Man! I Feel Like a Woman?


May 30, 2013 by mattfradd

Bathroom sign

Bathroom sign

I’d like to thank my colleague, Trent Horn, for the following article which originally featured on

After reading the work of bioethicist Wesley Smith, I came across a group of people that suffers from a condition called body integrity identity disorder (or BIID). The disorder occurs when a person thinks his limbs are not his own and wants the healthy limbs to be amputated.

This clip from Anderson Cooper’s talk show highlights one woman who is able to walk but chooses to use a wheelchair and has asked doctors to sever her spinal cord.

According to her, being a paraplegic is “who she is” and “corrective surgery” would make her truly happy.

You may be tempted to say, “That’s crazy! These people need help!” But be careful lest you be accused of bigotry. After all, with the rise of modern “psychology,” the primary focus in mental health isn’t making sure a person is conforming to the proper function of his human nature. Instead it is, in the words of the American Psychological Association, to “benefit society and improve people’s lives,” which ultimately means just making sure people “feel well.”

Who defines what’s “normal”?

While psychology is the academic study of mental behaviors, psychiatry is the medicinal application of those principles. The primary reference work in psychiatry is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM. The manual has gone through several revisions that mirror changes in cultural attitudes. For example, in 1974 homosexuality was removed from the DSM II as a mental disorder, and in 1994 abortion was removed from the DSM IV as a psychological stressor.

One of the major changes in the forthcoming DSM-V is the removal ofgender identity disorder, or the disorder that occurs when a man thinks he is a woman or a woman thinks she is a man. Instead, the term has been replaced by gender dysphoria, or the negative feelings that occur when a person does not accept the gender he (or she?) was assigned at birth. It’s important to note that I dislike the term gender and think it contributes to a false view of human nature—namely, that being male or female is just a social or psychological construct.

Instead of helping the person alter his view of his own sex, the recommended treatment for gender dysphoria is to physically change the person’s anatomy in order to match the sex he thinks he is through “sexual reassignment surgery.”

Even more outlandish, public facilities are moving toward having to accommodate the demands of people with so-called gender dysphoria, or the “transgendered,” lest the facilities’ decision makers risk being labeled “transphobic” and found guilty of a hate crime. For example, a public pool in Washington must allow a “woman” who happens to have male genitalia to have access to locker room facilities where teenage girls change for their local swim team meetings because of local “anti-discrimination laws.”

Absurd consequences

If gender identity disorder can be renamed gender dysphoria, then why not change body integrity identity disorder to body dysphoria? If “gender” is just a social concept and “men” and “women” do not have a real physical existence, who’s to say the concept of a “healthy” human is not a mere social construct?

If a biological male is convinced he is a woman, and our society placates that desire by providing him “corrective surgery,” then why not let a person who can walk and is convinced she is a paraplegic receive similar “corrective surgery” by severing her spinal cord?

I understand there are conditions such as hermaphroditism or Turner and Klinefelter syndromes where sex determination is not exact. However, cases where determining someone’s sex is difficult do not obviate the vast number of cases where people’s sex is clear and it is their mental states that are disordered with reality.

In order to engage our culture, Catholics must aggressively defend the idea that God exists and has designed the world to be a certain way. If God does not exist, then the concept of “disordered” doesn’t make any sense. Something is “disordered” only when it lacks its proper “order” or design.

Defenders of homosexual behavior consider the Church teaching that homosexuality is “disordered” to be hateful. That is because they evaluate behavior with their own standard: “As long as no one is harmed against his will, then an action is not wrong.” For them, consensual homosexual behavior does not deviate from this standard and so it is not disordered.

Ultimately, God loves people in spite of their disordered desires (sin is not being ordered to the divine will, and we all sin). We must help our culture see why the natural standard of “harmony and design” is better than the secular standard of “perpetual happy feelings” and helps people flourish as sons and daughters of a God who has a unique and awesome plan for our lives.

What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Man! I Feel Like a Woman?

  1. Meghan says:

    Excellent! Very well put.

  2. Askme says:

    Thank you for this excellent piece. I have been looking into resources on how to help children foster a strong gender identity. (Suggestions?) Gender identity and how it relates to policy and within school curriculum is the next progressive frontier. I hope the church can be more ahead of the curve on this emerging social issue than it was on homosexuality.

  3. Rachel says:

    This really needs to be spoken about more. In society we’re all for giving people what ever they want as long as it makes them happy and theyre not hurting anyone. We’re not so happy to be open about how so very many post op transexuals have realised theyve made a huge mistake when its all too late and who is there to help them then? Certainly not the doctors who gave them the so called “corrective” surgery in the first place. They just leave those poor people to get on with it and they have to live the rest of their lives with the mistake they’ve made with no one to chamion their cause because theyre all to busy shouting about unrealistic ideals to bother themselves with the fallout of these ill advised decisions.

  4. Al says:

    Mr. Fradd,

    As someone who knows people with Turner syndrome, I would like to point out that aside from the non-functioning of ovaries, it is obvious to all they are of the female sex. To equate such conditions with a mental disorder like GID would be to confuse the two.

  5. John says:

    “If God does not exist, then the concept of “disordered” doesn’t make any sense. Something is “disordered” only when it lacks its proper “order” or design.”


  6. Tapman says:

    You obviously carry a fare amount of influence – it would be nice to see you use your powers for good.

    The one liners are very witty and powerful in keeping your groups “opinions” going but i can see why those outside your group might view them as hateful – not because you are purposely being hateful but recognizing the truth is just too much for you to bare.

    LGBTIQ people are not distorted, we all share equally in what you would call “fallen humanity” unfortuantely for some others are more equal than others.

  7. Maureen says:

    Matt, in my psychology class today, the professor was advocating for agenderism. She thought it was very unfair and insensitive towards people who are transgender to use gender specific language, cloths, or even bathrooms. You somewhat touched at hermaphroditism in your article, but I’m wondering if you could go a bit more in depth.

    As Catholics, we say that sex is a constitutive element of who we are as human beings, but how should we address those who are transgender or intersex? If sex is a constitutive element of being human, than what about those humans who do not associate with a specific sex? Also, would you agree that there are many aspects of being a man or woman that have been socially constructed and that we can reject these without denying our inherent masculinity or femininity?

    • We$ says:

      “Also, would you agree that there are many aspects of being a man or woman that have been socially constructed and that we can reject these without denying our inherent masculinity or femininity?”

      I agree with this statement. In the midst of political debates, it’s natural for orthodox Catholic advocates to pull towards the right end in the dichotomy. By that, I mean that some might bar any argument suggesting that some ideas of masculinity and femininity are social constructs given that some liberals totally reject the relation between sex and gender.

      But many Catholics reject pop culture’s hyper-sexualiztion of women. And that pornographic definition is in fact a social construct. It argues that in order to be a striking, beautiful woman, she must be skinny and flaunt her body around.

      I say this not to criticize the Church but to call to mind that masculinity and femininity are complex realities and do require us to somtimes make a third column amidst the polarizing right- and left-wing debates.

  8. […] See Trent Horn’s article Man! I Feel Like a Woman? […]

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