Crossing the Wires

Recently my state, Rhode Island, became the second in the nation to ban discrimination against people who have employed surgery and massive doses of hormones to form upon their bodies parodies of the sex God saw fit not to give them. Justices in California, meanwhile, overruling the little wards of that state (once upon a time called “free people”), have exercised their divine right and decreed that couples who do not possess the wherewithal to marry shall do so anyway.

Not to be outdone — and knowing full well that to allow homosexual “marriage,” biologically absurd and a new thing in the history of mankind, one must of course accept polygamy, biologically feasible and very old indeed — the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has argued that it is time to let “polyamorists” fling the doors of the boudoir wide open, come one, come all. For a Canadian court, though, even a three-way marriage vow equipped with adapters is too onerous for people looking for quick kicks. It is unconstitutional, the court intoned, to shut down a public swingers’ club merely on the grounds of “moral taste,” rather than for proven “harm.”

The irrational tics of taste are what sexual activity is all about, according to a British text handed out to schoolchildren, wherein they are to learn that some people enjoy, well, what used to be called “buggery,” and some people don’t, just as some people enjoy “ham and cheese sarnies” and some people don’t. From Ferdinand and Miranda to this.

And what is my Church doing to drive back the barbarians? Hard to tell. If you’re at one of the local Catholic high schools here in Rhode Island, you’re being enrolled on the other side, but slyly, and without your clear consent. According to the book Building Your Own Conscience by Rev. William O’Malley, S.J. — a popular high school text for pretended moral catechesis — the only objective difference between males and females is genital. That’s it. Father O’Malley has never been to a neuropsychology lab, or to a criminal forensics lab. Or to a choir, a beach, a dugout — you name it. His book consistently (and cruelly) scoffs at the beauty of traditional manhood and womanhood, especially manhood, and perversely argues that you can’t really be a man or a woman until you have developed the inner woman or man.
The ideal, though many people (especially boys and men) will be too blockheaded to see it, is androgyny. So Father O’Malley quotes with approval the warrioress against boys, Carol Gilligan, and the despiser of housewives, Simone Beauvoir. The whole sexual order was collapsing around him back in the Seventies, and what does he single out for execration? What hurt the family worst of all? Not no-fault divorce, not a culture of fornication. Not hedonism, not the new mechanization of sex. No, it was The Waltons — that odd mix of nostalgia, family duty, and treacly liberalism.
But I shouldn’t focus on one bad book. When you are being routed from the battlefield, an extra deserter here and there doesn’t make much difference. Where, in the midst of all this confusion, does the Church raise her clear voice in defense not simply of man’s supernatural end, but of the holiness of our created nature as man and woman, made for one another? I’m not speaking now of the valiant popes, but of the rest of us, pastors, teachers, catechists, fathers, and mothers. Do we even know what is at stake here?
It is not just a matter of providing “rights” to a few people with their sexual wires crossed. It is a matter of defending what it is to be human, against those who would unmoor man from both his physical nature and God, leaving him helpless on both sides. Man shall be his own god, whisper the serpents, building his own conscience. But that makes it all the easier for him to slide back into the animal, while his “tastes” are managed by an elite corps of technocrats and social workers, changing his diapers from womb to tomb. Trusting to soar above his nature, he will sink lower than ever, and when his freedoms are taken away one by one, he will have no name of God to invoke against his tyrannical helpers.
We have now not even the severe pagan philosophies of Greece and Rome to assist us; education has seen to that. We will reject our sexes, design ourselves, plot out our offspring, even hybridize them for commercial or medical or economic purposes, and, strutting like little gods, demote ourselves in the very act of “transcending” nature, becoming tools and products, petty, absurd, programmed, obsolete.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Zoe

    We have now not even the severe pagan philosophies of Greece and Rome to assist us; education has seen to that. We will reject our sexes, design ourselves, plot out our offspring, even hybridize them for commercial or medical or economic purposes, and, strutting like little gods, demote ourselves in the very act of “transcending” nature, becoming tools and products, petty, absurd, programmed, obsolete.

    Wow, what a paragraph. Thanks for another excellent piece of writing. And a powerful articulation of the scary direction in which we’re heading.

