Gender Theory and Gender Ideology

Gender Theory and Gender Ideology

Bishop Peter Elliott on a fashionable wrong-headed ideology          

The Catholic Church does not favour what is known as gender theory or what flows from it, gender ideology. In 2015 in Rome, the Synod of Bishops on the Family rejected gender ideology (see text of the final Relatio, n. 8). The theory and its ideology also contradict the beautiful Theology of the Body proposed by Saint John Paul II.


Pope Francis has openly rejected gender theory as undermining sexual difference and differentiation (male-female complementarity in the reciprocal male-female relationship) - hence marriage (see General Audience, April 15, 2015). In a specific paragraph in his exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, 56, he gives a trenchant warning on the destructive effects of this theory and its ideology.


On October 1st 2016, in an informal dialogue during his visit to Georgia Pope Francis said: “Today there is a global war to destroy marriage…they don’t destroy it with weapons but with ideas. It’s certain ideological ways of thinking that are destroying it…we have to defend ourselves from ideological colonization.”


But what are these ideas, in gender theory behind gender ideology, and do they have any validity?  It is useful to track down the shabby history of gender theory, which is not widely known.


1      Gender Feminism


Early in 1995 I encountered the elastic word “gender” in New York. I was a member of the Delegation of the Holy See at the Preparatory Conference for the United Nations Conference on Women, held later that year in Beijing.  We were puzzled why the word “gender” kept appearing in the draft final document which was being fiercely debated during the Preparatory Conference.


Through a student at Columbia University, we discovered that “gender” was a key term in a new field, “gender studies”. The term seemed to come from a group known as Gender Feminists. A feminist “gender” theory had also emerged in the dense writings of Judith Butler.   Radicals in this circle never use those very bad words man and men, preferring wommon, or plural wimmin. But it turned out that an extreme feminism is only one form of something with an interesting history and much wider influence, especially now that it has been taken up by homosexual activists.  [1]


2.  Dr John Money and Gender Theory


The precise theory may be traced back to Dr John Money (1921-2006), a New Zealand psychologist who worked in the United States after the Second World War. He claimed that nurture not nature determines our sexual identity, that is, how you are raised and conditioned not the nature of your body. According to behaviourist theory, someone born as a boy could be turned into a girl by being raised as a girl – as long as he/she was never informed of his/her true sex.


Money lifted the word “gender” from its grammatical context (“male” and “female” words in languages such as French and Italian) and then redefined it as my sexual self-awareness within my mind. He argued that this is not necessarily bound to or related to my body and biology. He believed this helped him treat hermaphrodites, people born with the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or those of both sexes.


Money’s reputation was tainted by his activities in an experiment in Canada involving twin baby boys. Having been mutilated during circumcision, one boy was raised as a girl. Money forcefully attempted to reinforce this child’s female identity or “gender”. The child resisted and discovered his male identity. He underwent surgery and married, but he committed suicide in 2004 (see BBC Horizon documentary 2011). His twin brother also took his own life.


Money’s supporters of “nurture over nature” continued to press the theory that “gender” is acquired by social conditioning.  Certain male/female characteristics may be shaped socially by convention, custom, expectations, but the theory goes much further with devastating effects especially in cases of sex-change or “gender re-assignment”.


In recent years Gender Theory has neatly fused with Post-Modernism (Derrida, Lacan, Foucault etc.). This philosophy is congenial because post-modernists deny that any objective human nature exists. So my “gender” becomes a role that I may select and construct.  Moreover, I can change or deconstruct my “gender” because I create my own “narrative”. To put it simply, I am what I think I am. If a man “identifies” as a woman, he is a woman. If a woman ‘identifies’ as a man, she is a man.


According to Post-Modernism all we can know of reality is words and words are a means to power.  The fluid social construct of “gender” is entered by way of the choices of the autonomous individual. This is an exercise of my power.


“Autonomy” is a term invoked to justify not only any sexual choice a person may make but, as we see in Belgium, the right to euthanasia, particularly through suicide which is regarded as the ultimate autonomous act. But autonomy is a liberal Western myth. No-one is or ever has been “autonomous”. There are no truly autonomous acts. We are all inter-related to one another. Whatever we do affects others for we are social beings.


This focus on the autonomous individual partly explains why sex-change is described softly as “gender reassignment”. But is gender fluidity scientifically valid? Can anyone really change his or her sex?


On a biological level, no one can change his or her sex. On a psychological level people may change their self-awareness in terms of what they may want to call “gender”. But this raises the question of whether this is delusional, a form of mental illness known as sexual dysphoria


Today this interpretation is already politically incorrect so we can expect sexual dysphoria to be expunged from the text books.  Yet in the past, psychologists and psychiatrists interpreted sexual dysphoria as a deep disorder, a psychosis. [2]


Some feminists, such as Germaine Greer, strongly reject the gender reassignment project, particularly the claim that a surgically modified male can become a woman.


3.   Gender Ideology: What LGBTQI Means


From the union between theory and philosophy Gender Ideology emerged, represented by the familiar letters LGBTQI or variants. Through the Western media this familiar code has spread across the world. It has become an effective instrument of Homosexualism, the ideology that developed during the civil rights struggles of Gay Liberation in the ‘60’s.


