I was reading (and writing) about all of the hoopla surrounding individuals like Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal (see: Thank you Caitlin, Miley, NAACP Woman, and Dog Boy!), when I realized that there was something about this whole drama that I forgot to consider. We've spent a lot of time discussing whether or not a man can identify as a woman, or whether a woman of Caucasian decent can identify as an African, but what about whether or not someone can/should identify as a higher being (i.e. like a god or a superhero)? I mean if there really is a "Hero" trapped inside of all of us (as Mariah Carey and everyone at Comicon might attest), then why can't this be an option for everyone as well?
If you were to ask me what I envisioned to be the next frontier of cosmetic surgery, I would probably suggest something like super-sensory enhancement. And yes, there's an actual term for this already: trans-humanism. Forget a nose job, breast augmentation, or the possibility of changing genders- what about the ability to see something a mile away like an osprey, or a built-in GPS system like a bee, or perhaps even the gift of "Spidey senses" like, well, Spider Man? This form of surgery would not merely involve enhancement of your current appearance, it would also involve elevating every imaginable human perception to the level of a super hero/god.
In any case, I'm sure you can imagine what the critique might be of all this so called "progress". You know how it goes; "If we play Frankenstein with the world, the world is more than likely to return the favor." Fair enough. The inevitable down-side is obvious, but what, if anything, is potentially redeeming about a world which seems so bent on some sort of radical transformation? I propose the following.
Now when I say redeeming, I do not mean that we are going in the right direction by seeking to live out our personal fantasies via advanced cosmetics and/or technology. What I am proposing is that this desire to "transition" into something different/better is not only an understandable desire, but when applied correctly, is in fact Godly.
Indeed, just as the preposition "trans" has become a kind of by word in the world of gender ideology, so also in Catholic circles it possesses tremendous power and significance.
The philosophical terminology for the action of changing bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ is referred to as transubstantiation. And while it's connection to our current topic may seem tangential at best, the logic most certainly is not. Indeed, so much of our modern technology is geared- not only towards changing the artifice of things- but actually changing the underlying substance of them as well. The problem isn't so much that we are attempting to repair what is broken in the world (a perfectly commendable enterprise), but that we are carelessly going about trying to redefine and re-interpet life itself. If life has no meaning in itself, then this is not a problem, but if it does, then we are doing unimaginable violence to nature.
Obviously today we are experiencing this kind of existential identity crisis in a profound way, for not only are we attempting to warp Mother Nature, but I think it's safe to say that we are going so far as to warp "mother's nature". Were this not the case, would we really be pumping people with all of these artificial hormones, removing their sexual organs, and obsessing over which pronoun to use for them (or anyone for that matter)? With so much emphasis on all things organic these days, one would think that such behavior would be regarded as counter-productive.
…Which brings me to my own personal confession, my own personal "coming out party"; the revelation of my new identity. I too feel at times a profound impulse to jump out of my own skin, and "transition" into someone else. However, if/when I do make this transition, I fully intend to do so without the aid of any kind of drugs and/or self-inflicted wounds. For my hunger is not to become a feline, a woman, or even Tony Stark (though that is admittedly tempting).
According to the Christian narrative, we are all guilty of suppressing something deep within ourselves; something that inspires us to lie about who we really are. Consequently, God is waiting for us, not only to liberate us from this lie and change our names, but to share with us His own immortal identity. Yet as is the case with most superheroes, the goal here is not to erase the former self, but rather to fulfill our ultimate destiny (remember, grace builds on nature-it doesn't destroy it).
When St. Thomas Aquinas was offered the gift of anything in the world, his response was quite stunning, he said to God; "I will have Thyself". And as bold and shocking as this request may seem, it is in many ways the summary of the Christian vocation.