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The Science (and Non-Science) on Transitioning: The Cass Report

Updated: May 3

"The Science Is Settled," GLAAD and other groups have vehemently declared about gender transitioning. But it isn't—or, at least, not the way they think it is.


The Cass Report is out in Great Britain, a massive and authoritative literature review and policy paper. It is devastating in its implications for so many in our cultural elites: bien-pensant media, for sure, as well as school boards, medical colleges, and others who have run far ahead of the actual social and medical science on transitioning.

John G. Stackhouse, Jr. theologian, historian and ethicist on The Cass Report

H/T to Andrew Sullivan (of all people) who, as a gay activist himself, bemoans what he sees as "conversion therapy" of a particularly extreme sort. Since 80 per cent of those transitioning are homosexual, he says, transitioning amounts to "normalizing" gay and lesbian youth by changing their bodies.


If it seems startling to hear such a critique from such a source, it shouldn't be. Once again, the easy progressivism of too many politicians, educational leaders, medical authorities and others collides with itself: not only a feminist (such as J. K. Rowling) but a gay champion (such as Andrew Sullivan) is asking for calm and deliberate good sense in a vexed field in which much is asserted and relatively little can be proven. And that won't sit well with many trans activists and their allies.


I myself am a casualty in this culture war. Not long ago, I was up for a major chair in a theological seminary you have heard of. I wrote a single op-ed (actually, an advisory piece for the Vancouver School Board) mildly suggesting that their policies not run ahead of the scientists who were arguing over the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the Bible of psychotherapy. Best to care sensitively for everyone involved, trans kids alongside everyone else—not least because all kids have body and sex issues!—and await firm findings from the experts.


My inside sources at Big-Time Seminary reported to me that because of this one article, I was dropped from being the leading candidate for this chair. A single member of the search committee said, "So Stackhouse is saying, 'Go slow on my human rights,'" and the rest of the search committee apparently abandoned common sense and caved.


It hasn't been the only time I've experienced institutional stupidity and cravenness. But today let's focus on The Cass Report and on the judicious and charitable application of its findings to those who have suffered far more than I have: kids and their parents dealing with the struggles of same-sex attraction and, in rare cases, genuine gender dysphoria. We need all the wisdom and all the kindness we can muster to help such neighbours with the best policies and resources we can offer. Here's hoping the Church can be more wise and more kind than those campaigning so loudly on either end of the general debate. And such wisdom and kindness will start with knowing what we're talking about. (Prof. Mark Yarhouse of Wheaton College is a notably good resource for Christians on these issues.)


Here's the British Medical Journal's editorial about The Cass Report—and the dreadful non-science that has preceded it: https://www.bmj.com/content/385/bmj.q837


 
Speaking of controversies...
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"I know of no other book that explains so clearly, with so lively a pen, and with such economy the various intellectual currents that are now disturbing our cultural peace. What is even rarer is that the author grinds no axes, treating both sides of the culture wars with thoughtful charity and a deeply Christian intelligence. 'Woke' has important things to say and it does so in a highly readable manner."

— Nigel Biggar, Ph.D., Regius Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, University of Oxford

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