Published September 29, 2022
The recent controversy surrounding Brittany Kerr Aldean’s comments about transgenderism has garnered considerable media attention, culminating in her husband, country star Jason Aldean, parting ways with his public relations firm of seventeen years.
The controversy started when Ms. Aldean posted the following on Instagram: “I’d really like to thank my parents for not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase. I love this girly life.” This may not have been the funniest joke in the world and might even be deemed in bad taste, considering that rapid onset gender dysphoria is tearing families apart across America, but the backlash was, as usual, extreme and unforgiving.
In response, Ms. Aldean protested that her words had been taken out of context, and she also followed up by sharing a post that contained the following statement: “Advocating for the genital mutilation of children under the disguise of love and calling it ‘gender affirming care’ is one of the worst evils. … Some parents want to be accepted by society so badly, that they’re willing to make life-altering decisions for their children who aren’t old enough to fully comprehend the consequences of those actions. Love is protecting your child until they are mature enough as an adult to make their own life decisions.” Of course, this statement merely intensified the controversy.
Several comments are in order. First, Instagram and social media in general are not the best places for pursuing discussion of such topics. To protest that comments on Instagram have been taken out of context is odd. Instagram, like Twitter, is a strangely contextless medium compared, for example, to an op-ed or an essay or a book. Some ideas and some arguments need more than a handful of characters to do them any justice.
Second, to imply that all parents who put their children through trans procedures are motivated simply by wanting to be accepted is not true. Ten minutes perusing the hideous transgender coaching videos available online indicates that one key strategy taught to children wanting to transition is telling parents that they are suicidal. Any parent knows that threat both garners immediate and total attention and places them in a very difficult position.
Having said this, Ms. Aldean is right: Trans procedures for minors are nothing more than bogus hormonal and genital mutilation. Like the now notorious lobotomies of a previous generation, they are simply medical and surgical technique put into service of junk science and the worst elements of the latest insane ideology to grip the popular imagination. Half an hour studying the developments surrounding the Tavistock Clinic in the United Kingdom—on the basis of a government-commissioned report—should be enough for any intelligent person to grasp the simple fact that even the medical establishment realizes that it does not yet know enough about gender dysphoria to justify the silencing of any criticism or the closure of important discussions.
But perhaps the most instructive element of the Aldean controversy has been the media reporting. Take People magazine, for example—hardly a bastion of sophisticated queer theory. In a recent article on the issue, People hit all the expected rhetorical tropes, from references to “gender affirming care “ (euphemism for, yes, hormonal and genital mutilation of minors) to examples of “Anti-LGBTQ” legislation focused on, yes, curtailing genital mutilation. And that is in People magazine.
This points to two things that need to be kept clear in such discussions and that need to be said again and again and again. First, the T is not the same as the LGB. The former is in reality often a body dysmorphia, the latter refers to sexual desire. At a theoretical level, the T it is also a scrambling of gender categories, the latter assume the stability of the male and female binary. It now serves one purpose and one purpose only to bind to these disparate, even antithetical, groups together: opposition to heteronormativity. And Christians need to be wise to this ruse and speak and act accordingly, because accepting the conflation of the two makes criticism of any one of the constituent parties that much more difficult. To outlaw genital mutilation of minors is not, for example, to demand that homosexuals be subject to criminal penalty.
Second, there is a war of words here. The move from “gender reassignment” to “gender affirming,” for example, is significant. “Gender affirming” should mean “making children comfortable with their naturally sexed bodies.” In fact, it provides rhetorical cover for and justification of genital mutilation of those too young to understand what they are doing—or, perhaps better, what is being done to them. Put simply, it calls good “evil” and evil “good.”
Ms. Aldean’s interventions might have been inept but she has, on the whole, spoken more truthfully than those who now vilify her. Ours is a barbarous age where children’s bodies are butchered in the service of ideological lunacy. At least she is willing to name it for what it is.
Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.