September 18, 2019

InPsych Magazine: Telescoping the Future of Gender

I have to admit I enjoy reading the Australian Psychological Society’s monthly journal InPsych.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t enjoy it for the dazzling insights into the human condition that I see within its pages.  I enjoy it because it’s prophetic: InPsych‘s commitment to a radical post-Christian perspective on what it means to be human first forewarns me about, and hence forearms me for, an understanding of humanity that will be prevalent across popular culture in the next five to ten years.  In other words InPsych allows us to know our enemy.

InPsych‘s understanding of humanity is at direct odds with a biblical understanding of humanity – and one increasingly hostile towards, and openly suspicious of, such an understanding.

And to that end I would thoroughly recommend all those involved in pastoral ministry, along with those who work with people in religious community capacities, to make a point to read InPsych each month.

It certainly means that if you are a Christian young person looking to go into psychology in the next fifteen to twenty years in Australia you are going to have to navigate some interesting and increasingly hostile terrain.

It also probably means that you may not be permitted to be a psychologist in Australia in the next fifteen to twenty years without signing off professionally on a common view of humanity and sexuality that is at odds with the Christian perspective.  And not just a teeny bit at odds with it, but by huge gallumphing serves of difference.

Of course it also means that if you dodge that bullet, you are probably going to make a killing if you’re a Christian psychologist, and all from Christian clients.  Why? Because the gulf between how you view humanity and how the secular psychological frame views humanity will be so wide as to be a chasm.

Why would a Christian who needs psychological help ever go to a psychologist whose basic premise is “Be true to yourself.”?  I do have better hopes for many a secular psychologist, but it’s going to be increasingly patchy.

The August 2019 edition of InPsych is a case in point of how this future is being telescoped.  If you missed it in the newspapers recently, there was an interesting media discussion about a major article in that month’s edition after contributor, Professor Damien Riggs, from Flinders University published a piece entitled Supporting transgender and non-binary people in Australia.

Riggs describes his own work at Flinders the following way:

I am currently an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. My Fellowship focuses on family diversity, and to date has included studies of public attitudes to family diversity, transgender parents, fertility preservation, heterosexual first time parents, surrogacy, foster care, and embryo donation for formation formation.

The Australian Research Council Future Fellowships website lists the desirable qualities of those to whom it grants a fellowship:

  • ensure that outstanding mid-career researchers are recruited and retained by Administering Organisations in  continuing academic positions 
  • build collaboration across industry and/or research organisations and/or disciplines
  • support research in Science and Research Priorities that will result in economic, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for Australia
  • strengthen Australia’s research capacity by supporting innovative, internationally competitive research.

In other words the aim is to focus academic research into the industry field.    A Future Fellow such as this particular fellow will endeavour to ensure that what happens in the academy does not stay in the academy, hence the InPsych article.  His views will be the future, make no mistake about it.

There are some things that Riggs writes about that I agree with.  There’s a section on Reparative Therapy, some of which is quite helpful.  But Riggs is very selective in his use of research.  He says this in defending his claim that gender dysphoria among young people is never a passing phase:

Importantly, claims to ‘curing’ gender diversity are not the only approach to transgender and non-binary people that fails to adhere to the directive to adopt affirmative approaches.  Most recently ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria’ has been used to claim, particularly with regard to young people, that being transgender or non-binary is a trend or a phase.

In other words, Riggs lumps what are rightly serious socio-scientific concerns about what is clearly an increasing phenomenon – children and young teens experiencing a sudden feeling that they are in the wrong body – with some discredited ideas around reparative therapy.

There is ample research – and well qualified research – which shows that some level of social contagion is going on for many suggestible young people who are encouraged through a variety of social media platforms to consider that their sexual confusion is actually because they are in the wrong body.

It almost seems too obvious to point that out. And  it becomes even more obvious if you supplant the term “gender dysphoria” with the term “body dysmorphia” and consider the almost rapacious websites that encourage young people down the pathway of eating disorders.

The clinician who praises any young person who is wasting away with an eating disorder on the basis that they alone know who they truly are – especially as a thirteen year old – and that they and they alone know what is truly wrong with them, ought to be struck off.

In Riggs world, the only approach to gender dysphoria has to be the affirmative approach.  Which basically means, the child must be right – at all times.  That the child could not have had any societal pressure or influence, nor that the malleable brains and sexual curiosities of teens has anything to do with this, rendering the dysphoria a passing phase, is dismissed out of hand. Because of psychology?  No, because of ideology.   Which basically means that, like so much of social science’s claims to hard data – the results are hopelessly skewed and ideologically biased.

Riggs has a high interesting in getting to them early, so to speak.  And why not, if that’s your ideology.  I’d be interested to know if InPsych is going to give anyone a right to reply to this article, or if the argument is over.  I’d certainly be hesitant if I were a clinical practitioner to say anything to the contrary in the public square, knowing full well that membership of the APS would be fairly critical to my ability to practise.

But it’s what Riggs goes on to say that I find most revealing.  For what we have, once again, is that age-old progressive trope: find a legal intervention to get between children and their parents.

Well it thinks it’s progressive, in the same way the Australian Government was acting all progressive in removing the Stolen Generations from parents who they considered were not fit and proper to look after their own children.

Here’s what Riggs states:

It is important to consider how the treatment of young people is regulated.  In particular it will be important into the future for affirmation treatment teams and gender centres to evaluate when legal action may be required if children are not receiving adequate parental support. This may include hospitals advocating to courts for treatment if otherwise being refused by legal guardians (i.e, with regard to puberty suppression).  More importantly it behoves all clinicians as mandated notifiers to consider when less-affirming approaches (on the part of other clinicians or on the part of family members), may constitute forms of neglect, and to make reports as needed to the relevant bodies to ensure that young people receiving the affirming clinical care that they need.

In other words, be a snitch.

It’s interesting isn’t it how cool and casual and scientific it all sounds.  Much like the government back in the Stolen Generations days.  All for the best of the child after all. Oh, and just as with all over-regulation and over-reach by government, there’s a deep suspicion of mediating institutions such as families.

And of course, if your clinical colleague happens to disagree with that assessment, a legal obligation is always a phone call away.  The irony of the August 2019 edition of InPsych also containing an article on the future of family therapy does not escape me.  One article attempting to keep families together.  Another attempting to tear them apart.

Riggs isn’t a Future Fellow for no reason.  And InPsych doesn’t present the future of where we are headed for no reason.  This stuff has been simmering away for years.

But of course the future beyond the future they can’t see, or refuse to see, is that the bodies will wash up on the shore.  Riggs and InPsych are obviously proud of their role in pushing the boundaries of what science is saying, and doing so with an ideologically-driven rapidity that is breathtaking.  But all pride comes before a fall.

Unfortunately it is unlikely that Riggs or the Australian Psychological Society will take the fall, and if they do, that fall will be cushioned by the body count they have racked up.  But at least we can be grateful to InPsych for alerting us to all of this early.


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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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