Paranoia and Red Herrings: a Look at Anti-Transgender Conspiracy Theory

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

It’s the stuff of great radio.  In fact it’s so great it has done more damage than Orson Well’s Mercury Theater that inflicted national panic in its version of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds.  It has done more damage because it has contributed to societal divisiveness through sensationalism and confirmation bias.  It’s the belief that change that occurs in our lives as the result of discovery must result from a grand conspiracy centering upon a central cabal.  It has led to mass suspicion of fellow citizens.  It has also fueled presumed justification for discrimination, ostracism, and attempted extermination of transpeople.

 

POPULARIZING A CONSPIRACY OF ILLUMINATI

Some say conspiracy humanly begins in “The Illuminati,” allegedly a conspiratorial cabal determined to dominate the world.  Adam Weishaupt organized the original Illuminati in Bavaria May 1, 1776.  But the Bavarian government learned of Weishaupt’s nefarious doings and destroyed the organization.  Freemasons, a society from which Weishaupt recruited, also suffered suspicion.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the full end of Illuminati because others have held to some basic tenets that Weishaupt did. “Illuminati” is actually the proper expression when speaking of them collectively, being the Latin nominative and genitive plural form.  The nominative singular is “Illuminatus” if an individual is male or “Illuminata” if female, a name that designates a member as “illuminated”. 1

Back in the 1970’s, an individual named John Todd claimed not only to be a former member of “The Illuminati” but  a member of its alleged central government, a “Council of Thirteen” that has allegedly included a representative of Rothchild, Rockefeller, and Kennedy families according to various sources.  Todd claimed conversion to Christianity and had taken upon himself the “ministry” of warning believers everywhere about the dangers of this organization. He considered it so “wicked” it surpasses witchcraft and dictatorship while being the ultimate administrator of both.2

In fact Todd was featured in Chick Publications’ Evangelical comics for many years.  But even as they circulated, John Todd was discredited, and evangelists themselves denounced him for his baseless sensationalism.3

A core of Evangelicals, however, weren’t about to accept that John Todd was the liar he was made out to be.  The popular sensational current about “The Illuminati” continued in various publications from Lyndon LaRouche4 to YouTube videographers “exposing” various pop artists as either Illuminati members or puppets of “The Illuminati.”5  Not a few, including Lady Gaga, accepted the hype and made the buzz part of her own advertisement through a dream of hers and Little Monsters ate it up6Rhianna has been depicted as an “Illuminati Princess.”7

Of course there’s a difference between “The Illuminati” as popularly depicted, genuine Illuminati who started out in various societies, and certain occultists who have taken the title of Illuminati on their own.  They aren’t necessarily as secretive as may be expected either.   Back in 2009 when the online forum Temple Illuminatus was still young they even produced a widget that said, “I’m an Illuminati at Temple Illuminatus” without any consideration of the fact that the widget was grammatically incorrect, and hopefully they’ve changed their widget since then.8

Today various Illuminati groups proliferate in one form or another, to which virtually anyone can gain membership through an online application.9 But when pressing an Evangelical concerning which Illuminati he’s talking about, the typical response consists of heated and flustered embarrassment. “I’m talking about ’The Illuminati.’  Everyone knows what ‘The Illuminati’ is.  How dare you be so wicked to think I don’t know what I’m talking about?”

 

CONSPIRACY FROM COAST TO COAST

Enter Art Bell and his syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM.10  The program caters to anyone with a good story regardless how untenable and ridiculous it may be.  What matters is that it holds an audience.  Coast to Coast advanced plenty of unproven ideas including Zecaria Sitchin’s determination that the planet Nibiru is returning to destroy civilization based upon Mesopotamian tablets he claimed to decipher.11  It promoted proponents that claimed the world would end in 2012 on the basis of the Mayan calendar.12  It helped propel NASA to send a follow-up space mission to Mars to settle mass suspicions that the “Face on Mars” represented a past or present Martian civilization, a mission that found nothing but a mountain with shadows that could be read as a face if the sun hit at a different angle. 13 It no more proved to be fashioned by humanoids than the feature of the Old Man in the Mountain on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  It even promoted John Titor, who allegedly time traveled from the future to obtain microprocessors for his post-nuclear time period.  He even showed pictures of his time travel vehicle that reminds us of the film Back to the Future, leaving many of us to wonder why he would waste his personal time talking to mass media about his exploits with such a critical mission at stake.14

The show has included some bonifide scientists too, because they could generate plenty of sexy facts of their own concerning the universe.  Enough provable facts went on the program over the years to sustain a cultlike belief and, true to the nature of cults, many refuse to consider that some of what’s presented as “fact” eventually proves to be hoax instead.  In radio, however, none of this matters.  What matters is holding an audience and keeping listeners and sponsors happy and hopping.

