Newsweek’s “Gender” Article and the Tragedy of “M”

The most recent Newsweek magazine (dated May 21, 2007) has a lengthy article concerning “transgendered” individuals — that is, individuals who believe themselves to be a different gender than the one they were “assigned” at birth.  (While some of these individuals seek a sex-change operation, others do not.)  I don’t want to make light of the situation individuals who suffer from these feelings find themselves in.  While the matter is still being debated, I feel no need to argue whether or not there may be physical causes behind these feelings — I am no expert in such fields.  While some cases are most certainly purely mental (and spiritual) issues and consequences of powerful influences in one’s youth, it is possible that there is a physiological/biochemical root at the basis of some of these circumstances.  Physical causes have been suggested for all sorts of compulsions toward specific self-destructive and sinful behaviors, from alcoholism to predispositions toward violent behavior.  For the last six thousand years, mankind has lived in a world that has rejected God, and it would probably be impossible for us to even begin to catalog the cumulative damage that has been done to the human species over the millennia due to the choices of our forebearers.

But physical cause or not, these people need help in the right direction, not in the way that leads to destruction.  That’s why I bring this up.  Our world is a vessel with fewer and fewer anchors dropped in the firm seabed of God’s truths and with virtually no sails turned to the direction of His purposes, and the “experts” that such world makes available seem ill-equipped to do more good than they do harm.

The case given in the Newsweek article that I think best illustrates that point is the one given at the very end.  Read the last paragraph for yourself… (And don’t let the pronoun choice confuse you or distract you: the child under discussion, “M.,” is a girl.)

“For parents like Colleen Vincente, 44, following a child’s lead seems only natural.  Her second child, M. (Vincente asked to use an initial to protect the child’s privacy), was born female.  But as soon as she could talk, she insisted on wearing boy’s clothes.  Though M. had plenty of dolls, she gravitated toward ‘the boy things’ and soon wanted to shave off all of her hair.  ‘We went along with that,’ says Vincente.  ‘We figured it was a phase.’  One day when she was 2½, M. overheard her parents talking her about using female pronouns.  ‘He said, “No–I’m a him. You need to call me him”,’ Vincente recalls.  ‘We were shocked.’  In his California preschool, M. continued to insist that he was a boy and decided to change his name.  Vincente and her husband, John, consulted a therapist, who confirmed their instincts to let M. guide them.  Now 9, M. lives as a boy and most people have no idea he was born otherwise.  The most important thing is to realize this is who your child is,’ Vincente says.  That’s a big step for a family, but it could be an even bigger one for the rest of the world.”

Wow.  Where do you even begin with a paragraph like that?

I don’t want to imagine that this paragraph captures the entire story, and there could be missing details that would make the tale easier to swallow (or, for that matter, harder).  But given what we have, I want to look at some key comments in this telling of such a tragic story that just poke me right in the eye (and the heart)…

“But as soon as she could talk, she insisted on wearing boy’s clothes… and soon wanted to shave off all of her hair.”

Well, I have four boys, myself, who have “insisted” on plenty of things, especially in their “preschool” days — and have done so with a passion and intensity that might surprise those who have never been parents:  Not eating their vegetables.  Sticking their fingers into the fan.  Not taking their medicine.  Hitting their big brother.  Hitting their big brother some more.  Cutting their own hair.  Forgive me for putting it this way, but two-year-old kids are ignorant.  Wonderfully cute, captivatingly charming, and horribly ignorant.  They will insist on the stupidest things.  They will want to play with the pile of broken glass they have just wandered upon and to join the dog in a meal of Alpo.  Proverbs 22:15 tells us that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.  They aren’t supposed to have it all figured out!

That’s our job. We’re the adults.  We’re the parents.  We’re the guides.  We are the ones who tell them “this is the way, walk you in it” when they wander to the left or to the right (cf. Isaiah 30:21) and they desperately need guides who will do just that.  So when confronted with a child’s “insisting” on something that is unhealthy or harmful for him or her, we are the ones who should have sufficient knowledge of Scripture and enough God-given common sense, as well as enough loving parental backbone, to say, “No.”

