October 11, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, October 11, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Human Rights Campaign threatens Johns Hopkins over New Atlantis "Sexuality and Gender" report
Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Marxists developed a method of social revolution whereby the revolution would be advanced by identifying the enemies of the revolution as the enemies of the people, and language would be deployed in order to isolate people who opposed the revolution in order to morally discredit them. That public shaming is exactly what took place in the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, and it continues today. It is often found not only in political circles but in academic circles as well, where this kind of public shaming is what is used to bring people into intellectual conformity, sometimes on the American college and university campus.
But an example of this kind of thought coercion is found in a recent controversy. It emerged just yesterday over something we’ve discussed on The Briefing, and that was the special issue of the New Atlantis, which offered that massive study rethinking the current moral orthodoxy amongst so many on issues of human sexuality, gender, and especially the claims of the transgender revolution. That special edition of the New Atlantis we discussed on The Briefing as being a brave, a very courageous confrontation of the kind of group-think that now fuels and is represented by the moral revolutionaries around us. But we could’ve anticipated exactly what took place just this week, and that was a round of criticism that is meant to shut down the conversation. Exhibit A is a current article that ran at an LGBT magazine known as The Advocate, the headline of the story,Show Full Transcript
“New ‘Scientific’ Study on Sexuality, Gender Is Neither New nor Scientific.”
The word “scientific” is put in quotation marks. It is, in effect, by using the scare quotes trying to suggest that, of course, the report isn’t scientifically credible at all. Dean Hamer wrote,
“The thing I’ve always loved about science is that, in the end, the truth really does win out, and most scientists are eager to know what it is. But there are always exceptions. When it comes to emotionally and politically charged topics like human sexuality and gender, even highly regarded professionals may find themselves tempted to bend the facts to support their own viewpoint rather than reality.”
And in this case, he accuses doctors Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh, the co-authors of that special report in the New Atlantis as being evidence of this very temptation. But what readers to The Advocate are likely to know, more likely to know than the general population, is that Dean Hamer himself has made all kinds of supposedly scientific claims about a genetic basis for human sexual orientation. Those are studies that were not replicated in terms of the scientific literature. But now you have Dean Hamer himself writing the article attacking the special edition of the New Atlantis, and the reason for this is very clear. It confronts very bravely this new orthodoxy, the new orthodoxy of the moral revolution.
The Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT organization, put out a press release by Tari Hanneman with a headline,
“Johns Hopkins Community Calls for Disavowal of Misleading Anti-LGBTQ ‘Report’”
Johns Hopkins University is at the center of this precisely because Mayer and McHugh are identified with that university and its prestigious medical center. But this headline is interesting because the word “report” is put in scare quotes, as if to insinuate maybe the report isn’t even actually worthy of being called a report. But what’s of greatest value for our insight in terms of worldview analysis comes later in this very press release when we are told that the Human Rights Campaign has been in communication with Johns Hopkins over the need for,
“…official statement about McHugh and Mayer’s activities. Recently, HRC met with leadership at Johns Hopkins to express the urgency of this issue and the continued need for action. This year, for the first time, HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index will rate hospitals with a numerical score and will consider whether hospitals and health systems’ practices reflect “responsible citizenship.” If Hopkins’ leadership ignores their community’s call to correct the record—clarifying that McHugh and Mayer’s opinions do not represent it, and that its healthcare services provided reflect the scientific consensus on LGBTQ health and well-being—its Healthcare Equality Index score will be reduced substantially.”
Now what does that paragraph mean? It means that the Human Rights Campaign, through its foundation, is now going to release a Healthcare Equality Index. They’re going to rate medical centers and medical schools on just how much they toe the line in terms of the sexual and moral revolution. This is really clear; it’s another form of intimidation by means of what’s called in this case a Healthcare Equality Index. Now here’s the cultural pressure, and you can see it coming. Every one of these medical centers is now supposedly going to have to be concerned about whether or not it’s going to rate highly enough in this Equality Index. It’s a form of cultural pressure that is undisguised coercion. It is coercion by means of a Healthcare Equality Index. But notice the direct threat of coercion. In this case, it is Johns Hopkins University’s Medical Center that is directly threatened with having its Equality Index lowered if it does not take disciplinary action against these two professors for confronting and denying claims made essentially and centrally by the LGBT movement. They are now to be publicly exposed, according to the leaders of this movement, as being intellectually out of line, and they are to be brought back into line or the university with which they are affiliated had better absolutely disavow them. Otherwise, they’re going to be hard hit in the HRC Foundation’s Equality Index.
