Increase in LGBT identity in the West, “herd mentality”, and the church’s response

Mar 1, 2021 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

On Saturday (27 February) veteran journalist Matthew Parris indicated his firm support for requiring children with gender dysphoria to wait until adulthood before undergoing life-changing hormone and surgery treatment. In an article in the Times [£] the columnist and presenter argued against a long-established trope of LGBT activists, that same sex attraction, and a ‘trans’ person’s sense that gender does not conform to biological sex, are innate and unchanging, “some great shard of internal granite” that we are born with, discover and are liberated as we live out our ‘true nature’. Rather, he says, most with same sex attraction and/or who identify as LGBT have bisexual and gender fluid inclinations, and the way they choose to express them is a matter of choice, with fashion and peer influence playing a key role.

Parris takes results of recent surveys in the UK and the US showing that the younger you are, the more likely you are to tick the box “same sex attracted”, either exclusively or partially. Nearly half of under 25’s are shown to be in this category. Even the older age groups appeared to show far higher levels of same sex attraction than Parris remembers from his experience in previous decades. What is the reason for people “going gay at a dizzying pace”? he asks, ruling out the possibility that human biology has somehow changed. Rather what has changed is social attitudes:

“we repress in ourselves, as well as hide from others, proclivities that are socially taboo. When the taboo is lifted, not only do we talk more freely about the feelings we know we have, but we may also find feelings we didn’t know we had, feelings that can grow because a space has been created for them.”

As an openly gay man, Parris applauds this lifting of social constraints on feelings and behaviour. But for him, this does not mean that those who are ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ are now free to ‘be themselves’ in an essentialist way as if this is their real self about which they have no choice. Rather people are free to channel their sexual feelings in the direction they wish. This, for Parris, should be the basis for true “equality”, rather than treating sexual orientation as something fixed like race.

But then, he ends with a note of caution. While for him and his fellow liberals this freedom from the old moral constraints is a good thing, we should be aware of the corollary: what we are now permitted to do can quickly become something that is fashionable and even expected: the repression of yesteryear can give way to a new type of pressure to conform to new ideas. This “herd mentality” can be seen in the example of “waves of anorexia, self-harm, and… gender-confusion” in teenage girls. It’s fine if people are trans, he says, but any medical interventions should be based on individual choices by adults about their own bodies, recognising that we may be following a trend rather than discovering our true selves.

The implications go beyond the issue of ‘trans’ teenagers. In this article, Matthew Parris, one of the most influential campaigners for rapid change in attitudes about sexuality, is challenging some of the key ideas on which these revolutionary changes are based.

One such idea is that ‘homophobia’ is systemic and widespread, causing mental distress for LGBT people, and requiring ongoing campaigns to eradicate conservative views on sexuality, including in the church. But as Parris explains, statistics clearly show that it is now completely normal not just to be sympathetic to, affirming of, celebrating LGBT people, but also to identify as LGBT in some way (nearly half of under 25’s do so). The taboo has well and truly been removed. In addition, it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, socially unacceptable and  potentially illegal according to ‘hate’ legislation to express a negative opinion of homosexuality. Does this not suggest that ‘homophobia’ in the West is now a concept from the past? When conservative Christians publicly “repent of homophobia”, is the message they are sending one of attractive genuine Christian humility and winsomeness, or rather demonstrating that they have bought in to Stonewall’s myth of ongoing widespread prejudice, which is part of the agenda to eliminate remnants of conservative viewpoints?

Secondly, it would be interesting to know how Parris would respond to the obvious rejoinder about proposed and actual bans on so-called ‘conversion therapy’. If the direction that people take sexually is a matter of choosing to “cultivate seeds” (his analogy), why are people with fluid sexualities who would previously happily chosen a heterosexual direction now permitted, even encouraged to explore and cultivate same sex feelings and relationships, but not to explore and cultivate heterosexual inclinations, especially if they have already declared interest in the same sex? On what basis can Parris and his courageous colleagues in the Times who have consistently maintained that transgender therapy and surgery for those unhappy with the dysphoria of body and psyche should be a matter of careful adult choice, deny that choice for those wanting to move away from same sex desires or LGBT identity through therapy, counselling or prayer? Are Christians in the UK going to insist on continuing to carry out biblical teaching and pastoral care, as we have seen in parts of Australia, or will future government restrictions on authentic Christian ministry in this area be met with meek submission?

Then lastly, there is a tension in Parris’ piece: on one hand he celebrates the freedom to identify and behave how one wishes sexually, and that there will be more LGBT people in the years to come, but on the other hand he says this is largely driven by fashion and peer pressure, and issues a warning. There is a clear implication: a liberal culture has given way to a more conformist one, especially among the young. We are now no longer a pluralist society, where different views and independence of thought are valued, but one based on a monoculture of ‘woke’ values increasingly enforced by law. So, as this applies to the church: how does this new situation affect mission strategy? Is the rush to embrace ‘diversity’ in the form of LGBT representation in Christian leadership, for example, and changing of teaching on sex and marriage, based on compassion, or on fashion? There is a danger that those in the church who should be witnessing to distinctive virtues and God’s grace based on the teachings of Scripture and the character of Christ are in fact just ‘virtue-signalling’, and not being distinctive at all, just conforming to a craze sweeping the secular world.

See also:

Why Are Young Adults Increasingly Identifying as Bisexual? by Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Gallup and Major Media Report LGBT Identity is Growing. Is That Really a Thing? by Glenn T Stanton, Focus on the Family

The Queering Of Young Americaby Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

The Road to Sexual Revolution: Carl Trueman and the Modern Selfby R J Snell, Public Discourse: According to Carl Trueman, focusing myopically on problems with sexual morality often results in misguided responses to the sexual revolution. Instead, we must grapple with “a much deeper and wider revolution in the understanding of what it means to be a self.”


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