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Sunday 11 October 2015

Comment: It's All About "Integrity"

Posted in: Comment
By Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 18th July 2015

Recently, I encountered a thoroughly dupliticious book from an anti-transgender US fundamentalist psychologist. I decided to analyse it in this latest article in my expose of US anti-transgender attacks on transgender child protection policies within schools and other childcare institutions.

Mark Yarhouse's name may sound familiar to some veteran lesbian and gay activists. According to his bio on his webpage, Yarhouse teaches psychology at Regents University, a fundamentalist institution founded by US Christian Right televangelist Pat Robertson from the proceeds of his programme. Yarhouse has been a fundamentalist all his life, undertaking qualifications in psychology from Calvin College and Wheaton College before he was hired to teach at Regents. He has been associated with two suspect projects before this book, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Moderated Change in Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors and Friends.

Given the ongoing anti-transgender campaign against trans-inclusive educational access policies in the United States, Yarhouse has now decided to cash in by contributing his own perspective as a fundamentalist psychologist and subcultural luminary within the US Christian Right. So, what does he have to say for himself? At the core of this book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria (2015) is a simple core proposition. There are three predominant approaches to transgender rights. One of them is "diversity" and it is the mainstream approach undertaken by organisations such as the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, American College of Obsteitricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association, as well as most LGBT organisations. It argues that gender dysphoria is a bona fide diagnostic category, as found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association and therefore may require amenable psychotherapy and counselling, hormone treatment and eventual reassignment surgery, although the latter is carried out when the person is a legal adult. This requires inclusive professional practice, inclusive and safe social environments and legislative reform, such as trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, official document recertification and subsidised reassignment surgery. Once the latter objective is achieved, the transperson is happier in their new body, but must also confront discriminatory social institutions and public policies. If Yarhouse's book were only about that, it would be a useful contribution to the transgender rights debate.

Unfortunately, it isn't. Diversity may be the mainstream desirable policy setting for transgender needs and rights, but there are two others, and they dominate the Christian Right's perspective on transgender identity and their own anti-transgender politics. "Integrity" is based on the quaint notion of gender complementarity and hierarchy in which women and men "must" perform rigidly differentiated roles. Women are "supposed" to engage in domestic labour and fulltime childcare, while men are the wage earners. This disqualifies most mainstream working class families like my own family of origin, where both parents worked to insure my sister and I had the best chance for upward mobility. In New Zealand, we've had two consecutive female Prime Ministers and this class-bound concept of "integrity" is inoperative, having been overtaken by social change. We do not believe in rigid gender differentiation, which may explain the eclipse of the New Zealand antifeminist group Women for Life/the Family Education Network in the nineties, having campaigned against feminist child sexual abuse intervention, the conclusions of the Cartwright Inquiry at National Women's Hospital, the UN Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, homosexual law reform and women's reproductive rights. "Integrity" also has other implications- it means that if male and female are pink and blue "complimentary" pairs, then same-sex relationships are "dysfunctional" and "immoral" because "sexual difference" is an "essential" human attribute. For the same reason, gender is "immutable", gender dysphoria is an "erroneous" diagnosis, and inclusive counselling and psychotherapy, institutional and legislative reform "must" be resisted because they "transgress" the "original" "divinely ordained" bodies in which we were born into.

The third and final model for conservative Christian public policies has been "disability." I have two primary objections to this. I believe in a social constructionist view of disability discrimination, which means that there is nothing whatsoever that is "essentially" "inferior" or "wrong" about disabled bodies, which can be seen as neutral variations. In a sense, discriminatory social constructions render disability as "inferior" or "impaired", just as "disabled" frameworks perceive transgender people. Tied in with the "integrity" bias and cissexist assumptions related to it, it means that conservative Christians are encouraged to see transpeople as weak, troubled figures who await "redemption" and conversion to the cis and narrow. And unfortunately, it is the "integrity" and "disability" frameworks that dominate this book. The "integrity" perspective is responsible for maintaining discriminatory perspectives toward transpeople, as the anti-transgender legislative tactics of the US Christian Right demand. The disability framework offers a kinder, gentler transphobia, but acts as the "soft cop" in this duet of anti-transgender tactics. But it's not working in the United States and should not be allowed to take root here.

I suspect that Yarhouse is the source of Girl Boy Other author Glenn Stanton's information and literature review. When I encountered Stanton's own curriculum vitae and employment history on his blog. I noticed several things. Stanton does have postgraduate qualifications, namely an MA in Humanities from the University of West Florida, but they consist of a heavy focus on philosophy and religion, and nothing specialist. Over the last two decades, he has served in various capacities within the predatory US Christian Right multinational Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, as well as its subsidiaries, the Palmetto Family Council (South Carolina) and the Institute for the Marriage and Family Canada, which crusaded against marriage equality in Canada until the passage of civil marriage legislation there in 2005. His current capacity is listed as Director of "Family Formation Studies" and "Strategic Development" at Focus on the Family. As for his publication record, much of his work consists of publication at USconservative Christian imprints such as Tyndale, Moody, InterVarsity Press, Focus on the Family and Baker. They also reflect his activist work. One of his most notorious titles is Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting (IVP, 2004), which I reviewed about ten years ago in the pages of Gaynz.Com. His other work also includes repeated opposition to marriage equality, listed below. His latest book is entitled Loving My (LGBT) Neighbour: Being Friends in Grace and Truth (2014). When it comes to statements about the "unchristian" and "anti-family nature of the transgender movement, they are quite new and rather basic, referring to preconcieved biases about the rigidity of gender roles and hierarchy, compared to the more elaborated version that one finds in Yarhouse's book.

When it comes to anti-transgender politics, as with anti-marriage politics, their origins and motivations are most transparent.

Not Recommended:

Mark Yarhouse: Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Wheaton Grove: InterVarsity Press Academic: 2015

Limning the Psyche: The Website of Mark Yarhouse: http:// psychologyandchristianity.wordpress. com

Glenn Stanton: http://

Glenn Stanton: Transgender Issues: http://

Glenn Stanton and Bill Maier: Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting: Wheaton Grove: Intervarsity Press: 2004.

Glenn Stanton: "Gay Men and Lesbians should not be allowed to adopt children" in Christina Fisinick (ed) Current Controversies: Issues in Adoption: Gale Learning: 2009.

Glenn Stanton: "The Human Case Against Same-Sex Marriage" in Bill Boucher (ed) Represented American Speeches: 2007-2008: Reference Shelf, Volume 80.

Glenn Stanton: "Should same-sex marriage be legalised? No" in Howard Karger (ed) Controversial issues in Social Policy: London: Pearson Education: 2007.

Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 18th July 2015

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