What guidance did little M. — apparently 2½-years-old or younger – receive when she insisted on wearing boys clothes and shaving off her hair?

“We went along with that,” says Vincente.

How much tragedy there is wrapped up in that tiny statement.

“We figured it was a phase.”

How many of us parents (including me) have excused our ignorance, laziness, or lack of proper, godly compassion for our children with such a statement?  Not that our children don’t go through phases — they do.  Yet, even if our children are going through a “phase,” how we handle that phase can be so vital to determining life after the phase is over!  M.’s parents apparently chose a course action equivalent to no action, and the foolishness bound in that child’s heart began to run over.  So we have M. at 2½ saying,

“No–I’m a him. You need to call me him.”

How this was handled can perhaps be inferred from life at preschool, where, “M. continued to insist [she] was a boy and decided to change [her] name.”

So, we’re in pre-school, and our three- or four-year-old decides to change her name.  When did children get the right to do that?

Perhaps I am failing to give the Vincentes enough credit.  While my doubt began with the statement that they decided to “[go] along with that” when their two-year-old “insisted” on wearing boys’ clothes and shaving her hair, and the article does say that their instincts were to allow the child to make the decisions — still, perhaps they struggled against those instincts for a number of years, wondering if, perhaps, what they were dealing with was an artifact of their own creation (or in which they at least had a hand) or a problem that needed correction.  Yet, if so, the struggle didn’t seem to survive their visit with a therapist…

“…who confirmed their instincts to let M. guide them.”

The world must be completely upside down. What were this person’s qualifications? ( Don’t tell me – he or she was probably credentialed by “all the best schools”…)  What kind of professional advisor would tell parents, “Well, I know you have the benefit of several decades of life experience, you possess rational, thinking, adult minds, and as adults you have the ability to project consequences into the far future so as to evaluate the wisdom of your choices; and I know that your three- or four-year-old child, assuming she is a normal three- or four-year-old child, probably doesn’t have enough sense to avoid the temptation to eat Elmer’s glue, to clean herself throughly after toileting, or even to consistently look both ways before crossing the street, and I know that she is utterly incapable of properly considering what consequences her choices might bring even a few days into the future, let alone the next seventy or eighty years.  So, in my judgment you should let her make all the decisions.  Really!  Let her guide you.  Ignore your experience and common sense and let her, in her childish ignorance, guide you.  Just keep feeding her, cleaning her, grooming her — all the things she can’t do for herself (I mean, come on — she’s only in pre-school!).  But leave all the life-altering decisions to her.”

When reading of this therapist’s “advice” I could not help but think, “O my people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).

I don’t know the size of the check M.’s parents wrote to the therapist that day, but it seems to me that the price they and M. will ultimately pay for that “advice” over the years to come will be terribly high.

Please don’t write and say that the issue isn’t choices and that it is a struggle to understand the girl’s “true identity.”  At that age, much of her identity is being shaped by choices — hers and, more importantly, her parents’.  And if there is some greater element that better justifies the parents’ horrific choices in this tale, then the Newsweek article did a poor job of illuminating them.

The last sentence is a kicker, in which the article’s author says of the Vincentes’ choice,

“That’s a big step for a family, but could be an even bigger one for the world.”

Forgive me if this is just my imagination, because I know statements like this technically may not be “approving” of the subject under discussion (after all, you could say that were Iran to begin production of nuclear missiles it would be a “big step for the world”).  But as value-neutral as a statement like that may seem to those who parse their details, in articles of this nature they do not come across as such.  This one comes across as approving of the Vincentes’ choices and as a subtle reprimand for the world — a comment that the world would be a much better place if we could all be so “noble.”

