Peak Trans, Part II
Remember the post from a short time ago, titled “Peak Trans Turned Her Rightward”? It was a letter from a woman who had been active and public as a pro-LGBT feminist and a pagan for many years, until the militant insanity of transgender activist pushed her to the political right … and into Roman Catholicism. The reader — whose name I know, and whose identity I have confirmed; she is who she says she is) has sent in the response below to many of her critics on this blog. I am going to post it without the usual formatting that I use to set apart quoted material — this, to make this long letter easy to read. As usual, my posting this doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with all of it. I especially invite pagan readers — in particular, Franklin Evans and Joan from Michigan — to respond in the comments section:
(The leftist-pagan-to-rightist-Catholic woman writes:)
I took my time in responding to this. My original letter to Mr. Dreher was essentially a midnight rant, and I wanted to be more thoughtful. The comments to the post I was responding to infuriated me for two reasons:
1. The notion that women aren’t evolving from liberal to conservative over this issue. SO MANY WOMEN are going through this right now. It is a very quiet revolution, but it is happening. Those who are publicly questioning transgender ideology are receiving so many private messages, including horror stories from women whose partners have transitioned.
2. The anger directed at the husband in the original blog post is ridiculous. The point of marriage is to have someone with whom you can have difficult discussions and grapple with differing views without unfriending each other. If you cannot have the kind of discussions this couple is having, then you need to take a look at your marriage. If it is dissolved at the first philosophical or political disagreement, then it isn’t marriage. It seems by modern standards the correct thing for Kimberly Hahn to do when Scott announced his intention of converting to Catholicism is divorce him. Instead, she stayed in the disagreement with him. I know a couple in the opposite position of both the Hahns and the couple from the original article, in which the wife is embracing new political and religious ideas, and her husband is staying in the conversation. I find that kind of commitment to another person admirable. The lack of that kind of reciprocal partnership is what makes Shannon Thrace’s story so heartbreaking.
The response to my midnight rant has been fascinating. I was not the only woman who was sent a link to Dreher’s blog with the question “Is this you?” Six months ago, although recognizing both names, I could not have told you the difference between Rod Dreher and Rob Bell. After having my letter published I am amused that I “mansplained” the concept of peak trans to him. There are so many comments, and I can’t usefully address them all, but I am rather pleased that quite a few people decided I was a figment of Dreher’s imagination. I think I can modestly claim to be an interesting person, so to be an invention is certainly high praise of Dreher’s abilities as a writer.
On his blog Dreher invited me to share more of my journey from paganism to Catholicism. I was raised Evangelical. I remember in Sunday school we would all have different translations of the Bible, and would share each verse in different translations to talk about what we thought the verse meant to us. A child who is struggling with long division doesn’t have answers to questions that have engrossed theologians for centuries. A lack of cohesive, consistent answers, the death of a loved one, and the Evangelical view of women left me very willing to embrace paganism when I found it.
I struggled with paganism for 18 years. It was a bad marriage. I stayed in the conversation, I endured a lot of spiritual pain, and I wanted it to work so badly that I was willing to endure abuse.
One reason I became an instant fan of Jordan Peterson is he gave me the vocabulary I needed to articulate what was wrong with paganism. In a world of moral and philosophical relativism there are no depths but only surface. You are expected to make peace with meaninglessness, to abide all shifting sands, to justify all narcissism, and to accept all depravity. The highest authority is the individual will, and the highest virtue is the transgressive. But when you hold the transgressive as your highest ideal, not only do you never belong but no boundary is ever sacred. This is the crux of the sex abuse scandals, and the justifications of the abuse, rocking the pagan community in the past few years.
Even in the most conservative and traditionally minded pagan communities, the shallow foundation is built on individual choice, surface aesthetics, and idealizing the transgressive. Ask any pagan why following their religious tradition is any better or worse than other traditions, and you will invariably find the answer disappointing. Quite likely they will find the question offensive, because you should do what feels right without imposing value judgements.
When you are raised Evangelical, whatever your question may be, the answer is never Catholicism. So in this 18 year long struggle with paganism, I did occasionally flirt with Pentecostal, Methodist, and UU churches, but Catholicism was never an option. Perhaps the churches were so beautiful I assumed the faith was all aesthetics, and the morality did not match my hyper-liberal politics.
