This is a column I did not want to write
Advertisement

This is a column I did not want to write

This is a column I would prefer not to write. Of its nature it is intensely personal, though hopefully not distastefully so. It will undoubtedly offend many, including some for whom I feel enormous affection and respect. It will offend many others who loathe me and whose loathing I am pleased to reciprocate. In the main I am blessed with the quality of my enemies. Moreover, I am sick of the culture wars, especially as I belong to no tribe.

In the wake of the marriage equality debate, it is impossible for me to define myself as a conservative. Nor do I belong to the queer community, whose most influential leaders have never forgiven me for opposing the Safe Schools program and my friendship with Tony Abbott. Unlike most of his detractors Abbott is able to reconcile with his friends after they have transgressed against him and, conversely, to make amends when he has wronged them.

Illustration: Simon Letch

Illustration: Simon Letch

We now differ on too many things to ever again share our former close bond. That saddens me. But that is the nature of the culture wars. Yet, I have more regard for Abbott than I shall ever feel for the leaders of my "community”. Likewise, I feel heretical regard for Andrew Hastie, despite our manifold differences, including over transgenderism and some elements of theology. He defies easy classification and is one of the most impressive people I have encountered in politics. He craves no external affirmation and answers to his own conscience, a rare quality.

Therein lies the challenge in writing this column. As sick as I am of the culture wars, transgendered people are on the front line again. Indeed, we have been on the front line ever since the marriage equality plebiscite and aggrieved conservatives are venting their rage and humiliation at that defeat upon us. As the centre right of Australian politics disintegrates and trawls for the votes of evangelical Christians and atheist nationalists, trans people provide a rich source of demonology to forge a coalition of the pious, the vicious and brittle men emasculated by globalisation.

Advertisement

We are evidently now achieving plague proportions, especially among the young. Considering that we are delusional and seriously mentally ill, we are achieving remarkable success. We recently became the majority of the Australian Defence Force. Those not actually transitioning gender are all ostentatiously wearing pink nail polish. It has been a remarkable coup.

Sadly, my transition has not been a source of mirth to me. It has entailed significant suffering and loss. But it alleviated interminable suffering and the ultimate loss, suicide. Since June 2012 I have been living as a trans woman. Until I made the irrevocable decision to live as a woman rather than to die as a male, I was a committed Catholic in very happy marriage. My former wife and I remain very close. Had we not, I doubt that I could have chosen life over death. Gender transition entailed forsaking everything that I had valued, to give expression to an insistent yearning that I express my true self.

It culminated in my lying sobbing on the altar of the chapel at the Royal Military College, screaming to God to relieve my agony and direct me. My wedding there had been the happiest day of my life. The day I was again diagnosed with gender dysphoria the most excruciatingly painful. My attempt to reconcile my genuine belief in God’s will for me with the path I have chosen is challenging and invites me to examine the mystery of the divine. There are no easy answers, but I am content to be judged on those I arrived at.

Unlike most of his detractors, Tony Abbott is able to reconcile with his friends.

Unlike most of his detractors, Tony Abbott is able to reconcile with his friends.Credit:AAP

Hence, I would urge the Prime Minister to refrain from endorsing the tabloid moral panic about "gender whisperers" and his clumsy contemptuous exhortation to "let kids be kids". Any parent of a trans kid wants their kid to just be a kid. Neither Scott Morrison nor tabloid columnists love trans kids as much as their own parents do. And if gender fluid kids are not welcome in our secular schools then it is also time to dispense with publicly funded chaplains as well. At least the Prime Minister is putting his money where his values are and paying for his children to be educated at a religious school.

Frankly, to have Christians claim, as one did on Q&A recently, that using the male names of trans women is "loving" and "respectful" is simply obscene. In the parlance of the conservative commentariat, it is "virtue signalling", which repudiates the essential humanity of the other person. It is not an infringement on their religious freedom to insist they address an affirmed woman by their legal name. It is simply rendering unto Caesar in a secular society. The right to offend should give way to basic humanity. Anyone with a shred of Christian compassion should not need to be told this.

Even more risible is the sudden affection for science among a handful of maverick Christian doctors who deny the veracity of transgender identity. Significant numbers of observant Christians believe in Creationism and that the world was created in six days before an exhausted yet omnipotent deity needed to rest. Do they really want to subject that proposition to scientific analysis? What about transubstantiation? That central teaching of the Catholic Church maintains that wafer of bread is transformed into the body of Christ after a man in a frock intones words over it.

Neither Scott Morrison nor tabloid columnists love trans kids as much as their own parents do.

Neither Scott Morrison nor tabloid columnists love trans kids as much as their own parents do. Credit:AAP

The science of this could at best be described as contestable. Nor does making this argument give me any joy. For most of my life I believed in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. I am agnostic about it now, though the doctrine of transubstantiation actually offends many protestants. One person’s delusion may be another’s sincere conviction. Maybe we should all suspend harsh judgement lest we be judged.

Catherine McGregor is a Fairfax Media columnist.

Lifeline 131 114; Beyondblue 1300 224 636