The world will, indeed, become a much better place one day, but not because of choices such as these.  It will be a better place because a better way is coming — a way that truly is noble — and it will be brought by the One who once referred to Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).  Stories like that of M. only make me hope all the more that it comes soon.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(P.S.  I thought of one more thing I wanted to comment on.  I find it interesting that many influenced by years of misguided social engineering want to convince us — against the findings of current research, by the way — that the major differences between males and females are due to sociological factors and not biological. Yet in this case, when a little girl avoids dolls and gravitates toward “boy things” during the first two years of life, it is taken as a sign of biological influence and not sociological. I suppose that the true influence must depend on which cause you are trying to peddle to the public at the time.)

15 thoughts on “Newsweek’s “Gender” Article and the Tragedy of “M”

  1. gls

    You make some very good points, which I, as a new parent of a 5-month-old (as of today), can certainly relate to.
    I think if all this had begun at age, say thirteen, I might have a different reaction. But your points about age and experience are on target. As a teacher who works with at-risk you, I encounter this issue daily: “You are fourteen. I am more than 20 years your elder. I have more experience than you. And so, when I say ‘Most people will take offense at what you said,’ I know what I’m talking about.”

  2. Deano

    Wow, puts a new light on Isaiah 3 doesn’t it?
    I will have to repeat it. Our educational system, from the schools to the “realm of the therapist” is ludicrous.
    Sad really. Just think … soon …

  3. Thanks, gls —

    [For the record, everyone, gls pointed out to me that I had written “two-year-old kids is ignorant” — the mistake is almost too funny to edit out, but edit it out I did. Thanks for the heads up!]

    Having taught at two programs for at-risk high schoolers myself, I can definitely say that your experience matches mine. Unfortunately, having taught several years of “honors class” high schoolers, also, I wish I could say that the disease is limited to those “at-risk”…

    (And congratulations on surviving the first five months!)

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  4. Even if this had started at age thirteen, there should be worries. I understand that too many teens are confused about their own sexuality. I seriously doubt that in most cases this has to do with biological predisposition either.

  5. One more thanks: to Mr. Wheeler for noticing that in my zeal to enact the needed correction noted by gls, I made another error, causing me to read like Tarzan’s diary. (“Two-year-old kids ignorant.”)

    The irony has not been lost on me that both errors were made in a sentence dealing with the ignorance of two-year-olds. 🙂

    Thanks, again!
    Wallace Smith

  6. Phil Sena

    I am only now catching up on your blog after a few weeks. All I can say is, “Reunited, and it feels so good!” 😉

  7. Howdy, Mr. Sena —

    Well, I’m glad you are back! And thank you so much for injecting that very unwanted song into my mind! As while I am humming the tune endlessly over and over for the next four to five hours, desperate to replace it with something else before I go mad, I will remember that I have you to thank.

    Don’t worry — I have a short memory… 🙂

    Regards,
    Wallace Smith

  8. Wolfgang E. B.

    You bring up some valid questions, and even I, a transsexual, have a little difficulty with the notion of making a firm diagnoses of transsexualism in a two-year-old. Childhood is a period of experimentation. My straight, non-trans brother went through a phase of wanting to try on women’s clothes, and I bounced back and forth between male and female expression myself until the age of twelve. prior to that, I sensed my transsexual nature as a feeling of being “different,” different from everyone else, wishing my body were male, and identifying with masculine images. But I had no language to express these feelings, and constantly tried to deny them within myself. I could never have said, “I’m a boy trapped in a girl’s body.” I said things like “I don’t want to make babies when I grow up” and “I don’t want to become someone’s wife” at the age of four, and “I’m different” was probably the first phrase to come out of my mouth. But it wasn’t until the onset of puberty that I began to rebel against all things feminine.

    I’m a little concerned that if parents “follow the lead” of a two-year-old, that child will feel pressered into a transsexual identity, which is just as bad as pressuring a child into any other identity. Children need to experiment and explore freely in order to find themselves. I understand the desire to spare a trans child the pain of growing up with a mismatched body, but I’m not sure there’s any way to accomplish that. Transsexualism is a birth defect, and as such it causes suffering, but there’s no escaping some suffering in life.

