The Beacons Are Lit: “Unraveling Gender”
John S. Grabowski is a professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University of America, and the epigram to the first chapter of his new book, Unraveling Gender: The Battle over Sexual Difference comes from Tolkien’s The Return of the King – Gandalf’s rallying cry (in part) to the people of Gondor to defend their way of life: “See! The beacons of Gondor are alight, calling for aid. War is kindled.”
But Unraveling Gender is not a manifesto for conflict. In fact, it’s a compassionate appeal for Christian charity and clarity. “Our battle is against the powers of evil – sin and the devil – in ourselves, and in the world around us (see Eph 6:10–17). Other human beings are not the real enemy in this battle.” Perhaps. But it seems clear that those of us who reject the idea of gender fluidity are the enemy to those who endorse it – just ask them.
Grabowski takes pains to show the long (since St. Paul VI’s papacy) Catholic history of compassion in matters of sexuality. But he also sees the new gender ideology as aligned with what St. John Paul II so memorably called “the culture of death.”
Underlining this whole business is a simple question: Is sex (or gender) binary? The simple answer is yes, although there is such a thing as intersex, a very rare genetic anomaly (and like “gender” a word that’s been hijacked by contemporary enthusiasts). Grabowski refers to this as the Babel Effect: “Gender ideology rejects both the realist’s belief in a reality where things have common natures or essences and in the ability of language to correspond with that reality.”