Posts Tagged ‘Pope’

OK, OK (You Can Use a Condom, If and Only If…)

November 21st, 2010 No comments

The Pope has moved a teensy bit closer to sanity, recognizing that there are cases where condom use might be part of a strategy to reduce the incidence of STDS:

Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable “in certain cases”, notably to reduce the risk of HIV infection, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.

In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether “the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms.”

“It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution,” the pope replies.

“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality,” said the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.

It’s a step, but an even smaller one than first appears. Male prostitutes don’t seem especially likely to listen to the Pope. Catholics who are married or in long-term relationships might be swayed, but the advice doesn’t apply to them — at least not clearly. It still seems as though the opposition to birth control trumps all, even a commitment to basic public health.

Rod Dreher’s “Trans”gression

July 31st, 2009 2 comments

I read Rod Dreher’s blog from time to time. Often I find his brand of religious conservatism both thoughtful and provocative. But then he posted this inanity:

If we accept that people who claim that they need to have sex reassignment surgery to make their bodies conform to who they believe they truly are, then on what basis do we deny people who claim that they need to have one or more limbs amputated to feel whole their moral and/or legal right to the desired surgery?

[W]e as a society have decided that someone who believes himself in need of amputation to feel whole is in some real sense mentally disturbed. But we do not believe…that someone who believes they will not be whole unless they have surgery to remove or rearrange their genitalia is mentally disturbed.

What’s the difference? Isn’t this moral distinction really just a political one? If you are a hard-core libertarian, you will say that personal autonomy trumps all, and that we have no real reason to deny the wannabe amputee his desire. But I don’t think most people would be comfortable granting an ethical imprimatur to the putative amputee. So how do you deny the amputee his request for surgery, even as you accept that it’s at least ethically possible to sign off on the requested operation of the aspiring transsexual?

I’m not asking to start a fight; I really want to know what people think. The crux of the moral issue is the extent to which personal autonomy should govern bioethical decisions like this. Let’s talk about this like grown-ups, shall we?

No, let’s not. It’s so obviously ridiculous that Andrew Sullivan could only bring himself to “sigh.” This outraged Dreher, who then wrote:

I get sick of this kind of juvenile fusspot response whenever anyone tries to discuss the moral aspects of issues having to do with sexuality. You know, the “How dare you compare [thing I approve of] to [thing you disapprove of]!?!” As if how dare you were any sort of argument.

I didn’t read the “sigh” as “how dare you,” but more as “there are so many things wrong with this attempted comparison that I don’t have the time or energy to respond.” I was going to tear into this (who knows why?), but then I saw that one of Dreher’s readers did it for me, and better than I could have. Here is one “Kenneth’s” response:

Likening gender dysmorphia to people with amputation fetishes hits the ear like the absurd hate speech of the bigots who say gay marriage is on the same plane as bestiality or child abuse. [M]any conservatives, including the pope, seem to think transgender people put themselves through all that as some sort of decadent new-age kink. As to the original question, personal autonomy should reign. If someone wants to lose a limb, that should be their choice. They should not, however expect any responsible medical professional to assist them. Why? Because transgenderism is a recognized, if not completely understood condition in which gender reassignment surgery (and other supportive services) improve the individuals ability to function as a whole person of the opposite sex. Surely that is not the same as gratuitous mutilation (unless conservatives still want to cling to the old Paulists and Hellenic notions that women are somehow a debased form of mankind).

A doctor who grants the amputee fetishist his wish (however legitimate the person’s autonomy), has not helped someone improve in health or function. They have just created a guy with a disability. The question goes to much more than autonomy. It involves medical ethics. Transgender folks are treated with surgery because it improves outcomes for people who are well-selected for it. This is not the case for people who seek inappropriate amputations or who suffer from Munchausen’s Syndrome (compulsive seekers of unecessary and often invasive medical attention) In the case of transgendered people, I’ve personally witnessed this transformation in people who had lived tortured lives often into middle age until they got their body re-aligned with their internal identity.

I would also leave this question to those of you who think TG people should just suck it up and bloom where God put them: to the men reading this, what would you do if you grew a nice pair of C cup breasts over the next couple months? (not a hypothetical, it’s called gynecomastia, and it can easily happen from hormone imbalances, etc). Would you chalk it up to “God’s plan” and shop for a flattering top, or would you run each other over on the way to the surgeon’s office?

That’s the frequency, Kenneth. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting; it was more than the crazy thought  experiment deserved.