    A transsexual diagnoses becomes much more reliable at puberty, when hormone blockers should be introduced to prevent irreversible bodily changes. Also, this is a physical condition; our brains are wired to function optimally under the influence of the correct sex hormones. Imagine, Mr. Smith, that your brain was suddenly flooded with estrogen, considering the fact that the male brain is wired for emotion more than the female and that estrogen enhances emotion. Take it from a man who was born with a female body: it’s a living hell, and it’s absolutely imperative that transsexual teens get medical treatment.

    But a two-year-old–I don’t know. I’m trying to keep an open mind–just seems a bit early to be making a diagnoses, that’s all.

    Wolfgang

  9. Greetings, Wolfgang, and thanks for writing.

    While I’m sure we would disagree on many things, I appreciate your polite tone and the thoughtful expression of your ideas and experience. If that sounds condescending, I really do apologize – I simply want to say that your comment is a welcome contrast to the previous offering from McBeth above, and I want to point that out with my sincere thanks. While I will disagree below with a number of the things you say, I hope you will find the way I express my disagreement just as respectful and will forgive me when you don’t.

    The fact that you – given your life experience – also see something wrong with the case of young miss “M” may be an eye-opener for some. At least I hope it is, and I appreciate your comments in this regard.

    Concerning whether or not there may be physical causes to some of these things in at least some cases, I’d like to elaborate a little further. God tells us in Romans 8:20, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope…” The creation has been experiencing decay almost from day 1 (or, perhaps, almost from day 8, as it were), and I cannot imagine that – even in our healthiest states – we modern-day humans even come close to experiencing the robust health that Adam and Eve knew right after the creation. A time of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) is coming, but this sure isn’t it!

    Consequently, I can see the possibility of physical cause in some cases behind the feelings of confused sexual identification experienced by some individuals. (Note: I don’t like to distinguish between gender and sex, though I know it is very popular today to do so, so I will use the terms interchangeably.) Like I said in the post, I am no oncologist or expert in developmental physiology, and I will leave that debate to those who know more than I do. I definitely believe that much of the “transgender” sensations some individuals experience in this world are not due to physiology as much as they are due to sociology, environment, or lack of godly direction from parents who do not lovingly and knowledgably apply Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and Proverbs 22:6. Yet, I will not rule out the possibility that hormonal or other physical factors may play a part in some cases, even though I have not yet seen or read about strong evidence that this may be true. A sin-damaged world produces sin-damaged people.

    I agree with your comment that childhood is a period of experimentation. I believe that M.’s parents handled her desire to experiment very poorly. I gather that you believe their mistake was too early a “diagnosis.” Though I am limited to the facts given in the article, to me the parents played a very large (perhaps the chief) role in creating the very conditions that concerned them later by tragically mishandling their child’s natural inclination to experiment and push at boundaries.

    It is very natural for a child to experiment, and often that is a good thing. But I don’t agree that “children need to experiment and explore freely in order to find themselves” if that means experimenting in ways that God forbids out His loving care for us. (For example, God forbids the type of experimenting your brother did in Deuteronomy 22:5.) We wouldn’t let a child experiment by sticking a paper clip into an electrical outlet, because we know better. The child may kick and scream as we take the paper clip away, but he or she doesn’t know better. God, as the ultimate loving Parent and Guide, forbids us certain experiments, as well. He knows better, even when we can’t see it. While a paper clip in a socket produces immediate “results,” damage to our character, heart, and identity cause by poor choices happens immediately, but is often revealed slowly – just as a seed planted takes time to bear fruit. (“Oh, that was an avocado seed I planted way back when! I hate avocados…”)

    God certainly has designed within children a curiosity and a desire to experiment and discover things about the world – and about themselves – and that makes childhood a period in which godly guidance and direction is incredibly vital. Not all experiments should be undertaken, and the senses and feelings one experiences during such experimentation are not trustworthy teachers. Generally, sin is pleasurable (Heb. 11:25; Proverbs 20:17, 5:3-4, et al.), but that doesn’t change the fact that it is destructive – in the long term, if not the short or immediate. Living according to what “feels right to us” (cf. Judges 21:25) will inevitably lead us down a dangerous path that is ultimately harmful to us and to others.