Art Bell retired to the Philippines in 2007 and George Noory took over.  The latter expanded Coast to Coast AM to include television broadcasts.  He succeeded not only in advancing Coast to Coast AM to stellar heights, but also advanced various conspiracy theorists in the popular culture, including those that fuel some popular versions of Evangelical Christianity.

The Conspiratorial version of history proposes the following, at least in the context of the United States, and variations of this exist for other countries, especially in Europe:

  1. God established everything good in the world including classic 20th Century American Evangelical culture before the crises of the 1960’s.
  2. Everything that differs from that “wholesome” American Evangelical cultural tradition including traditional families is categorically evil.
  3. Evil cannot embody truth, therefore, whatever is counter to American Evangelical cultural tradition must be against truth itself.
  4. Dark, evil, and hidden forces are at work at the very center of this evil.
  5. Dark, evil, and hidden forces are at work through secret societies.
  6. Secret societies control the reins of government through some form of shadow government.
  7. We must counter all secret societies and restore traditional American Evangelical culture.
  8. Attempts to restore traditional Evangelical American culture cannot be guaranteed success, therefore, opposing them demands special urgency.

This view has widely appealed to Evangelicals ever since the Vietnam War split American society.  The Evangelical Dominionist we know today, responsible for the rash of anti-transgender legislation, typically holds to the Conspiratorial version of history and incorporates this view as eisogesis of the Apocalypse of John.  The goodness of the American Evangelical cultural tradition isn’t just believed in.  It’s presumed to be patently correct in every respect, one upon which heaven itself can look upon with full approbation.  No other idea is entertained.  Conspiracy theorists discount scientifically established facts if they don’t stroke their confirmation bias.  However, the Conspiratorial version of history is typically colored according to each denomination that claims nobody comes to the Father but by means of Christ and nobody comes to Christ but by means of the denomination.

 

CONSPIRACY, RELIGION, AND TRANSPHOBIA

Various people over the years have considered transpeople to be suspect as puppets of this grand conspiracy.  After all, we appear in the United States in the last half of the 20th Century about the same time as other crises do.  Certain religionists and some non-religious political fanatics have opposed us including psychiatrist Paul McHugh, MD of Johns Hopkins, a self-described “Orthodox Roman Catholic” who served on the Review Board for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  He also claimed that the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal was not about pedophilia but about “homosexual predation on American Catholic youth.”15  He also worked to end the transition program at Johns Hopkins in the 1970’s, an action that the hospital has recently reversed.16

His work may have influenced the Vatican itself or vice versa.  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the watchdog entity The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Prefect  beginning with his appointment by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and as Dean in 2002.  Under his leadership in 2003 they directed the superiors of religious orders worldwide that transsexuals be barred as priests, nuns, friars, nuns, and brothers in religious orders or expelled if found afterwards to be transsexual.  A document reported by the liberal Catholic news agency Adista and confirmed by a Vatican official states in these directives:

 

“In the case that there is a serious and irreversible pathology of transsexuality, (the candidate) cannot be validly admitted into the institute or the society, while in cases of doubt, it is forbidden to allow admission since the candidate is missing a clear and full eligibility.”17

 

While not a few Evangelicals consider Catholicism to be part of a worldwide conspiracy (and vice versa), many Evangelicals still accept Ratzinger’s decision and rhetoric.  Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

But his successor Pope Francis expanded Benedict’s condemnation to presenting a corporate and political conspiracy in 2016 on World Youth Day:

 

“… We have countries that for years have done a good job of integrating migrants. They have integrated them well. In others, unfortunately, certain ghettos have formed. A whole reform has to take place, on a worldwide level, with regard to this commitment and acceptance. But that is something relative: what is absolute is a welcoming heart. That is absolute! With prayer and intercession, by doing what I can. What is relative is the way I am able to do it. Not everyone can do it the same way. The problem is worldwide! The exploitation of creation, and the exploitation of persons. We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.

“I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!

In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.

“But you will say to me: “What does this have to do with migrants?” It has to do with the overall situation, no?18

 

TRANSPHOBIA POPULARIZED

Some Protestants and others likewise decry what Pope Francis calls “gender ideology.”  For example, this past week, on December 23, conspiracy theorist David Icke spoke against transpeople in much the same way as the Pope on Coast to Coast AM on a night in which Jimmy Church substituted for George Noory.  His message about transpeople on Coast to Coast AM made the following conspicuous claims:

  1. David Icke is “on board” with the idea of “not discriminating” against transpeople.
  2. “Transgender” isn’t about discrimination but about a campaign to confuse children.
  3. This campaign of confusion is part of the conspiracy that infests other areas of life as well.
  4. The web of conspiracy goes far beyond what can be visible.
  5. Illuminati and other secret societies are only intermediaries of the conspiracy which begins in the spiritual realm.19

It’s essentially the same approach as the mixed message of Pope Francis who on one hand wants to reach out to transpeople and yet condemns them under the pretext of condemning “gender ideology”.  It’s a smokescreen, of course.  Neither Pope Francis nor the website for David Icke stop at ideology.  Both would prefer that transpeople disappear, though we’ve occupied the planet at least since the Pleistocene Epoch.  But nobody who takes that kind of position can be genuinely “on board” for non-discrimination, and a closer look at that website will demonstrate how it attacks the existential aspects of transpeople.