My first Mass was the single most important religious experience in my life. I visited at the end of my spiritual rope, in utter despair. My secondary impression was that every form of paganism I had experienced was an impoverished attempt to copy Catholicism, but my first and overwhelming impression was that I was experiencing something real. I didn’t understand very much about the Catholic church, but in that one experience I knew I had found something I had been searching for my whole life.
So much of modern occultism, including Wicca, came from Protestant England. The entire Enochian system was merely Elizabethan Protestantism’s attempt to have its own “magic” with which to “combat” the perceived magic of Rome. I think the idea that all of this fascination with occultism is perhaps a yearning to reclaim Catholicism without being so unpatriotic as to become Catholic is worth some consideration.
I am consistently astonished and impressed at the diverse body of women the Catholic church celebrates. Joan of Arc is quite a different expression of being a holy woman from Catherine of Siena, and Hildegard of Bingen is quite different from both of them. The Catholic church celebrates the biological reality of woman, the mind of woman, the soul of woman, and the gifts of woman. Whether she is taking up arms to defend her faith, or moving to Rome to berate the Pope about corruption, Catholics celebrate all that woman is without ever asking her to pretend she is something she is not. Women who have been highly critical of the Church are listed among her saints, and there are women who are counted among the Doctors of the Church. Both pagans and Evangelicals tend to consider woman via her sexuality, and so it is refreshing that Catholicism considers her via her humanity. Feminist is a complicated and charged word currently, but if you are pro-woman the Catholic church is a very good place to be.
Every person approaches Christ differently. For me, Christianity only makes sense in the context of Catholic (Roman and Orthodox) Christianity. I came at it backwards, looking for specific “ingredients” and community before working my way to belief. I may have arrived in the “wrong way” and taken a very long meandering route but I found a deep, sustaining, coherent, and encompassing faith. I believe Jesus died for my sins and was resurrected. I will be received into the Roman Catholic church this Easter.
There were a few comments to my previous letter to which I wanted to respond.
Clint Davis said: “I believe part of the solution to this pagan problem would be for pagans to create traditionalist moral philosophies that complement and mirror the tenets of their individual faith.”
First, your faith has to have tenets beyond do whatever you want as long as you don’t perceive yourself as causing harm. There is great capacity for delusion and justification there.
Second, the ancient philosophers already created pagan moral philosophies, but they are too conservative for modern pagans. There is a reason Christianity picked up and refined pagan philosophy rather than rejecting it outright.
Third, reinventing the wheel to better suit you isn’t a solution. Your average Joe doesn’t have the energy, education, or inclination to invent an entirely new philosophy and faith to better suit his particular inclinations. Philosophy and morality is not a sandwich you an slap together in a moment. It is the collected wisdom of humanity over centuries. Even restricting the scope down to western paganism, suggesting you reject Socrates, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius and just create something new that better suits you at this ephemeral moment in time is an idea of astounding hubris.
Franklin Evans – “I suggest that the tendencies of Pagans towards a spectrum-left ideology cannot be generalized. In my experience, Pagans do tend to be social liberals, but they also tend to be all over the spectrum on other issues like economics, the military and even gender issues.”
Show up at a pagan event in a MAGA hat and see how inclusive they are. Express admiration for capitalism at a pagan event and see how well you are received. Advocate for spaces for biological women at pagan events and see how quickly you are banned. The military issue has evolved, but it isn’t hard to find pagans who refuse to go to events that include honoring veterans. Should you speak up about being a religious person, you will find that the foundational atheism of modern paganism isn’t very inclusive at all.
Sure there are exceptions. There are conservative pagans, and they will tell you how quickly inclusivity dissolves when they start to speak. Being inclusive is a virtue that pagans love to take pride in, but in practice they often fail. What is certain is that they will fight to include sexual predators. Kenny Klein and Issac Bonewits are both men for whom rumors abounded long before publications alleging sex abuse, and in Klein’s case a conviction, were available.
That paganism is liberal is so blatant it cannot be disputed. The exceptions only prove the rule.
Franklin Evans said: “Aaron: there’s no such thing as transgender ideology.”
Anyone who thinks this is not paying proper attention and has not seriously considered the transgender movement.
My peak trans experience led me to do a lot of research and reading into both sides of an issue I had never properly considered. Most allies have never properly considered transactivism and its implications.