    The role of parents as the shapers of children has been so tragically lost these days. Not that we can make their choices for them as they grow older (not at all), yet we’ve lost the idea that we are to be their greatest and most powerful influences during the time in which that influence is more crucial than most even imagine. We delegate that influence it to schools and to peers and to television and to entertainment and to the whims of the child himself or herself. When the Proverbs 29:15 says that “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother,” the rebuke is to the parents, not to the child. The child had been left to himself instead of receiving the powerful and loving direction he needed. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). Experimentation without firm and loving boundaries and guidance simply means abandoning a child to “ride the rapids” of the unmerciful “way that seems right.”

    You mention that “[t]ranssexualism is a birth defect, and as such it causes suffering, but there’s no escaping some suffering in life.” Again, I will avoid the “physical cause” issue, but I appreciate your observation. Too many refuse to acknowledge the unavoidable presence of suffering and believe in relieving that suffering at any cost. I do believe you that what you have been through is a “living hell,” and I wouldn’t dare make light of it. On the contrary, I am so sorry for the suffering that you have experienced, and stories like yours cause me to pray all the more passionately that God will send His Kingdom soon.

    As you might expect, we disagree as to what should be done about that suffering in the here and now. I believe that God does truly heal through the complete sacrifice of Christ – both spiritual sin through forgiveness upon repentance and, unless it contradicts His greater plan for us (e.g., 2 Cor. 12:7-10), our “subject to futility” bodies. I believe that the same Jesus Christ who walked this earth for 33½ years healing the blind, the lame, the mute, the leprous, and those with “all manners of disease” is just as capable today as He was 2,000 years ago (Heb. 13:8). For one who is truly willing with his or her whole heart to set self-will aside and look to the will and desires of God and to Christ as the true source of one’s identity, there is nothing God cannot do. Christ – the real Christ, and not the counterfeit Christs of this world’s “Christianities” – will one day bring such healing to the entire world (Isaiah 11:9), but to those whom the Father calls today and who respond to that calling, that healing is available now. It is a joy to know that is true, and to have personally seen it in action.

    Thanks, again, Wolfgang, for taking the time to write. I hope I have said the things I have in such a way that you will be open to considering them.

    Regards,
    Wallace Smith

  10. anonymous

    Wise words, Mr Smith on indeed a tricky subject of discussion for some! You give our buddy Wolfgang something to meditate on in the time to come.

  11. Wolfgang E. B.

    Thanks, and I appreciate your tone as well. In McBeth’s defense, I’m sure she’s come across her share of bible-thumping hate-mongers. Just a month or so ago, I wandered into a venomous snake pit where pseudo-Christian posters were discussing various killing methods to rid the world of my people. I kindly asked them what we had done to deserve such a fate, but I never got a response. Anyway, repeated exposure to those sorts tends to make us a bit bible-shy.

    You say that “the creation has been experiencing decay,” but I must pose the question: Is it decay or just continuing evolution that lends the illusion of decay? It is entirely possible that decay is occurring though. The unnatural toxins we’ve added to our environment have caused all manner of birth defects in wildlife, and it’s reasonable to assume they’ve had an impact on us as well. People are also marrying and having children later in life, when the DNA in their gametes has suffered decay, leading to a higher incidence of genetic defects. And we might even blame advancements in medical science that have enabled people to reproduce who probably shouldn’t. So even if we disagree on the cause of creation’s decay, perhaps we can find common ground in the speculation that such decay may be occurring.