Andrew Cheetham, who writes for that website, claimed that if medical professionals dare to question the “unscientific party line” supporting transition, then they will be ostracized from employment.20

No doubt this reaction resulted from the British National Health Service (NHS) expanding transgender care for youth, something we didn’t see before the work of Jazz Jennings broadly raised awareness about trans youth.  Cheetham cites the anti-transgender campaign group Transgender Trend who decries children being referred to “gender clinics” and claims that these cases have surged to an astonishing 50 per week to the horror of what’s thought to be every parent throughout the United Kingdom.21

50 per week, if true, should arouse examination of how the NHS is actually operating on this matter.  We aren’t told whether 50 per week is an average or a maximum.  We don’t oppose critical review so long as it begins with and utilizes medical and psychological standards instead of religious dogma.  It’s vital and continuing.  It’s part of the process of science and transgender medicine is only a recently recognized practice.  We also consider that the sharp rise in cases may have happened because generations of oppression have prevented youth from coming forward in the first place.

But even this isn’t the extent of criticisms from the David Icke website.  The same writer quoted Peter Hitchins to say that accusations of “cruelty” against those opposing transition therapies is only a “pretext” for a deeper conspiratorial purpose:  destruction of the entire traditional moral and social system, the very idea of male and female after “destruction” of traditional heterosexual marriage.  He stated that this sexual revolution is like all revolutions since the French Revolution of the late 1770’s: built upon the fallacy that humans and human nature are changeable, making it out as destruction of truth itself.22

This, of course, presumes an organized conspiracy to that end is happening in the first place.  However, traditional heterosexual marriage wasn’t destroyed.  Neither some cabal nor anyone else ever told heterosexual couples they couldn’t marry anymore or that their marriages shouldn’t be respected.  Heterosexual couples continue to marry as they always have.  The only thing destroyed to any extent is the presumption that only heterosexual couples could possibly marry because churches have the exclusive right to dictate who may do so whether or not a couple has church membership.

But the claim about revolution and changeability is far more disruptive with respect to human cooperation. The idea that “humans and human nature are changeable,” is a “false idea” (fallacy) attacks the practices of Christianity in its purest form.  Without human changeability, repentance isn’t possible.  People can’t decide to make better lives if they can’t change.

It’s the same trait of changeability that makes transition happen.  It’s no evil thing to recognize something inside that failed to change regardless of how many times you tried to pray it away, something that persisted that caused everyone else around you to think you’re strange, out of kilter, and some unacceptable creature they hate because of your “strangeness”.  It makes sense to make changes that can get yourself into better sync with the world and to demand the world respect you for doing so.  It’s true for the one who converts to Christianity (or any religion) and it’s true for anyone who transitions.

Think about it.  To say this is a “fallacy” demands something else:  that once we mark somebody as “unacceptable” because they seem strange, that person can never be anything but the incorrigible reprobate we presume that person to be.  It literally feeds into the belief that “nobody is going to heaven except me and thee” however a conspiracy theorist happens to define that “me and thee.”

This belief and treatment of fellow humans as “unchangeable” and “irreconcilable” is what stoked the purges of the French Revolution where rivers of blood flowed from guillotines.  That belief helped Hitler fuel tumultuous purges like Germany’s Night of the Long Knives23 and Krystallnacht.24  It’s what sent undesirables to Nazi death camps and Stalin’s gulags.  Both the Nazi and Communist parties have made ample use of conspiracy theories to enflame their populations and LGBT peoples have long been the victims, not the perpetrators of these revolutions.  So have people of various ethnicities like Jews and Gypsies as well as people with disabilities.

 

A SOCIETAL PATHOLOGY OF PARANOIA

The dogmatic presumption that everything seemingly new must represent some evil conspiracy does more than resist growth and development.  It’s a societal pathology of paranoia based upon xenophobia.  Transpeople are only a sideshow in this overall xenophobia.  Conspiracy theorists push for societal regimentation, a return to a stasis as if it were an oasis in an ocean of evil flowing from hell to hell while the people of their choosing take the reins of power with an iron fist necessary to set a society back to that stasis.

Strangely enough, the Christian nations ended up becoming the most regimented and pugnacious people on the planet and most strayed from the early ideal the believers in Y’shua espoused.  Regimentation demands clear boundaries and efficient pigeonholing.  When those boundaries lose those clear definitions, crisis may loom.  The boundaries between traditions and realities discovered in modernity may overlap and even seem alarmingly skewed.  But these intrusions don’t equal conspiracy.  Real conspiracy, however, could arise on the insistence of presumption that, if one’s neighbor accepts change, the same represents evil and therefore must be a conspirator.