By the way, the greatest defense of the New Atlantis report is the fact that it is in itself what’s called a study of studies. The researchers, McHugh and Mayer, basically spent most of their time and spilled most of the ink in terms of their report documenting what research done by LGBT activists and the larger medical community had already documented, and yet they drew conclusions that are contrary to what is now the established orthodoxy. And like the Marxists in terms of previous revolutions, the revolutionaries are doing their very best to shut down the conversation entirely.
In response yesterday, the New Atlantis put out a lengthy report in which they indicate that most of the claims, even the citations in quotations claimed from the report, are not true, and they misrepresent what McHugh and Mayer actually wrote. But the big take home from the Christian worldview here is that this kind of coercion is now being brought against a medical center. And that tells us something about the course of this moral revolution, and why every single dimension and institution of the society is at the center of this target or will be eventually, and that eventually probably means quite soon. When you have medical centers now worried about how they’re going to rate on an Equality Index, you see a moral revolution that isn’t at the beginning; it’s not even at the middle; it’s somewhere nearing the end. Because now you have an open effort at coercion being brought against one of the most prestigious medical centers in the United States.
From the Christian worldview, something else that needs to be observed here is how the word “science” is bandied about as an independent authority. One of the things Christians must keep in mind is that science is a human endeavor. Science simply doesn’t exist independent of, well, scientists, that is human beings. It isn’t some kind of independent authority, but one of the things we also need to note is that in a secular age when the authority of the Creator is denied you also have the reality that something else has to stand in as the authority in the culture. And that’s why the word “science” is now often invoked as if it is basically the force of deity. When it comes to anything that claims to be science that has to do with human identity and human behavior, there is no scientific study and there is no scientific research that is not embedded in human beings who, after all, operate out of their own worldview, according to their own presuppositions. That is to say, there is no such thing as a science that is free of ideology when it comes to human beings, after all, studying themselves.
But the open, bare-knuckled, undisguised attempt to coercion here, when it comes in the case of a medical school, tells us a great deal about just how far this revolution has come and just how fast it is advancing. When you have an LGBT organization demanding that a medical school faculty denounce colleagues, well, we’ve reached the point when there is an absolute effort to shut down all conversation and let nothing but the message of the revolution flow on through.
Transparent's transgression: TV series director laments casting trans role with non-trans person
Next, shifting to the entertainment industrial complex, it’s really clear that it is entertainment that drives more the cultural momentum than even many Christians recognize. The sheer volume of cultural production is now so massive that it’s impossible for anyone single human being even to consume in a 24-hour day anything close to even a small percentage of all the entertainment products that are now made available to us. But one of the things about that entertainment product is that it is almost assuredly going to come from the cultural left. And it’s going to represent that worldview; otherwise, it will never have even been made. It will never be released.
What we’re looking at is an article from The Federalist that is entitled,
“If Jill Soloway Can’t Get Trans Characters Right, Nobody Else Can Hope To, Either.”
That’s a complicated headline. The story behind it is really interesting. Libby Emmons writes about the fact that the Emmy that was won recently by Jill Soloway for directing the Amazon TV series Transparent points to something that Jill Soloway also now laments, and that is the fact that she has a “cisgender male actor playing a transgender female on the program.”
The program may have won several Emmys, and it may now be in its fourth season. But now evidently the moral revolution is coming so quickly that the director of this transgressive program, after all, that is on a transgender character, has now come to the conclusion that she wasn’t adequately revolutionary, yes ages ago, just four years ago when she originally cast the program, casting, of course, Jeffrey Tambor in the lead role of a transgender woman. It turns out that Jill Soloway wasn’t the only winner of an Emmy recently for that Amazon TV series, Transparent. Also, Jeffrey Tambor himself won, and he won for playing a transgender woman. But this is where the controversy has now emerged. As Emmons reports,
“In most cases this kind of acclaim would be occasion for a little celebration, but for Soloway, the success of the third season of her cutting-edge show brought self-recrimination instead. In an interview in Vulture, the director announced ‘the time has come where it’s unacceptable for cis men to play trans women.’”
Now let’s follow this a little more closely. Now you have the director of the show Transparent, after winning an Emmy along with the male actor who plays the transgender woman, admitting that she was wrong to have cast a man in the role of a transgender woman in the first place, and now she publicly offers her humiliation and her denunciation of herself in her public confession of the fact that she didn’t know her error when she made this casting decision just four years ago. In the interview, Soloway says,
“It definitely started in a different time. And my ignorance, I lead with my ignorance, is that I really didn’t understand anything with the trans civil-rights movement when I created the show. I’m lucky that we’ve had so much support from the trans community and that we’ve brought so many trans people in, so the show feels like a hub of a trans community. At this point, as a feminist, I’m getting tired of white cis men writing about sex workers. [She goes on to list a number of things that non-gender-transitioning, white men should shut up about.]”
