sure it’s true that some people were in the closet back then - afraid of the consequences of coming out. But the exploding numbers who identify as transgender now suggests that something else is going on. 

I believe the current cultural value of reducing one’s sex to a matter of choice is exacerbating the problem. Especially among young people who are bombarded with these messages on social media and everywhere else. A boy think he's really a girl? No biggie. That is easily corrected with simple surgery. LGBTQ+ advocates  seek to remove any stigma and any impediment for those who seek to transition. Regardless of their age. Do they really believe that a few weeks or even months of counseling by a mental health professional is enough for a young person to choose change his or her sex? 

I find this all very troubling. It is one thing to express sympathy for someone’s struggles. And to condemn anyone that harasses the people that have them. But it quite another to reject anything that counters the narrative that one’s sex can be a choice that can be altered at will. 

I do not believe that the problem is as pervasive as seems to be. Or as LGBTQ+ advocates say it is.  In my view a lot of what’s going on now in the name of supporting LGBTQ+ people is at least in part responsible for the explosion in their numbers. That young children are particularly vulnerable to these influences makes it absolutely clear that gender affirming surgery should never be done on anyone under 18. Regardless of how one feels about it. 

What to do if one is truly transgender and wishes to follow Halacha, well... the answer to that is beyond my paygrade. But at the same time everyone - regardless of any physical or mental issues they might have - needs to be treated like a human being created in the image of God that they are. And accordingly with the sympathy and understanding that is part of every Jewish soul.