In this entry I want to step away from my personal life a bit and cast a critical eye over some of the goings on in the LGBT community. Let’s start with Jeffrey John, the current Dean of Southwark.
Whether you are Christian, of another faith or none, I am sure the name Jeffrey John will be familiar to you. He was the candidate who was passed over at the eleventh hour for the vacant Bishopric in the See of Reading, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Head of the Church of England came under immense pressure from the evangelical, right-wing of the Church not to let the appointment go ahead.
Now back in the day in a last ditch attempt to fit in with society, I went to an evangelical Church in Oxford. I remember then the clergy airing their disappointment to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
More details of my time in this environment can be found in the book Trans/Formations. The book is edited by Professor Lisa Isherwood and Marcella Althaus-Reid (posthumously) of the University of Winchester. It is published by SCM Press.
But imagine my surprise when my memories of this were re-ignited by this piece in the Daily Mail, of all the bizzare places for it to be.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2089702/Dr-Jeffrey-John-Will-gay-Dean-Jennifer-chaplain-boyfriend-tear-Church-apart.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2086720/Ill-sue-Church-England-bars-bishop-says-The-Very-Rev-Jeffrey-John-Dean-St-Albans.html
Now these articles make me sad. They outline very neatly the facts of the situation, so I am not going to get into a lengthly, tedious repetition of them here. They make me sad for three reasons, firstly because of the amount of time that has elapsed since the first controversy in Oxford, secondly, because it is suggested in the article that Jeffrey John has taken legal advice to force the Church’s hand and thirdly, because it is hypocritical.
Firstly time. Now it is said that time is a healer, and time brings progress, but sadly for the Church of England, it is still stuck in the same time warp it has always been in. The two sides, the liberals and the fundamentalists have become eternally engaged in a game of one upmanship, continually trying to prove or disprove their own arguments, and those of their opposition.
Now fundamentalists will argue that anyone who supports the ordination of gay clergy is a heretic. Just to be clear I do support this so if this offends you, challenge me with a comment.
The fact is, Jeffrey is doing nothing which contradicts the Church’s own guidance. He is living with his partner but not engaging in intercourse. To be clear, I don’t think that morphing into a plant should be a pre-requisite for gay clergy, I am just stating that Dr John has not subverted the Church of England’s own guidance.
Secondly, the issue of legal advice. I understand that Dr John may wish to mount a case for his own reasons, but being an emotional woman, I am sad, nay, disgusted that he has to. Common human decency should prevail here. If he was excluded on the grounds of race or disability there would be an uproar. But why oh why oh WHY is discrimination and othering of the gay community the last acceptable taboo?
If Dr John wanted to apply for a vacancy at a bank or in a school, and they discriminated against him on the grounds of sexuality, they’d be hauled before an employment tribunal, and rightly so. Therefore it should be no different here. It ought to be remembered that humans have feelings.
Thirdly, hypocrisy. The fundamentalists will claim that homosexual practices are a violation of God’s law. However, it is left to humans to interpret this law. People will know also that not all Christians hate gays. Therefore it is a fallacy to present it as a fait a compli.
I hope Dr John wins his tribunal and debunks the myth that the evangelical right wing Church has a legitimate Biblically based excuse for homophobia. Jesus loves gays. It is the evangelical right-wing of the church that hates them.
Now on to my next juxtaposition.
Imagine my delight when I came across this revelation in the Daily Mail;
“NHS has paid for ‘gender-confused’ children to have puberty-delaying jabs… so they can have sex changes when they’re older”
I’d be writing irresponsibly if I did not point out that for some people, gender dysphoria is something they do grow out of, and that all children sometimes go through curious phrases regarding gender. It is an integral and necessary part of child development.
But let me just leave this thought rhetorically dangling in your head for a bit? What about the rest? I will come back to it though.
But before delving into the substance of the issue. I want to turn to the headline. I will talk about how I feel about the use of the words “gender confused” in a bit. However, let me turn now to the layout of the headline.
Do not worry it will not be a long boring exposition of newspaper headlines. I am going to re-write the headline and miss something out.
“NHS has paid for ‘gender-confused’ children to have puberty-delaying jabs so they can have sex changes when they’re older”
Have you noticed what I have omitted? Not the words, nor the single quote marks around gender confused. I have omitted the ellipses, the small dots in between the word jabs, and the word so.
Why? I believe it changes. the meaning of the sentence. The headline is one that is really meant to be spoken not heard. The ellipses were there to denote a pause. In this case, I believe the Daily Mail wants its readership to be disgusted and incensed by the revelation that the NHS is spending its money in this way, almost like covering the headline up and saying “wait a minute, there’s more”, encouraging a shock, mock, faux hysteria amongst its readership.
Well Daily Mail I’ve news for you. IT DID NOT WORK ON ME!!
You see if you remove the ellipses, the idea of providing injections for transsexual children seems as rational and necessary as flu jabs for the elderly.
Charlie, the boy mentioned in the article seems to have benefited enormously and this is only a trial, not blanket NHS policy. No need for hysteria or shock tactics.
The policy may promote better outcomes for transsexual young people as well. It is not a mental health issue and transsexuals are not mentally ill. Clinical evidence shows that gender dysphoria begins when very young, and such measures may help to catch those who need help, and bring them under the medical and clincal radar earlier.
But let me give you a shocker of my own. The National Mental Health Development Unit who are responsible for the co-ordination and implementation of mental health policy across the UK found in a recent study that 34% of adult transsexuals had attempted suicide. That is a sobering statistic. It is more than one in three people in the adult transsexual population. That statistic should shock us and disgust us. But, trying to be positive it should galvanize us be a call to arms for the LGBT community as a collective whole to play its part in bringing that number down.
I find the term gender confused gravely insulting. As the DM would have it, the children in the study are acting on a whim, a notion that can be blown away in a puff of smoke. It is not a whim to feel that you are born in the wrong body.
Granted, it is not something many people feel, but my own childhood was painful, and the feeling of being born in the wrong body is extremely painful for those who do experience it.
I do not recognise the feeling of being gender confused as a child. I do though, recognise the pervasive, and unrelenting nature of being gender unhappy, particularly at puberty, and when my tutor at school told me I should spend more time with girls.
There is also the case in Germany where a girl is facing institutionalisation just for being herself. Very very sad, and covered in detail across the blogosphere.
So to conclude, there is a disconnect between what some who claim to be moral guardians thing, what a right wing tabloid thinks and what the LGBT Community at large thinks.
I would see Jeffrey John’s elevation to the Bishopric as a positive step. It would be a morning star for other LGBT Christians and a beacon of hope. It would give them a voice in a postmodern church that is still wonderfully arcane.
I would see giving hormone injections to young transsexuals as a positive step, after rigourous screening to rule out other mental health complications. It would save them the heartache and pain of past generations, and raise up a new, empowered young TS male and female population.
However, the juxtapositions here are not based on what I think, they are based on what some sections of society think, and until such time as they catch up with us, it is best to remember this adage.
“United we stand, divided we fall”