Tagg: Gavin Ashenden

The Trans Dilemma – Human Dysphoria & the Life of Brian.

By: Gavin Ashenden.

As so often, Monty Python got there first. The Life of Brian placed a mirror before us. In the amphitheatre the hopeless revolutionaries are sitting plotting in a corner. But Stan keeps interrupting:
“Why are you always on about women, Stan?”
After a long pause Stan mutters, “I want to be one….. I want to be a woman. From now on I want you all to call me Loretta.
Reg: What!?
Stan: It’s my right as a man.
Judith: Why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
Stan: I want to have babies.
Reg: You want to have babies?!?!?!
Stan: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
Reg: But you can’t have babies.
Stan: Don’t you oppress me!”

When I first saw the film, I laughed and laughed. The comedy was sharp and brutal. But tragedy and comedy lie very close together. I’ve only recently seen the tragedy. A friend of mine has a teenage child who suffers from gender dysphoria, and the whole family has had to make this frightening and strange journey together.

The Confusion of Tongues, from The Tower of Babel (Wikimedia Commons)

Fortunately only 0.05% of people suffer this kind of mental discomfort. Dysphoria is a strange word to use. Few people know what it means. We know about euphoria- a sense of joyful delight – well, this is the opposite. It’s about deep discomfort. It starts with a sense of not belonging in your own body, and then moves to a state of wanting or needing the body to change so that it eases the state of the uncomfortable mind.

The BBC found a trans hero the other day to represent its piece on gender re-assignment. He/she was a former boxing promoter Kellie Malone. The macho world of boxing was a very long way from pub barmaid- a place he/she has journeyed to. Kellie was welcoming the new Government proposals to make sex change easier.

But there may be a deeper principle at stake here. We have shifted as a society to a place where we treasure and respect feelings more than most other factors. It’s part of a growing self-preoccupation.

“If I feel something, it must be true or real.” It’s the under-side of an “I want” consumerist society where a whole range of very sophisticated agencies play on our feelings of how we would like to look or like to feel, or like to be seen. It’s usually when they want to sell us something. Image is what we search for. It can often be easier to obtain than substance.

Image affects us all. From the way we dress, to the way we speak. And we know that how successful we are will affect how acceptable we are to some people.

And that may bring us to the heart of this confusing journey. It has a lot to do with how we want other people to accept us, and how we long to be able to accept ourselves.

But what doesn’t help us is to mistake symptoms for causes.

Image ought to be a kind symptom of who we really are, not the other way around. Image should not define us.

Walt Heyer went the whole distance on gender re-assigment; genitals removed and hormone bombardment. He has been writing about the disappointment of his own experiences. He refers to a book by Rene Jax, who calling himself ‘a survivor of transgender surgery’ wrote “DON’T get on the plane.” For him, the surgery did not cure his sense of dis-ease.

“A man can mutilate his body, but he can never transform it to be organized as a female—and vice versa for the woman.” Walt points out the gender dysphoria exists along with other connected problems like depression and anxiety, and that gender confusion may be a symptom of dis-ease, not a cause. Treating that, may leave the cause untouched.

It may be that gender dysphoria is one very uncomfortable part of a wider, deeper human dysphoria. Escaping our biological identity for a different one may not solve the pain of inner contradiction. We are so much more than our gender or biology. The Trans community may point to a bigger journey, a deeper challenge.

Just being a human brings both euphoria and dysphoria, a sense of belonging and times of severe discomfort. The search for self-acceptance and comfort in our own skin may not be solved by the surgeon’s knife.

If we are more than just very aware animals, it may be the journey is not to cross from one gender to another, but from mortality to immortality. If we were designed for heaven, we might well be uncomfortable stuck on earth; if we are more soul than body, surgery may not cure us.

One reason why the experience of the Christian journey of exploration remains so attractive and powerful for so many, is that it tells us that it can address the cause of our discomfort.

Our deepest pain is most relieved by finding unconditional acceptance and forgiveness. By feeling that we really do belong, and being given a sense of purpose.

The surgeon’s knife & the bombardment of chemistry touch these angsts only lightly, if at all. The problem, the dysphoria, may lie more in the heart and soul than our biological formatting.

Gavin Ashenden


Silencing the truth begins with the rewriting of history

By Gavin Ashenden

Irina Ratushinskaya is dead. She died on July 5th. She was a Russian, Christian poet. We were the same age within a month or two. She died from cancer. I only met her once, after she had been released from prison in Russia. She was a physics graduate from Odessa university. She became a Christian, and then a poet. She wrote,

“We pass through all like ripples, – And each one disappears. – Which of us will recur? – Who will flow into whom? – What do we need in this world – To quench our thirst?”