But the point being made in this article, The Federalist, is exactly right. And I quote,
“The real issue here, however, is not Soloway’s blatant hypocrisy, but the gaping holes this casting controversy exposes in the trans movement’s ever-changing narrative.”
The ever-changing narrative is the problem. It’s one of the problems to which that New Atlanta study pointed in the previous conversation, but now we’re talking about Transparent. And now we have the fact that the director of that program now says that she made a moral mistake for which she can only now ask to be forgiven in casting a, “cisgenger male”—that is a non-gender transitioning male—“to play the part of a transgender woman.”
This issue is confusing, and that’s actually the point. Here you have a director admitting that she made a mistake that wasn’t even identifiable in terms of four years ago when she started the program. And furthermore, it still makes no sense. How exactly did she make a mistake? Well evidently, she made a mistake because according to now the new orthodoxy of the transgender movement, you can’t cast an actor who isn’t transgender to play a transgender person on television or on the big screen. It is evidently now an insult to transgender persons and their authenticity to have someone play a transgender person who isn’t. But, and this is the point Emmons is making, the transgender movement can’t keep its ideology straight here.
Does it matter if one is a man or woman or not? Their argument is that it doesn’t really matter, that the whole thing is a social construct. They’re arguing that we have to get beyond questions of gender and simply accept it; every single human being is on a fluid scale of gender identity. How in the world can they then turn around and say it’s wrong to cast someone that would be identified rightly throughout human history as a male in playing someone who is a transgender female? Indeed, in terms of acting, it can be asked quite clearly how someone who wasn’t a male could play someone who is transitioning from being a male to a female.
If you’re following this, it just points to how far we have all been brought along in terms of the transgender revolution in our thinking about such a basic question. If we’re going to name a sin for what this director committed, that would be the sin of what is now identified as appropriation, and it’s been at the center of many controversies of late. The idea of appropriation also goes back to that kind of Marxist discourse. It is the idea that you can’t steal someone else’s story without also insulting and stealing their identity.
Now we need to note that this means the absolute end of all fiction. It means that no one can write a story that he or she did not experience. But of course, even in making that sentence we use those old archaic words, he and she, that used to make sense in our civilization. This new sin of appropriation is being alleged against anyone who might, for instance, write a story about a Native American who isn’t actually Native American or write a story in which there is a character who is a woman who isn’t actually a woman.
Now once again note the problem here. We’ve been told that in gender issues there really isn’t any such thing as man or woman, but now we’re being told that it’s a sin to act as one if you are not and to try to write fiction, whether entertainment or otherwise, that would be effectively stealing someone else’s story. This is the kind of meltdown of meaning that is now becoming so regular that we see a Hollywood director apologizing for a program that was considered cutting-edge as recently as, I don’t know, a few days ago, but is now seen to be already out of date in moral terms because they cast, of all things, a man to play a man transitioning to be a woman.
When it comes to the transgender revolution, it’s almost as if the revolutionaries are running so fast that those who are trying to show just how compliant they are to the demands of this revolution have to call in almost hourly to say, what’s our position on this now? I guess the saddest thing is that you can expect those who are the producers of culture, such as this television program director, to decide that’s a call she really does have to make.
California governor signs law requiring single-user school restrooms to be gender neutral
Finally, sometimes you see a story documenting the moral revolution that just makes you smile because of the sheer inanity of it. A story recently in the Los Angeles Times by Howard Blume says,
“Anyone looking for confirmation of the nation’s cultural divide can add education and gender-neutral bathrooms to the list of proof points.”
He points to the distinction now very clear in this culture between North Carolina and the state of California. Because, as he writes,
“A gender-neutral bathroom law, Assembly Bill 1732, was one of many measures with an effect on education that Gov. Jerry Brown signed during the legislative session that ended Friday. Starting next March, any one-toilet bathroom in a California school — or in any other government building, public place or business — will have to be designated as all-gender, open to anyone.”
Now notice here that we have the legislature of the most populous state in the union passing legislation so specific that it stipulates that it applies only to single toilet bathrooms in the public schools of the state. I look to the actual legislation, and this is what it states,
“All single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency shall be identified as all-gender toilet facilities … by signage that complies with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations and designated for use by no more than one occupant at a time, or for family, or assisted use .”
Later, the bill says,
“For the purposes of this section, ‘single-user toilet facility’ means a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.”
So in the state of California, the thought police on the moral revolution have gone so far as to adopt legislation that has to identify with absolute legal precision what a one toilet bathroom is. There goes the revolution.