    On the terminology of sex and gender, I think those words are problematic for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that their definitions are too broad. We haven’t yet come up with better ones to describe our experience. We might speak of soul and body instead, but most in the scientific community object to such language. It does, however, capture the essence of my experience, because I never felt like my soul was fully within my body. The two have always been in conflict. As a result, my entire worldview has been shaped by dualist philosophy, that the soul is an eternal entity unto itself and the body is just a vehicle for it to interact with the world. Does the soul have a gender? That too is my experience. After 37 years of constant contradiction, my soul remained intact and was finally able to assert his true nature.

    Deuteronomy 22:5: Most biblical scholars who have analyzed that verse, in light of more detailed versions from Jewish sources, have concluded that it meant “The woman shall not wear men’s clothing for the purpose of entering the temple (as women were considered unclean due to the menstrual cycle and thus weren’t allowed in the temple), and a man shall not wear women’s clothing in order to enter a woman’s tent with mischievous intention.” The passage has nothing to do with transsexuals. There are references to us in the bible though.

    Eunuch’s were often effiminate men who had undergone voluntary castration, the only sort of medical treatment available to transwomen of the time. All of the ancient Mediterranean cultures generally held them in high regard. They wore women’s garb, and wealthy men with harems sometimes employed them to care for their wives. Jesus seems to idealize them in Matthew 19:12.

    And there’s something I hope you’ll consider.

    Wolfgang

  12. Thanks, again, Wolfgang, for your response.

    And thanks for your defense of McBeth. While I understand being “Bible-shy,” especially after begin exposed to its abuse, obviously I can’t condone abusive behavior in response.

    I also appreciate your comments about the interpretations of Scripture and history to which you have been exposed, but before I get to that let me comment on your “world in decay” statement.

    According to Scripture, the world is certainly not experiencing a continuing “evolution” if that word is taken to mean progress toward a higher and better place. Romans 8:20-21 make it pretty clear that what we see is a world subject to futility and corruption and that the decay will not cease (let alone reverse) until the revelation of the literal Children of God at the first resurrection. Beginning at that time, the world will begin to be restored to the state God intended (Acts 3:21), as Christ and the saints rule over the world and help all mankind to live to fulfill its intended purpose and destiny and to enter the family of God.

    And it does not look like we would disagree about the cause of the world’s decay. You are absolutely right about the toxins that man has introduced into the world and the effects that they are surely having on us. They are a part of the sin that continues to corrupt the world, for which Christ will one day soon bring punishment when he comes to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18).

    As for a “soul/body duality,” I, too, began to formulate such a belief as a very young man until I began learning God’s truth. God reveals in Scripture that we do not have a so-called “eternal soul” and that, rather, the soul – that spark of life in the flesh – can be extinguished and die (Ezek. 18:20, et al). Someone who feels a “distinction” or a “mismatch” between the identity of the soul and that of his or her body may be suffering from the consequence of social misdevelopment, the cumulative effects of sin, or physically generated aberrations, but it is not truly because there is an “eternal soul” that somehow does not match the body. As an analogy (a poor one, perhaps), I would offer those suffering from alien hand syndrome. The hand may seem like it is not a part of their body, and its uncontrollable behavior may have true physical causes, but that hand is a part of the same body, just as much as the other hand is. Those who so suffer do not need to find the “right identity” for the “alien hand” – they need to be healed of their condition and restored.

    Thanks for commenting on Deuteronomy 22:5, although I must disagree with your statement. “Most” biblical scholars do not draw such a conclusion, although some may. Even those I’ve seen who lean toward such an interpretation of the Hebrew words do not exclude from the meaning a generalized principle, as a radical limitation to the phrasing you have given would suggest. Keil & Delitzsch offer an explanation of the verse that fits in best with the surrounding context, and they state that the generalized principle of those who would interpret the Hebrew (too) narrowly is, in actuality, the directly expressed meaning of the words involved.

    In any case, scholars who interpret the verse to mean that only the most limited of “garb exchanges” are prohibited by Scripture are few and they are generally “agenda-motivated” in their understanding. Radical reinterpretation of many clear scriptures has been put forward by those who would wish to lessen the demands that God makes of us, especially in the arena of sexuality.