It’s a vicious displacement generating red herrings.  The red herring that declares a long disempowered transgender demographic to be part of a mass conspiracy against morality enables another set of social brokers to rise in influence and wealth: the ones who perpetuate that red herring.  That’s the nature of the business and sooner or later those who religiously subscribe to these theories could be led to commit anything at all, even wholesale pogroms not unlike what took place on Krystallnacht.

But Occam’s Razor has good application here: the test that determines the simplest explanation most likely to be the correct one.  Transpeople seek respect because we’ve been oppressed for centuries, often falsely in the name of God.  Our histories have been suppressed in attempted erasure to rob us of our heritage.  Our chances at livelihoods have been viciously curtailed.  Whether young or old, these facts remain.  They’re true and simple.  But conspiracy theories remain not only convoluted but unproven and unprovable, relying as “evidence” of conspiracy the fact that societies change with time as a natural course of events.  There’s a name for that natural course that makes conspiracy theorists squirm and want to scream.  It’s called, “evolution”.

__________________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  A pixilated detail of the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, long and erroneously touted as the emblem  of “The Illuminati.”  The symbol of Illuminati, however, has traditionally been an owl. (from the author’s image archive).  It overlaps a detail of The Scream, painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893 (from the author’s image archive).

  1. Joseph Castro. “What Is the Illuminati?” Live Science (September 30, 2013, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.livescience.com/40048-what-is-the-illuminati.html.
  2. John Todd. “The Illuminati and Witchcraft” Scribd (from a tape recorded lecture in Elkton MD, 1978, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.scribd.com/document/33023806/The-Illuminati-and-Witchcraft-by-John-Todd
  3. (n.a.) John Todd Overview” Monsterwax (n.d., accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.monsterwax.com/todd.html
  4. Steven Hager. “Inside the Wilderness of Mirrors” (Blog, May 29, 2017, accessed December 26, 2017) https://stevenhager420.wordpress.com/tag/lyndon-larouche/.
  5. com. “Top 10 Celebrities That are Supposedly in the Illuiminati” YouTube (July 7, 2017, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5TcPEzWgg0
  6. (n.a.) “Lady Gaga Shares Illuminati Dream” Rap-Up (June 24, 2010, accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.rap-up.com/2010/06/24/lady-gaga-shares-illuminati-dream/
  7. (n.a.) “7 Celebrities Supposedly in the Illuminati” BeliefNet (n.d., accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/galleries/7-celebrities-supposedly-in-the-illuminati.aspx?p=7
  8. Lux Phoenix Amare Blake. “Part of Why I am Illuminati” Temple Illuminatus (October 26, 2016, accessed ) https://www.templeilluminatus.com/profiles/blogs/part-of-why-i-am-illuminati . Though the widget does not appear in this article, the use of “Illuminati” is questionable, since its form can only be justified in the genitive.
  9. Best demonstrated with a search: https://www.google.com/search?q=Online+Application+for+Illuminati&source=lnms&tbm=vid&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4t8r22a3YAhXqj1QKHZslDPcQ_AUICygC&biw=1920&bih=974
  10. (n.a.) “Art Bell” Coast to Coast (Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.coasttocoastam.com/pages/art-bell
  11. “Zecaria Sitchin” https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/sitchin-zecharia/6026
  12. “Ian Xel Lungold 2012 Maya Prophecy End Times Predictions, Secrets the Mayan Calendar Unveiled” YouTube (Coast to Coast video uploaded June 22, 2013, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQoxspalmg8&list=PLYluK2rqkrfXivUOLZqS2fVfwrXoi29FQ&index=8 .
  13. “’The Face on Mars’ Turns Forty” (July 25, 2016, Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.coasttocoastam.com/article/the-face-on-mars-turns-forty
  14. Nick Morris. “John Titor – Art Bell Coast to Coast AM 3/12/2002 Time Travel” (August 31, 2017, Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNUGkIlHGog
  15. Brynn Tannehill. “Debunking the New Atlantis Article On Sexuality And Gender” Huffington Post (March 24, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/debunking-the-new-atlantis-article_us_58d5242ee4b0f633072b36a4.
  16. Amy Ellis Nutt. “Long shadow cast by psychiatrist on transgender issues finally recedes at Johns Hopkins” Washington Post (April 5, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/long-shadow-cast-by-psychiatrist-on-transgender-issues-finally-recedes-at-johns-hopkins/2017/04/05/e851e56e-0d85-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html?utm_term=.29ab0ee47caa.
  17. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Francis’ Mixed Message” Transpire (August 11, 2016, accessed December 27, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/francis-mixed-message/. The denunciation itself can also be found from Winfield, Nicole. “Vatican Denounces Transsexuals” Free Republic, Associated Press (January 31, 2003, accessed August 9, 2016).  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/833752/post
  18. “Dialogo del Santo Padre con i Vescovi della Polonia (Krakow, 27 Iuglio 2016), 02.08.2016” (Papal Bulletin, Vatican Press [English translation within the bulletin] August 2, 2016, accessed August 9, 2016) http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/08/02/0568/01265.html#en .
  19. David Icke https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/icke-david/6147 Show on 12/23/2017
  20. Andrew Cheetham. “Pediatrician: How Transgender Ideology is Producing Large-Scale Child Abuse” (Website, dated July 20, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/420223/pediatrician-transgender-ideology-producing-large-scale-child-abuse
  21. Andrew Cheetham. “NHS pressured our kids to change sex: Transgender backlash as desperate parents accuse overzealous therapists of ‘blindly accepting’ children’s claims to have been born in wrong body” (Website, dated October 29, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/434409/nhs-pressured-kids-change-sex-transgender-backlash-desperate-parents-accuse-overzealous-therapists-blindly-accepting-childrens-claims-born-wrong-body
  22. Andrew Cheetham. “Peter Hitchens: The transgender zealots are destroying truth itself” (Website, dated November 19, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/439152/peter-hitchens-transgender-zealots-destroying-truth.
  23. N. Trueman. “The Night of the Long Knives” History Learning Site (March 9, 2015, accessed December 17, 2017) http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/the-night-of-the-long-knives/.
  24. (n.a.) “Kristallnacht” Holocaust Encyclopedia (accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005201
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The Dominionist Collapse: When Transpeople Face Theocracy

Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

It’s reactive and reductive, embraced by braggart and bigot; and it’s running away with the standard of Conservatism.  Its survival depends upon innuendo more than logic despite the fact that some highly educated people work from the heart of the movement.  Dominionism burst upon Congress in the likes of people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.  But the movement that’s Dominionism cannot last, threatening an intellectual collapse that could drag America and the world into a new Dark Age, attacking transpeople every step along the way.  It will collapse because logic will eventually overrule innuendo and propaganda while the masses turn against Dominionism in growing disgust and the environmental collapse of the planet awakens them to the folly of its religio-political policies.

 

ABOUT DOMINIONISM

Christianity brought Dominionism to the world through the likes of Constantine and Theodosius, the latter of whom cosigned the Edict of Rome on August 6, 390 CE which declared “male effeminacy” a capital crime punishable by burning.  The Edict became part of the Corpus Juris Civilis while driving underground transpeople who had previously enjoyed a respected, even priestly status for centuries.  Dominionist rulers opened the floodgates of what would become a more generalized Abrahamic Oppression of transpeople against which we struggle today.1

Dominionism may be defined as the political doctrine that religion, most particularly the most prominent denomination or alliance in a region, must control the reins of political power and government control in order to assure the goodness of society.  This means integration of church and state.  In this respect Dominionism follows the Post-Millennialism of Augustine in The City of God despite the fact that most of today’s Dominionists are Pre-Millennial instead, some of which make informal tests of fellowship out of Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation in eschatological teachings.2

In the United States, Dominionism has largely taken the form of the Evangelical Alliance that has included Conservative branches of Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Campbellists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and other denominations in cooperation with Roman Catholics, and to some extent, Messianic, Conservative and Orthodox Jews.  This alliance has established the popular stigma of the “cult”, most particularly against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, the now defunct Worldwide Church of God of Herbert W. Armstrong, and to some extent, the Seventh-Day Adventists.  However, they have not clearly defined what a cult should be outside their own accepted concept of orthodoxy.  In terms of an actual modus operandi, the Evangelical Alliance often displays much of the cultic abhorrence they criticize, carrying the traits of exclusiveness and enforcement to the political arena.  Beginning with the work of Rev. Jerry Fallwell and the Moral Majority in the 1980 presidential election, Dominionists have worked to seize control of the Republican Party, and consequently, the United States.3

 

HR 2796

Republicans produced a decidedly anti-transgender platform in its 2016 Platform.  It reads:

 

“We emphatically support the original, authentic meaning of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It affirmed that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” That language opened up for girls and women a world of opportunities that had too often been denied to them. That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their [sic] agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They [sic] are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their [sic] edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.4

 

After the GOP won continued control of both houses of Congress and the White House, the GOP now seeks to execute this platform in legislation.  On June 7, 2017, the GOP introduced HR 2796, also titled the Civil Rights Uniformity Act.  The act explicitly seeks to strip a broad spectrum of civil rights protections for transpeople:

 

SEC. 3. Prohibition of policies redefining sex to mean gender identity.