LGBTQI “diversity” begins with at least six “genders” but any number may be included in the spectrum, 58 (!) according to The Weekend Australian, July 18-19, 2015. We start with L – lesbians, then G – gay, males or females, B – bisexuals, T – transsexuals or transgender people, I – inter-sex, hermaphrodites by birth or choice, Q – queers or questioning. 


There is nothing to prevent P - paedophile or pederast being added as a “gender”. The ideologues coyly use “intergenerational sex” which may easily include such criminal activity. But in the post-modern fantasy world there is no right or wrong, no inversions or perversions, no sexual neuroses or psychoses, just whatever the autonomous individual chooses or consents to in his/her totally relativistic world. I choose it, I construct it, so it must be right. I am what I think I am.


What is obvious, but rather confusing, is the way LGBTQI mainly describes sexual preferences or orientations rather than the familiar male and female categories of biology. The spectrum may include male and female as two gender poles, or as undesirable heterosexual extremes. This is derisively described as a “binary” understanding of sexuality. But the LGBTQI ideal is total fluidity, a spectrum open to endless changes, or a “polymorphous sexuality”, favoured by the philosopher Marcuse. Note that male and female homosexuals do not necessarily accept being locked into the “gender spectrum” or being used to promote its unscientific ideology.


3.   Same Sex Marriage (SSM) and LGBTQI…


Australian Marriage Equality (AME) is a political arm of LGBTQI. This explains accusations of homophobia hurled against anyone who rejects or even questions same-sex marriage. However, it is interesting that AME never refers to “same gender marriage”, even though “gender” is part of modern English usage and the word may appear on forms requiring personal information. Most people still think in terms of two sexes, but they are gradually being “re-educated” and here the main strategic target is the young, in the schools.


AME knows that the legalisation of same-sex marriage (SSM) would force open the doors of schools to LGBTQI gender ideology, as has happened in other countries.  Already LGBTQI has successfully penetrated many schools through its Safe Schools Coalition. In Australian States the coalition is marketed as an anti-bullying program and a counselling service for students with gender identity issues.


To this may be added, an annual propaganda event, May 17th, IDAHOT, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, “a world- wide celebration of sexual and gender diversities”. But legal issues may arise. A year 7 teacher presenting LGBTQI etc. to 12 year olds may be deemed to be “grooming” students, which is an illegal activity in various Australian States.


Patient compassion needs to guide the pastoral care of all caught up in this delusion, particularly those pressured to seek surgical/hormonal “gender reassignment”, including a growing number of children. Helping children change comfortably to their chosen “gender” is part of the program of the Safe Schools Coalition. As with any distortion of the truth and meaning of human sexuality, the theory and ideology of “gender” bears bitter fruits – confusion, suffering, damaged lives and personal tragedies, even suicide. It is impossible to change your sex…and ultimately confronting this biological reality leads to despair among those given high hopes of “transition” by the ideology.


4 The Political Agenda in Action: SOGI, AME and LGBTQI.


Yet another acronym SOGI brings together Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.  SOGI makes a distinction between the two main components of LGBTQI. The political aim is to get people to unite on the spectrum, regardless of orientation or identity. This tactic gives a political impression of power, like the myth that there is a “gay community” and a “gay vote”, both used to bluff or intimidate naïve politicians. As noted, not all homosexual men and women go along with these trends and some even oppose same-sex marriage and regard the LGBTQI spectrum as nonsense because it goes well beyond gaining freedom to exercising power by coercing and punishing those who reject the ideology.




According to some social analysts, the gender ideological movement is the most recent phase of the sexual revolution, perhaps the ultimate form of the revolution as the destruction of the sexual identity of the person.  As a social revolution this is best understood within the wider Marxist project of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). Revising Marxist-Leninism and Stalinism, Gramsci argued that class war and violent revolution do not work. The real revolution must be social. It must penetrate and break down the institutions of bourgeois society: marriage, family, churches, professions, legal systems, political parties, education, schools, universities, media etc. This is described today as “the long march through the institutions”.


The Sexual Revolution has become central to the Gramscian social revolution. This may be seen in listing its major projects. In a wider context it is held to be socially “progressive” to reshape our lives through: 


·       abortion as a human (woman’s) right,

·       embryo experimentation,

·       cloning,

·       abolition of paternity,

·       value-free sex education of children,

·       same-sex marriage,

·       same-sex adoption,

·       same-sex fertility treatments,

·       universal access to gender reassignment,

·       euthanasia beginning with assisted suicide,

·       legalization of all drugs,

·       elimination of religion in schools,

·       religious freedom restricted to “freedom of worship”,

·       invented human rights,

·       the total autonomy of the person


The Catholic Church rejects this program as contrary to life, justice, human freedom and the nature and dignity of the human person.


However in all political parties, from Left to Right, there are those who unknowingly serve the “progressive” social revolution which seems so politically correct. But there are also those who know exactly what they are about and how deceitful and aggressive are the means they take to achieve their goals.


The long march of the sexual revolution through the institutions has expanded to international dimensions now that the United Nations bureaucracy has thrown its support behind LGBTQI.



Faith Magazine

January - February 2018 2018