Monday, February 20, 2012

But DNA is Innate...

Here, courtesy of National Public Radio this morning, is more evidence of just how insistent and persistent is mankind’s determination to “do what is right in their own eyes,” [Judges 21:25, NASB]; inconvenient biological facts to the contrary be damned!

“A small but growing number of teens and even younger children who think they were born the wrong sex are getting support from parents and from doctors who give them sex-changing treatments, according to reports in the medical journal Pediatrics.

“It's an issue that raises ethical questions, and some experts urge caution in treating children with puberty-blocking drugs and hormones…Switching gender roles and occasionally pretending to be the opposite sex is common in young children. But these kids are different. They feel certain they were born with the wrong bodies.

“Some are labeled with "gender identity disorder," a psychiatric diagnosis. But [Dr. Norman] Spack, [author of one of three reports published Monday and director of one of the nation's first gender identity medical clinics, at Children's Hospital Boston] is among doctors who think that's a misnomer. Emerging research suggests they may have brain differences more similar to the opposite sex.”

The broadcast report, originating in the link above, goes on to detail various aspects of the current debate about how soon to suppress the onset of biological puberty using hormone "therapy" and when to begin “reassignment” treatment to bring the child’s physical and psychic genders into alignment, [if such a concept does not strain the imagination too far.]

I have far more questions than answers on this curious but primal topic: why is this phenomenon apparently growing in numbers? how much of it is driven by what is now “possible” in terms of endocrinologic technology and/or changing mores about what constitutes gender? why is there growing acceptance of the concept that physical biology and psychological gender identity need not be linked?

Not only do I not have the answers to these questions, but I also think that as a society we are at a point where the very definition of words like “answer” and “truth” are being deconstructed to the point of meaninglessness. If you don’t like the pattern of your sweater, pull any thread until it unravels as far as you please.

However, there are two things I DO know: (1) no amount of tinkering will change the fact that every cell of a person’s body bears only one of the two possible genetic chromosome combinations: XX for female or XY for male. No other possibilities exist; and (2) tampering with the magnificent work of an infinitely superior intelligence never leads to greater fulfillment, joy, or meaning.

We can choose to be congruent or incongruent with what IS in an empirical world. But by attempting to deny or redefine what fundamentally is unalterable, we can succeed only in deforming ourselves.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Another one of my professors has died. The first time this happened, it was an unexpected "reality check". Now Dr. Garab is gone. I know this because today's mail brought the English Department Newsletter from my alma mater; it comes about four times a year.

My life now seems far away from those graduate school days of pressured study and long nights haunting the library. But that time in my life is part of who I am today-- for better, probably not for worse.

Eerily, I remember in vivid detail sitting as an apprehensive freshman in Dr. Garab's Composition and Literature class...I won't say how long ago. He was a curious little man with quick dark eyes, quirky jackets, and a pipe in the corner of his mouth which he seemed to have trouble keeping lit. He was the first, and probably only, man who I heard explain how much he enjoyed drinking tea with his wife out of a fine china cup. He also was one of the first who opened the world of literature to me, and that is a gift that doesn't expire.

I still recall my angst as I sat in my dorm room, in front of my new, chocolate brown Smith-Corona electric typewriter, praying for some insight and assistance in the face of my first essay on "The Great Gatsby". God was faithful, and the words flowed. It was one of the rare experiences of individual and unalloyed joy.

The following week I felt as if my face were a blinking red beacon as he read my essay aloud in class (fortunately without giving my name). It was an unexpected affirmation that served as a personal touchstone.

Dr. Garab was a lay pastor in the local Episcopal church, which made him an anomaly among professorial staff, and a weirdo among some students. He didn't trumpet this, but he didn't deny it, either. So, unlike the other half dozen or so former professors of mine whose obituaries I've read in recent years, Dr. Garab is one I expect to see again. I don't doubt that he is now in the presence of the One who is Truth.

Unlike so very many men and women of letters across the centuries who have been lauded for wrestling with and interpreting the great questions of human experience, he apprehended and bowed before Him about Whom Paul wrote, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." [Colossians 1:17]