(a) Rule of Construction.—In determining the meaning of any Federal civil rights law, and of any related ruling, regulation, guidance, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words “sex” and “gender” and their equivalents shall not be interpreted to mean “gender identity” or its equivalent, and the words “man” and “woman” and their equivalents shall refer exclusively to a person’s genetic sex.

(b) Rule of Interpretation.—No Federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless such law expressly designates “gender identity” or “transgender status” as a protected class.

(c) Definition of “Federal civil rights law”.—For purposes of this Act, the term “Federal civil rights law” means any Federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, including title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000a et seq.), the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148), and any other Federal law or provision thereof prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.5

 

The bill, problematic enough in its definition of sex and gender on the basis of “genetic sex,” went to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on July 12.  Whether the subcommittee thinks through the illogic of presumptive “genetic sex” remains to be seen.  But the bill opens up an entirely new discussion between legalities and ethics.

 

ETHICAL REALITIES AND LEGALITY

Anyone who has taken a college class on Ethics has probably faced a common faux pas: one cannot generally debate ethical points using legal precedents.   What’s ethical often differs from what’s legal.  That can include medical decisions directly affecting transpeople.

We as transpeople typically assert a fundamental right to transition, detransition, and even to re-transition provided that actions do not inflict harm or otherwise violate the rights of others.  Medical ethics, however, are necessarily more guarded than this precisely because they follow a Consequentialist, but not Utilitarian approach.6 Consequentialism proposes that favorable outcomes determine right action.  But Consequentialism faces a fundamental challenge in terms of the Remote Effects Problem: that we cannot know a priori that immediate results will translate into good results on the long term.7 When it comes to the willingness of practitioners to treat transpeople with a therapy involving transition, we’re often perceived with a large question mark amid a general nervousness about malpractice claims.  Not all who transition do so successfully and long term studies concerning outcomes continue today to address Remote Effects.  These studies continue as sources for vigorous debate.

 The ethics of Dominionism, however, decidedly follows the Divine Command Theory of MoralityDivine Command asserts that right action follows what God has ordained in holy writ.  But what holy writ means calls upon the interpretations of religious leaders despite the biblical claim that scripture (or at lease prophecy) is not a matter of private human interpretation.8  It’s inevitable that interpretation falls back onto religious leaders because only prophets claim to have direct communications from God and no prophet has full acceptance in every communion.  We see disagreements in interpretation through every religious debate in which both sides in an argument refuse to budge from preconceived doctrines and dogma.  We see those disagreements manifest in the massive schisms in Christianity since before the Reformation.  When addressing trans acceptance, Christians are divided.  Some read the Bible and find a basis for acceptance.  Others read the Bible and reject us as an “abomination”, often couching their rejection with the disingenuous claim of “loving the sinner but not the sin.”  No real position exists concerning transpeople apart from these factions because those who “don’t know” have taken no position at all.  But the broad disparities in the positions of scholars among the denominations automatically render legislation on the basis of Divine Command necessarily imprecise, divisive and consequently unstable.

They’re unstable because Law demands a formulation of decisions upon precise definitions and relations as to what may be permitted through codification and enforcement.  When pertaining to transpeople and their collective diversity, definitions often fail.  Nobody has ever defined “transgender” once and for all.  That definition has shifted widely since first appearing in the 1970’s.  For that matter, our presence has opened up vigorous debate in terms of defining maleness or femaleness.  It’s confusing to many because America has relied upon religious tradition, not medical realities, to define a rigid gender dichotomy while excluding all others possibilities.  Consequently, Dominionists perceive transpeople as disrupters of the social order.

 

GENDER DYSPHORIA AND LEGAL RECOGNITION

Some transpeople who oppose medical gatekeeping have vigorously challenged the authority of medical and psychiatric practitioners.  Instead, transition’s sometimes regarded as something automatically owed by right.  Some have gone as far to say that gender dysphoria is “self-diagnosed.”  There’s a reason that view of “self-diagnosis” is wrong.

It’s wrong because a diagnosis is a medical or psychiatric determination based upon collectively established criteria, carrying legal ramifications.  Only a medical or psychiatric professional can diagnose.  “Self diagnosis” is nothing more than a suspicion till supported by a qualified third party.

For example, this past winter I suspected retinal damage after a fall because I persistently saw flashing arcs of light that consistently followed specific eye movements.  My suspicion proved to be correct when an ophthalmologist diagnosed a horseshoe tear in my retina and immediately referred me to eye surgery.  The ophthalmologist diagnosed on the basis of observation and established medical criteria.  I didn’t make that diagnosis.  I only suspected something to be true.

The same applies to professionals who write letters recommending transition.  Anyone can sense gender dysphoria because of various experiences in one’s own mental, emotional, and sociological disposition.  But a diagnosis demands more than subjective belief.  Gender dysphoria, like other conditions, must be determined upon clinical criteria.  It’s why certain states require a treating physician to sign an affidavit for change of the gender marker on a driver’s license.  It’s why an endocrinologist writes a recommendation for gender confirmation surgery.  That physician’s signature has legal ramifications more relied upon than the patient’s.  I might believe that deep inside I’m one gender or another and my belief may be correct.  But legal criteria require confirmation by a third party deemed expert enough to testify to one’s condition as fact. While, morally speaking, one may have the right to transition, securing legal recognition also matters.