    The fact is that the context of Deuteronomy 22:5 (read the whole chapter) is generally principles for life and everyday living (part of what makes the Keil & Delitzsch commentary on the verse so much more likely to be accurate). Your brother did sin in his “experimentation” and it is a sort of sin with the potential to warp one’s sense of identity. (I believe that you said he avoided such warping, and if so then I am happy for him.) The views of a minority of liberal theologians who wish to redefine scripture to fit “modern morality” do not change the actual meaning of the text, any more than I can change what Harper Lee intended to say by reinterpreting “To Kill a Mockingbird” to suit my own tastes. Yes, the Bible is alive and living (Heb. 4:12) – but not in the sense that some liberal scholars say the U.S. Constitution is “living” and, therefore, changeable. Rather, it is alive because its Author is still alive, and He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Those “scholars” who decide they have the ability to change what He says will find that one day He will decide to “have words” with them… (Deut. 12:32)

    [Also, there are no “more detailed versions” since the Hebrew text from which most Bible translators translate that verse has been accepted for millennia. Even the few variants do not vary in anything more than minutia here. There may be other non-inspired “Rabbinic sources,” perhaps, but they are as subject to fault as their human authors. God and His word have no fault.]

    Also, I have to say that your understanding of the history behind eunuchs is also incomplete (or, at best, represents an overgeneralization of some specific instances). I will agree that they were often held in high regard in *some* ways (and in very *low* regard in other ways) by many Mediterranean cultures, but it was because of the positions they were appointed to hold and the “safety” that their castration was thought to bring to their service, not the mere fact of heir mutilation. This is because as a physical eunuch, you could produce no competing heirs to the throne or dynasty, and many kings of the Gentiles helped to ensure the safety of their family rule in this cruel manner. Also, it reduced the possible repercussions of the execution of a high ranking advisor, since there would be no family desirous for vengeance and eunuchs (apart from their positions) were considered of little social value. There was generally no call by the king for volunteers who “deep down” believed they were women – it was a role imposed upon others to fit the perceived needs of the king’s administration. As the very informative Wikipedia entry on “eunuch” states: Eunuchs were believed loyal and dispensable. (In the same article, the Indian Hijra comes the closest to matching your description of historical eunuchs – the tales of other cultures generally contradict that description.)

    Could there be some few exceptions and some individuals who welcomed the “eunuchizing” procedure? Perhaps – people are an odd lot! But if so, these were, without doubt, a small minority of eunuchs. Given the evidence we have to date, saying anything else is revisionist history. (The same goes for eunuchs wearing women’s clothing — some specific instances in some cultures cannot be generalized to all cultures, and the eunuchs of the Mediterranean world did not generally wear women’s garb.)

    In the Biblical book bearing his name, we read that Daniel may have been made a eunuch during the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. We also read that Daniel risked his life in order to keep God’s laws of clean and unclean meats. Given the fact of such devotion ot the Scriptures, it is nonsensical to think then that he would voluntarily sin in the fashion of Deuteronomy 22:5 or that he would wish to voluntarily exclude himself from the congregation as dictated by Deuteronomy 23:1. If he were, indeed, made a eunuch (as opposed to simply a “palace official” which some argue that the Hebrew can indicate), we can deduce from his words and actions that he was forced to undergo the procedure.

    Actually, trying to use Matthew 19:12 to justify the mutilation of the body also represents a regrettable twist of the Scriptures by scholars who take God’s word too lightly or who cannot divide it rightly. Jesus, in *all* instances, upheld and promoted the laws of His Father as recorded in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 5:19), and those laws clearly forbid self-mutilation. Since Jesus was not contradicting Scripture (indeed, He believed there were no contradictions in the Truth, John 10:35), He was speaking here (in the third instance) of being a eunuch in practice – that is, foregoing the building of a family. The apostle Paul was such an example. Paul was not physically mutilated, as his access to the temple and membership in the congregation clearly indicate, yet having no physical family and producing no physical heirs he was, essentially, a eunuch in practice, completely devoted to His arduous travels preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the things pertaining to Jesus Christ. Some twisted so-called “church fathers” (such as Origin) aside, the understanding of Matthew 19:12 is clear to those who don’t throw away the Old Testament as so many supposedly “Christian scholars” do.