Someone mentioned dismay at my following Ben Shapiro. One thing I, and other women, have taken as a guideline is to value truth regardless of who speaks it. Otherwise we would never go from liberal to conservative. I don’t agree with Shapiro on everything, and I am critical of some of his click-bait journalistic practices, but when he speaks truth I appreciate it.
Joan from Michigan said : “But, Rod, I’m surprised that you don’t find this woman’s response disturbing. Her letter contains no hint of actual religious faith. Instead, it portrays a hypocrite going through the motions of Catholic practice just so she can be part of a community that agrees with her on gender issues. “
First, I hope what I have written above satisfies you on matters of faith, but if you are that quick to judge someone a hypocrite it might not be.
Second, if you think American Roman Catholics in general agree with me on gender issues and politics, then Michigan must be overrun with FSSP and traditional parishes. My political shift put me in a place where considering Catholicism didn’t seem absurd, but the priest does not announce “only women have uteruses” when offering the Eucharist. I’m likely one of the most conservative people in my parish.
John said: “nice that she came over to common sense, but it begs the question ‘how far up their own arses do people like her have their heads, and what does it take to pull it out? Years of research? Try ten minutes of quiet time away from the propaganda and the use of ones own instincts and experience.”
My political shift took six years. My religious struggle took 18 years. I have only identified as politically conservative for maybe the last 9 months, despite gradually leaning that way for years.
So yeah, it does take a long time. Mostly because our culture values feelings over facts, and that encourages and validates sticking your head up your arse.
Brendan said: “Yet, this may not even be discussed. Any discussion of this kind of thing is itself bigotry and verboten, and so while we rush to bend into pretzels to accommodate born that way gender dysphorics, we also sweep in the autogynephilics, who are a very different group (and I would say a far, far less sympathetic one to the general public) because drawing any distinctions here is tantamount to committing career and social suicide due to one’s abject, atavistic bigotry.”
Gender dysphoria in youth resolves itself as the person emerges from puberty, absent medical and ideological intervention. It is a fact of human puberty that no teenager is comfortable with their body.
Adult males who choose to transition are motivated by sexual fetishes, including autogynephilia, and their own childhood trauma. I have a theory that our culture has made traditionally masculinity seem undesirable while at the same time promoting a feminine ideal that is unattainable for women. So to feel desired some men are adopting an exaggerated female stereotype.
I find it interesting that while biological reality and religious beliefs are no longer politically correct, sexual fetishes are accepted in liberal culture. If you want an enlightening, albeit disturbing, view of how warped the relationship between the sexes has become then spend some time on a site like FetLife. The Humanae Vitae encyclical predicted the effects that porn culture would have on humanity. A man being the head of the household is far more acceptable today in terms of a dominant/submissive relationship. The number of men wishing to be women, or to a lesser extent “sissified,” in order to feel desired is alarming. Pregnancy is no longer a sacred life-bearing state but a fetish.
Discussing this is verboten, because merely saying that pornography is a primary cause behind the transgender phenomena and is ultimately damaging to humanity gets you dismissed out of hand as a prude. True, pornography has always existed, but nowhere near the level it exists today.
It is the sexual fetishes of middle-aged men that is fueling the medical intervention of gender non-conforming children, because they need to be validated in their choices. They need to convince themselves it isn’t merely a sexual dysfunction, and this suggests they feel shame.
Joan from Michigan said: “Listening to Shannon Thrace’s description of the changes that accompanied her ex’s transition, including the depression, the loss of interest in familiar recreational activities, and the closing off of intimacy, I couldn’t help thinking that this sounds like a new variation on that old ailment, midlife crisis.”
Exactly. While the Catholic church offers meaning and support at this stage in a man’s life, secular society doesn’t offer solutions. I don’t think it is a coincidence that middle-age is when most men become deacons, or otherwise enter more fully into church life.
TA said: “Obviously, I don’t know anything about her beyond this letter, but she seems like someone who is looking for someone to provide Answers for her. (capital “A” intentional) When her previous tribe went too far for her in one area out of many, she rejected that worldview and adopted another tribe wholesale.”
Well, it wasn’t just in one area, as I have explained above. And I have many gay and lesbian friends that I love dearly, so suggesting that I have taken on the Church’s teachings whole cloth without question is incorrect. Considering most cradle Catholics in the US do not accept the Church’s teachings in full makes that presumption a bit absurd. I have found nothing less common than a Catholic who agrees with the Church on all things.
