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Mistaking Identity

08.18.15-IntersexDennis Prager is at it again, this time with the simultaneously radical and reactionary, bigoted, sociopathic, and really-not-very-nice assertion that transgender people should take names and employ pronouns appropriate to their chosen identity.

Quick!  Inside the nearest shelter… the sky is falling.  Civil society may never recover.

Okay, yes, I am being sarcastic.  Guilty as charged.  But sometimes the logical and moral convolutions the politically-correct allow for no outlet other than simple mockery.

But I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings.  I know it’s terribly bad form these days to speak the truth.

However, it should come as no surprise that the moral boundaries of civil society grow ever blurrier, in this case by design.  These winds were already blowing with gale force when I published the following essay back in 2011:

When their third child, Storm, was born, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker announced the birth of their new baby with the following email:

“We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …).”

Needless to say, friends and family alike have trouble understanding Witterick and Stocker’s unconventional approach to child-raising. With stereotyping, bullying, and social stigma inevitable parts of growing up, it’s easy to argue that manufacturing an additional obstacle to healthy social development is hardly in the child’s own best interest.

“Everyone keeps asking us, ‘When will this end?'” says Witterick. “And we always turn the question back. Yeah, when will this end? When will we live in a world where people can make choices to be whoever they are?”


A single family hardly constitutes a trend. But consider the Egalia preschool in Stockholm, Sweden, where staff avoid such culturally loaded words as “him” and “her,” addressing the children as “friends” rather than “boys and girls.” According to the AP, “breaking down gender roles is a core mission in [Sweden’s] national curriculum,” and many preschools have hired “gender pedagogues” to devisestrategies for eliminating “stereotypes.”

germanyCould they be right? Is sexual identity nothing more than arbitrary social programming? By eliminating every vestige of guidance from a child’s environment might parents actually help him learn to make better choices? Will indoctrinating a child with the conviction that every imaginable alternative is equally viable produce a canny, confident, and even-keeled adult?

Well, would it make travel easier if we uprooted every street sign and tore down every traffic signal? Would it make navigation easier if we burned every map and disabled every GPS?

The hazards of unrestricted freedom often go overlooked in a society that values personal autonomy above all else. But the formula for resolving the tension between individual expression and social boundaries was articulated by King Solomon, the wisest of all men, nearly three thousand years ago.

Hear, my son, the moral guidance of your father,
and do not forsake the teaching of your mother
(Proverbs 1:8).

Giving voice to the self-evident truth that men are men and women are women, Solomon alludes to the distinct manner in which a father and a mother each makes a unique contribution to the psychological and ethical development of their child. From the father comes instruction— formal guidance in the ways of moral values and discipline. How to know right from wrong, and how to choose good over evil — this is the kind of wisdom most effectively communicated through fatherly counsel and direction.

Complementing the father’s instruction are the lessons absorbed from the mother, who plays the primary role in creating the atmosphere of personal responsibility and spiritual commitment that should permeate a home. It is mainly through the intangible, unquantifiable influence of the mother that a child develops moral sensitivity. Neither father nor mother can successfully assume the role of the other, for our distinct psycho-spiritual complexions are part of the design according to which the universe was formed.

Parents who refuse to assert moral principles, albeit in the name of tolerance and progressivism, succeed only in making their home an environment of intellectual anarchy that will inevitably lead to confusion and dysfunction later in life.


Train a youth according to his way;
even when he grows old he will not depart from it
(Ibid. 22:6).

Often cited, correctly, as the source for individualizing education based upon the singular needs of every child, this proverb contains another element often overlooked: the word “youth” — na’ar, in Hebrew — implies immaturity. Truth be told, the majority of us suffer from a sophomoric certitude in the infallibility of our own wisdom. And children are the most susceptible of all to such delusions.

Wanting desperately to believe in their own independence, children seize hold of any excuse, no matter how irrational, to invalidate the wisdom of their parents. Left to his own devices, a youth will steer confidently into the heart of the nearest storm, delighted to be free from the steady guidance of the parent who could have saved him from catastrophe.

Like old wine and fine cuisine, genuine wisdom is an acquired taste, and the immature mind will reject its lessons as surely as the untrained palate will disdain the delicacies of a Cordon Bleu in favor of peasant’s fare smothered in salt and ketchup. But we do our children no favor by making it easier for them to marching confidently over the edge of the nearest precipice. Gentle instruction administered with care and consistency will lay the foundations of moral discernment as a child grows into adulthood.


In his famous legal discourse regarding character development, Maimonides writes that “people are influenced by the society in which they live” (Hilchos Dayos 6:1). Among the many dangers of the modern world, none may be as insidious as the attack upon all natural and moral boundaries. Electric lighting pushes away the darkness of night, central air conditioning and heating insulate us from the changing of the seasons, cars and planes shrink the distance between faraway places, and electronic communication eliminates all delay in correspondence and information.

No one is suggesting that we live like the Amish and eschew modern technology. But these inventions are not as innocuous as we wish to believe: in the same way that physical boundaries have been breached, so too have moral boundaries become increasingly blurred and the path of moral conduct ever more difficult to find.

Maze-2-1024x717Respect for traditional family structure continues to erode. The personal conduct of political leaders raises less concern than the carelessness that leads to getting caught. Violent criminals are cast as victims while defenders of life and limb are vilified as exploiters and oppressors. And the role of human sexuality in mental health and social stability is ever more profoundly misunderstood. Political correctness and moral equivalence have so muddied conventional wisdom that young and old alike often fear censure from their peers for daring to judge even the most abhorrent behaviors.

Yes, children need to learn to make their own choices, and today’s helicopter parents who micromanage every aspect of their children’s lives are more likely to produce crippled than capable adults. Nevertheless, we dare not overcompensate by throwing our children into the stormy waters of amorality and expecting them to swim. As Solomon has said, it is only through the guidance and teaching of moral values that we will keep our children afloat, as well as enabling them to navigate their way to safe harbor.

Originally published by Jewish World Review

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