    I’ve enjoyed our exchange very much and I hope you’ve found it helpful. Further public discussion along these lines would probably go beyond the purpose of this blog (per my Comment Policy), but I do not wish to cut off communication if you would like to talk further. If you do, you can use the comment box to send me a message and rather than publish it, I will respond personally in e-mail. Thanks for participating!

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  13. Just a thought, on the off-chance that Wolfgang and Lily see this…

    What have people in your situation done to deserve the death penalty? The same thing every other human being (save one) has done: broken some aspect of God’s spiritual law. But some people want to apply the Old Covenant’s dispensation of death — which is a necessary evil for a carnal society — when the New Covenant’s dispensation of grace (upon repentance and faith) would serve much better.

    “For the law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The latter doesn’t do away with the former; it adds to the former and makes the ultimate obedience to the former possible.

    Some people having God’s law, grace and truth — myself included — nevertheless will have to struggle with our past choices and even our biological predispositions (again, myself included in both cases) for the rest of our mortal lives. The point is, we *struggle* against them. We don’t deny the validity of God’s law simply because our human nature is even more dead-set than usual against obeying some part of it. Rather, we rely on God’s grace to ultimately save us, meanwhile reminding ourselves that Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness.

    I hope and pray that this is helpful.

  14. AllyM

    I was born a female, and “still be one” – although I’ve spent most of my life doing things that bored most girls. I didn’t think it was anything unusual to play with my brothers’ matchbox cars, or to stand in awe at the sight of a really fine gun. As a little kid, I had the chance to “drive” those little cars that kids sit in, peddle the “engine” and drive it around with a real steering wheel. I loved the technology of it – seeing the car move around to my command. As a young adult, I would often take off on my Dad’s motorcycle.

    My parents left me to myself with these things, and there was absolutely nothing in my entire world that suggested that my choices in life proved I was anything but a girl – until in my teens, when I did finally start wondering about it. I thought maybe I was “different” in some way. I was a teen in the 60’s, so it may be easy to see that those were the years of “beginning awareness” of things such as transgender identity. So in my case, the influence of society did have an impact on my thoughts. In the 50’s, people just didn’t talk about things like that, but all that changed starting in the 60’s, so here I was in a society now filled with knowledge about things that frightened me. Thank God I survived that period in my life, and grew up to be a woman with no doubts about who I was. So I can identify and empathize with others who have doubts.

    As a kid, I had dolls, but looking back, I can see that I was really drawn to mechanical things. At family reunions, I got bored being in the kitchen listening to the women talk about babies and diapers so I went into the living room where the men talked about everything from sports to space exploration to politics. Over the years, I’ve done many things – in employment or not – that included the use of machines of one kind or another. I got my first calculator – but MY calculator had THREE different memories! I just couldn’t understand why other people weren’t as enamored by this miracle of technology as I was. Then I finally got into computers. Oh, was I in technological/mechanical heaven. My calculator now sits in my desk drawer because now I use Excel to do “figuring”. I have run a fun gamut of machine use, including floor buffers up to the high-speed burnishers, and floor scrubbers twice the size of a golf cart. I’ve navigated farm tractors around fields and taught myself to drive a stick shift. Any time I get a chance to see someone’s gun or knife collection, I take it. I know how to use a gun (watch out, Dirty Harry) and am a pretty good shot.

    When I met my husband, the first time he came to visit me, he brought me a live plant. I politely thanked him and wondered how long it would take me to kill it. On his second visit, he brought me a box of chocolates, for which I thanked him and told him not to do that again. On his third visit, he brought me a Swiss Army knife. At the sight of this – (drum roll here) – I squealed in delight – just like a girl.

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