  • James Pawlak

    Does this movement now mean that Molly and I/me can go to certain select, “progressive”, states and get married? (Molly is a sheep who once was a ram before sex change therapy)

  • Scott Johnston

    Someone wrote: The ideal, though many people (especially boys and men) will be too blockheaded to see it, is androgyny.

    Yes. This reminds me of why I thought Mel Gibson’s depiction of satan in The Passion of The Christ was one of the most inspired aspects of the film. The satan figure did not appear as a hideous monster or imposing demon–but an androgynous human-looking being holding a strangely formed child.

    How better to manifest the depths of the demonic realm’s war on humanity than simply to depict satan as a human form who is a non-man/non-woman–neither fully male nor female?
    Of course! It makes sense that this is what satan would do. It mocks and inverts the most poignant aspect of man’s being created in the image and likeness of God: the complementarity and generativity of spousal love.

    Man and woman were created in God’s image–male and female He created them (Gn 1:27). By sexual union within marriage and the birth of offspring men and women become co-workers with God in a magnificent way. Through spousal love and parenthood they image, if only in a dim way, the interior life of the three persons in God–endlessly generative and self-giving.

    As a man and a woman, in natural male-female marital union and bringing forth new life into the world symbolize, in the flesh, the eternal nature of God–so too, does a solitary androgynous humanoid present in a radical way an anti-image of God’s nature.

    A singular figure, human-like except for being devoid of the complementary nature of sexually differentiated man and woman (and thus by nature incapable of bringing forth children), it seems to me, is a powerful symbol of complete hatred of God and His creation straight out of hell. Even a monster might be male or female. But a creature with no gender cannot symbolize the inherently relational, interpersonal love that bears fruit in a child. Such a creature turns this completely on its head. This twisted symbol is a solitary individual who by nature has no meaningful relationship to another–only relates to itself and is closed in upon itself–and who thus is eternally sterile. Place a deformed child in this creature’s arms and have it stroke the child in mock affection, and the living icon of satan the anti-god is complete.

    In light of this article, and picking up on Gibson’s portrayal of satan as a gender-obliterated androgyne, we ought not look with tepid indifference upon cultural forces that would have teenage kids prefer angrogyny to traditional masculinity and femininity. Perhaps, instead, we should recognize such influences as an attempt by the forces of hell to transform children into nothing other than living icons of satan himself; the one who is the ultimate non-spouse, who says, “I will never give myself to another.”

  • Nathan Cushman


    I think I agree with the majority of what you said, but I wonder what this says about hermaphrodites?

    There is a rare condition where someone is called a “true hermaphrodite.” I believe this occurs if someone has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. I imagine this makes it hard to form a proper identity (heck, it’s hard enough when you are a proper sex).

    Of course this is a disorder, and should be seen as such, rather than being a model for those who are normally formed. This is like any disorder (being too thin, too fat, having gigantism or being a dwarf, having acne, etc.) in that the person is still seen as being of equal value and equally worthy of love, but the disorder shouldn’t be made into a false ideal (e.g. I’m considered underweight, and I would hate to find out men or women were becoming anorexic to try to be as skinny as me. That would be an unhealthy, and false ideal).

    But I wonder if we might want to be careful about calling the androgynous “living icons of satan himself.”

    I’m sure you didn’t mean it was sinful to be born androgynous, just that it is sinful to castrate oneself (physically or mentally) in order to meet one’s disordered views of the world.

    I just keep wondering where someone forced into that situation by their genetics fits into the plan? Is it perhaps part of what Jesus meant when He said some would be born eunuchs? Does anyone know whether the Church considers them male or female? Does the Y chromosome make them count as male even though two X’s normally make a female?

  • Scott Johnston

    Nathan, you raise a good point.

    In my remarks I had in mind especially the deliberate nature of satan’s appearance in Gibson’s film–that is, deliberately chosen by satan, himself, to appear that way, as gender-obliterated.

    Of course, satan, being a fallen angel, is a spiritual creature only and not corporeal. So, any appearance of having a body would not involve real material stuff, but some sort of an apparition designed intentionally by satan to appear with a certain form.