But I am confused as to why seeking Answers is problematic? Humans have been searching for meaning for millennia. I find this search admirable and courageous. I am beyond thrilled to find a wealth of human knowledge I can delve into in the Catholic tradition, from Aquinas to Kreeft.
It is a post-modern relativistic worldview that thinks Answers are something to be sneered at.
No Shenanigans Please said: “Two things. First, peak trans explains the need for intersectionality and second, didn’t early Christianity attract pagans for exactly the same reasons this young woman describes?”
Intersectionality is a buzzword that has practically lost meaning. It was never meant to intersect woman with penis.
Actually, yes, the early Church was profoundly attractive to women because it granted them spiritual liberty, gave them a dignified role in religious life that wasn’t dependent on their sexual activity, promoted a sexual morality that protected women in a world where sexual perversion was being normalized, and gave them a voice in a world that silenced them. The number of female voices in literature after the rise of Christianity is tremendous when compared to before. Pre-Christian female writers? I can think only of Sappho and Enheduanna, and their writing is in fragments. Female writers flourished in Catholicism, some becoming Doctors of the Church.
Franklin Evans said: “Modern Pagans have a good claim to being the original inclusivists. We, as a group, are defined by our eclecticism. Some will claim that we are the source of the polyamory movement (very big nod to The Church of All Worlds), we were long since a haven for homosexuals and other gender-based alternatives (meaning we predate the advent of the acronym LGBT).
We are, stipulating the exceptions in the New Age realm, antipathetic to the notion of Political Correctness, some (like me) even militantly so. Our foundational tenets name personal integrity, personal honesty, and a stepping-forward facing of reality.”
I addressed the inclusiveness of paganism above, but I wanted to note that early modern paganism was not always accepting of homosexuality. The Farrars certainly were not, although Janet has changed her views. Alex Sanders was deeply closeted for many years. Most of Wiccan-influenced paganism is based on gender stereotypes that makes the Catholic church look wildly progressive.
Being accepting of unusual sexual proclivities is one area in which the pagan community excels at inclusivity.
I have found political correctness in paganism usually refers to sexual morality or appropriation of the culture of minorities. So if a lack of consent in touching others or a lack of respect in plagiarizing other religions is what you mean by pagans opposing political correctness, then I would have to agree with you.
Personal integrity and honesty are such subjective terms they can’t be usefully discussed, and I’m not certain they have meaning in a community that values the transgressive. Facing reality would imply accepting that which is scientifically proven, and that would mean accepting sexual dimorphism in the human species. I’m not certain where these supposed foundational tenets are derived from, and I doubt there is a pagan organization that precisely states those are its foundational tenets.
Franklin Evans said: “My integrity includes celebrating the integrity of my fellow humans. If a trans person looks me in the eye (that’s a metaphor, folks!) and tells me that her XY chromosomes do not define her identity, then I see before me a woman.
There’s a strong dose of xenophobia around transgendered people. I don’t use that term lightly. People fear what they don’t understand”
I think elsewhere you mentioned that understanding does not necessitate agreement. The whole idea that being afraid of the unknown is underpinning the criticism of transgender ideology is so condescending.
Essentially, if you think that someone’s expression of their unsubstantiated feelings, their unverified personal gnosis if you will, is more important than objective reality then you are ok with people lying to you.
John said: “There are transgendered people out there and they have a right respect and accommodation.”
The problem is that the rights of women and children, and the rights of transgender people are mutually exclusive. A careful consideration of the issue makes that abundantly clear.
I’d like to offer a few resources:
Hands Across the Aisle is a coalition of conservative and liberal women concerned about transgender ideology.
Gender Critical Action Center also offers information on this issue.
I’d like to thank Mr. Dreher for being willing to host difficult discussions. I’d also like to thank the women whose insight, support, and pioneering efforts inform and inspire me. I’m sure a few of my phrases above were likely lifted from conversations with brilliant women. One of the women who have been publicly speaking about this for years is Tasha-Rose, who has been a patient resource for many women grappling with the problems in transgender ideology.
UPDATE: I have been contacted by Tasha-Rose, mentioned in the last paragraph. She says that a number of people who know her have contacted her thinking mistakenly that she is the anonymous author above. While I will not state the name of the author without her permission, I will verify that Tasha-Rose had nothing to do with this post. It does not come from her. Please leave her alone.