It’s one reason why the Standards of Care and the Guidelines for Psychological Practice are important, provided through the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and the American Psychological Association respectively.

 

RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND LEGAL RECOGNITION

What many religious people don’t realize is that a sincerely held religious belief can also lack legal recognition unless that belief is sanctioned by others, preferably by an established religious institution; much in the same way as a belief of having gender dysphoria needs verification through a professional diagnosis.

Think about that for a moment.

Consider, for example, the Vietnam War when 18-year old males were drafted for combat in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Some draftees were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists; conscientious objectors about killing for a human government (the former) and combat on Sabbath (the latter).  Adventist conscientious objectors were often admitted to a Medical Corps, though this provision was abandoned with the close of the Vietnam War.9

Of course, anyone could claim to be a conscientious objector in an attempt to get out of participation in maneuvers or out of cowardice.  Third party verification was required for accommodation.  Just making a statement would not suffice.  Military authorities look suspiciously upon anyone claiming in the middle of a term of service to have converted if it means getting out of an assignment.  Stories abound in Adventist circles about incarceration of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam Era who had been rescued by the church’s military liaison.10

Third party verification also is typically demanded by an employer who must make accommodations for religious practice whenever they come into conflict so long as accommodation does not pose an undue hardship upon the business.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines for this:

 

“When an employer requests additional information, employees should provide information that addresses the employer’s reasonable doubts.  That information need not, however, take any specific form.  For example, written materials or the employee’s own first-hand explanation may be sufficient to alleviate the employer’s doubts about the sincerity or religious nature of the employee’s professed belief such that third-party verification is unnecessary.  Further, since idiosyncratic beliefs can be sincerely held and religious, even when third-party verification is needed, it does not have to come from a church official or member, but rather could be provided by others who are aware of the employee’s religious practice or belief.[128]

“An employee who fails to cooperate with an employer’s reasonable request for verification of the sincerity or religious nature of a professed belief risks losing any subsequent claim that the employer improperly denied an accommodation.  By the same token, employers who unreasonably request unnecessary or excessive corroborating evidence risk being held liable for denying a reasonable accommodation request, and having their actions challenged as retaliatory or as part of a pattern of harassment.

“It also is important to remember that even if an employer concludes that an individual’s professed belief is sincerely held and religious, it is only required to grant those requests for accommodation that do not pose an undue hardship on the conduct of its business”11

 

THE TIDE OF LIMITATIONS

Religious liberty, however, isn’t absolute.  A parent in Christian Science would be prosecuted for denying his child medical care if it’s clear that treatment could have saved the child’s life.  Honor killings, today most common among Muslims aren’t exonerated in American courts.  Neither can any church carry out the kinds of pogroms against people of other faiths like what Orthodox Christians have perpetrated against Jews for centuries.  Forced conversions, a feature of Christianity throughout its bloody history, won’t be backed by law… yet.

In the case of employers, the issue of proselytizing in the workplace has been addressed by the EEOC in terms of hardship upon a business.  What’s lacking are the rights of employees to be free from being compelled to convert to a religion as a result of an employer sanctioning a campaign of proselytizing as in cases of religiously operated educational institutions that appear from time to time.  Neither have churches done much to make freedom from proselytizing a matter of accommodation because the churches prefer to fight proselytizing by equipping their own members for religious debate.  But internal conflicts resulting from proselytizing can force businesses to either forbid them through hardship claims, or to terminate employees on the basis of religion, the latter being preferred by many Conservative religious bodies.

Let’s say that the current trend for Dominionist control of government continues to the point in which no legal recourse for those outside the Evangelical Alliance can exist.  It’s a condition of American becoming a fully theocratic state.  Forced conversions often happen in such a milieu.  Some, like the Seventh-Day Adventists, have believed for over a century that this version of Christo-Fascism is inevitable, even established in prophecy.12

 

A LOGICAL CONUNDRUM

Transpeople, many of whom are either Atheist or representing religious minorities outside the Evangelical Alliance, can find a special role to play in such an unfolding drama.  The need for 3rd party verification for liberty claims by religionist and transperson should be more or less on par with each other as exists today.  But if religion demands forced conversions, these 3rd party verifications could be challenged for religious claimants in a way transgender claimants cannot.