    For a human being to possibly be a “living icon of satan,” along the lines of what I wrote above, a couple conditions at least would have to be in place. First, the androgynous appearance would have to be something pursued and aimed at intentionally–not a coincidence or an unfortunate lot of nature. It is chosen. And second, the reason for this intentional pursuit of a genderless appearance would have to include an understanding that if you succeed you will indeed confuse people specifically about your true gender and seem to others neither clearly male nor female. And this confusion is desired.

    For example, one might want to look androgynous simply because some model looks that way and you want to be cool like him or her. Although the desired object here would be to appear like the androgynous model, the pursuit of coolness as such (as defined by someone else’s appearance whatever it may be), not the appearance itself of being without a clear gender, would be the understanding accompanying the choice to look a certain way. So, in this example, condition one is met but not condition two.

    I say this because androgyny would serve satan’s mockery of humanity only if he wanted to be seen specifically as neither male nor female. And by this he specifically desires to invert man’s imaging of God by removing that which enables man to powerfully do so–the ability to procreate (which requires being male and female).

    And so a kid who simply looks androgynous by nature without wanting to be so does not meet the requirements. And a kid who wants this but has reasons other than to be seen specifically as genderless, also does not meet the requirements.

    Satan successfully recruits icons of himself (diminishing their natural role as icons of God), if he gets people to desire genderless appearance for its own sake, and in fact to achieve such appearance in practice through changes they make to themselves for the sake of attaining it.

    Hermaphroditism would not meet either condition.

  • Scott Johnston

    What I said in comment 3 above about kids preferring androgyny to masculinity or femininity would indicate traveling a path to satanic living iconography if it were in a context of meeting both conditions (intending a genderless appearance, and intending it for its own sake rather than some other reason like being cool). If such a desire were successfully cultivated in kids, they would begin to invert the body’s natural iconography of being an image of God, and start to let their body become, rather, a symbol of something sterile, confused, turned in upon itself, and incapable of fruitful self-giving to another. But this can’t happen accidentally or because of an unfortunate defect of nature.

    And, I would hesitate to call even desired androgyny meeting conditions one and two above a sin. Our bodies symbolize spiritual realities whether we are aware of this or not. And our choices about our physical appearance impact this symbolism.

    I wouldn’t recommend going around calling anyone a living icon of satan. Just trying to suggest a train of thought about the possible consequences for the symbolism of the body if we don’t pay attention to forces influencing kids (and others) in this regard.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    Mr. Esolen has neatly summed up the state of thinking here in CA: “We will reject our sexes, design ourselves, plot out our offspring, even hybridize them for commercial or medical or economic purposes, and, strutting like little gods, demote ourselves in the very act of “transcending” nature, becoming tools and products, petty, absurd, programmed, obsolete.” Little gods, though, have no awareness that they are descending, spinning with the vertigo that accompanies acts of being a god. In fact, most people swept in this flow have no true sense of up and down remaining ~ they are chronically dizzy and uncertain. The typical response I get from my friends as I project out their thinking into the future facts of daily life is “Marjorie, you are an alarmist. That will never happen!” ~ frequently asserted just as the news reports, for example, that a surgically-created male expects a baby in the womb he told the doctors not to extract “just in case”. Here, my friends get disoriented and say “well, that’s just an oddball.” Oddball, indeed. That’s where faithful, fearless Catholics come in: we don’t mind being alarmist, out of step, oppositional and repetitive, because we about bearing witness to the Truth with our very lives and our steadying awareness that the Truth works for everyone – there are no oddballs. I suspect orthodox Catholics will look increasingly like a cult in the years ahead. But we offer an enclave of sanity to everyone, as the Truth dawns person by person. We are Thy Kingdom Come ~ and for those of us who have lived in the human-as-tool-and-product environment, it is not only a relief to live in the Truth, it’s a thrill that’s easy to share and witness.

  • Nathan Cushman

    Thanks for your reply, Scott.

    It’s pretty much what I thought you meant. I didn’t believe in the slightest that you were accusing people born with such a disorder of some evil (not to say the confusion caused by the disorder couldn’t lead the person into sin). I just wanted that one point clarified, mostly so nobody else would misconstrue what you wrote.

    I still wonder if anyone knows whether someone with two X chromosomes and one Y (XXY) is considered male or female by the church?