She was sentenced to 7 years in a labour camp followed by five years of internal exile for writing poetry about God.

She wrote of her experience in the camps;-

“… you must not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to hate. Not because your tormentors have not earned it. But if you allow hatred to take root, it would flourish and spread during your years in the camps, driving out everything else, and ultimately corrode and warp your soul. You will no longer be yourself, your identity will be destroyed, all that will remain will be a hysterical, maddened and bedevilled husk of the human being that once was.”

Her warning about hate, whatever provokes it, is timeless.

It was because of Irina, and thousands, hundreds of thousands like her, that I was motivated to smuggle Bibles and Christian history books into the Soviet Union during 1980’s

For the authorities had re-written Soviet history. They had cut out the truth about faith. So, we were asked to smuggle in books that told the real story about history.

On one of my ‘trips’ in Prague, I was ‘detained’ as I was leaving with records of the courts sentencing Christians to imprisonment. The records were wrapped in thin tapes around my thighs. They searched me but miraculously missed them.

When I asked the Czech 19 year olds whom I taught at university in the ‘noughties’, twenty years later, what they knew about their Marxist totalitarian past, they looked blankly at me. ”Nothing, our parents never talk about it.”

History had been blanked out.

There are other places where history has attacked. One that leaves a particular bad taste in the mouth is the murder of 1.5 million Armenian Christians in 1915 by the Turkish Muslim state.

Turkey denies it happened, and attacks anyone or state that refers to it. It tried to send 5 journalists to jail for reporting on a conference about it.

So many people wanted to whitewash the Jewish holocaust out of history, Germany passed a law against it making it a criminal offence.

You would think that England might be free from this kind of whitewashing of history. (Come to think of it as a Caucasian, is that a phrase I should be offended by?)

A statue of Saint Ambrose, a bearded man and a champion of truth.

At King’s College London, there are two busts of Dr Henry Maudsley and Sir Frederick Mott. Maudsley was a pioneering psychiatrist and Mott was a leading neurologist. The Dean of Education, Prof Leman, is getting rid of them. He has decided that busts of bearded white men are “intimidating” for ethnic minorities.

No one seems to have mentioned that Prof Patrick Leman is himself a bearded white man. He has yet to announce plans to get rid of himself in case he too is too intimidating to ethnic minorities.

Because it’s not really about intimidation. It’s about re-writing history. It’s about disguising that our culture was built on the work of intelligent white men with beards. It’s actually racism, ageism, and -hirsutism.

Of course, King’s London are free to hang as many multi-coloured, multi-gendered portraits of contemporary clever gifted people, without or without facial hair, as they want.

But it’s the getting rid of the founding men that is the sign that instead of celebrating diversity, they are really re-writing history. They stripped out a portrait of the recent Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, because his ethical views were too Christian for the present Dean. More suppression of history.

Sometimes what we have to do is to join the dots. In Soviet Russia, they started by re-writing history, and they ended by sending poets and Jews and Christians, to labour camp and even death.

If Irina had survived her cancer, she would still want to warn us against hate, in politics as much as in history. She would remind us that poetry tries to describe what is true. She would want to warn us that the people who silence history, if they ever get power, move on to silencing poets, and others who tell the truth;- with or without beards.

Gavin Ashenden
First published July 20th 2017.

Sin at Synod- In look for new bishops to guard the orthodox faith

Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former Chaplain to the Queen, writes in Anglican Ink:

”At the General Synod of the Church of England two decision were taken which rip the Church from its moorings. They launch it secularised, into a therapy culture from which it has chosen to take its priorities, and from which is craves affirmation.”

Many are those from the Scandinavian countries who can recognize this development and should appreciate what is needed. Dr. Ashenden continues:

”Anglicanism is an episcopal Church, and the betrayal is one that lies at the feet of the bishops of the Church of England, who have preferred social and secular kudos to the sacrifice and integrity of the Gospel, and gone along with the replacement of Christ the Saviour with Jesus-the-fake-therapist.

There must come a new episcopal jurisdiction to whom the faithful can look for comfort, fidelity and leadership […].

Leave the civil servants in their legal offices with responsibility for the upkeep of so many churches that have become museums, and let the faithful look to new bishops who will guard the orthodox faith, offer spiritual nourishment, lead the Christian community in its struggle against the growing anger of the secularists who seek to silence them.”

Well, what about the (Old Catholic) Nordic Catholic Church?

Read the whole piece here.