A milieu of duress logically demands that we question the validity of claims of having freely made decisions.  Claims concerning liberty in conversion in such a milieu may be legally accepted but morally and logically they cannot.  However, nobody who has voluntarily gone through a process of transition needs anything beyond the documents supporting transition to evidence a past claim of gender dysphoria.  Given the hoops we jump through, it’s difficult for anyone to claim that a transsexual has had surgery under duress.  Simple existence as a post-operative transsexual speaks for the fact itself.  What remains in a totalitarian theocracy is its decision to either accept the resulting logical disparity that demands reform or destroy the transsexual who dares to challenge the religious claims of those having been converted under duress.  In the case of such a challenge, other minorities can take notice and rise up, each with issues of their own.

It’s a condition like what Tertullian described, saying, “semen est sanguis Christianorum” (The blood of Christians is seed).”13 But the blood of martyrs resulting in political and religious reforms isn’t limited to religionists.  For example, the persecution of Galileo Galilei by Catholic authorities spurred a rise of popular interest in science and added to scientific fervor.14 Just like Galileo brought an ascendancy of scientific interest and contributed to the decline of European religious tyranny, transpeople have the potential to spark such a reevaluation of religious liberty claims that can fuel a popular uprising of its own, leading ultimately to a crash of Dominionists’ theocratic grip.

 

A PHILOSOPHIC WARRANT

In which case, transpeople, especially those who transition, need to understand the logic of liberty claims:  their own as well as those of religionists.  For that matter, transpeople do well to understand philosophic ideas including ideas that demand religious literacy.  We should be able to teach them.  Such an understanding not only helps to refine one’s own thoughts about the self and the universe, but may bequeath a treasure for future generations that may arise in a more congenial age.  It may come in a time of environmental ruin and depopulation of the planet resulting from the madness of Dominionist policies rooted in the classic lust for gold, greed, and converts to what they claim is God.

Movements inevitably lead to political machines before becoming monuments to the “good old days.” But a more congenial age would be a time earned with an end to the Abrahamic Oppression that has gripped Europe and other parts of the world since Theodosius cosigned the Edict of RomeIt will also be a time earned for the meek who inherit the Earth, and not because they’re too timid to refuse it.

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REFERENCES:

Image: Modified details of 2 public domain images.  Left is a statue honoring the ideal of protecting the worshipper from the state, commissioned by the Jewish anti-defamation league B’nai Berith and sculpted by Moses Jacob Ezekiel.  It stands in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia; right is a detail from a protest for trans rights, Flikr.

  1. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Alas, the Charioteer” Transpire (November 25, 2016, accessed July 19, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/alas-the-charioteer/.
  2. Unless otherwise noted, the author relies upon her own experience with the Evangelical Alliance having participated in evangelism from 1974 before her exit from the Campbellists in 1978 and the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1995. Post-Millennialism claims that Christ returns after a 1000 year rule of the church on Earth.  Pre-Millenialism claims the 1000 rule happens after the return of Christ.  Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation refers to whether a secret rapture, or taking up of “real Christians” into heaven, happens before or after a period of mass persecution of Christians.  Eschatology is a branch of theology pertaining to the end of the world.
  3. (n.a.) “Taking Over the Republican Party” Theocracy Watch (Updated February 2005, accessed July 19, 2017) http://www.theocracywatch.org/taking_over.htm.
  4. Republican National Platform Committee. “Republican Platform, 2016” (presented to the delegates of the GOP National Convention August 2016)
  5. HR 2796, Section 3 (bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Olson, Babin, Abraham, and Hartzler on June 7, 2017)
  6. Utilitarianism consists of 2 versions of Consequentialism that posit that right action must be determined upon the greatest number of sentient beings made happy (Jeremy Bentham) or determined upon a rule affecting the greatest number of people made happy (John Stuart Mill). The Consequentialism of medical ethics does not take statistics on societal happiness into account.
  7. “A priori” refers to what can be known ahead of time as opposed to “a posteriori” which refers to what can be known after the fact.
  8. 2 Peter 1:20.
  9. Gary R. Councell. “Adventists and Military Service” Spectrum (July 23, 2012, accessed July 19, 2017) http://spectrummagazine.org/article/gary-r-councell/2012/07/23/adventists-and-military-service .
  10. Related by Seventh-Day Adventist pastors to the author in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
  11. (na.a) “EEOC Compliance Manual, Section 12-4: Reasonable Accommodation” Directives Transmittal Number 915.003 (July 22, 2008, accessed July 19, 2017) https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/religion.html#_Toc203359518 .
  12. (n.a.) “The Image of the Beast” End Times Prophecy (n.d., accessed July 20, 2017) http://www.end-times-prophecy.org/image-of-the-beast.html.
  13. Tertullian. “Apologeticus Pro Christianis” 50:13
  14. Briggs, Kenneth A. “Scholars Are Still Embattled Over the Case of Galileo” New York Times (April 28m 1981, accessed July 20, 2017) http://www.nytimes.com/1981/04/28/science/scholars-are-still-embattled-over-the-case-of-galileo-madisonwisc.html?pagewanted=all.

 

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