Transgender: Science, Nature, and Virtue

Jake Thibault, Salve Regina University


This dissertation proposes a Thomistic heuristic for transgender individuals based on medical science and Sacra Doctrina. Throughout the previous century, medical professionals aimed to ease the inner tensions found within transgender individuals by conforming their outer appearances to their gender identities. Although well-intentioned, these efforts were on their own insufficient for relieving the underlying distress caused by gender dysphoria. Repeated studies have found a reduction of gender dysphoria through sex reassignment surgeries and hormone therapies; yet, transgender individuals, even after sex reassignment procedures, have higher risks for mortality, neoplasms, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Faith-based conversion therapies double the morbidity rates of transgender individuals, making it clear that a religious approach not based on medical science pro-duces worse outcomes than providing no support at all. A lack of family and communal support of transgender youth leads to increased homelessness, prostitution, and substance abuse. The uncompromising “tough love” approach does not lead to positive outcomes for many transgender youths. Medical evidence from the previous decade suggests a neurodevelopmental cause for transgender identities; however, studies on Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria point to social causes for the spike of adolescents identifying as transgender. While high rates of pre-adolescent children who are diagnosed as transgender desist in their dysphoria, some studies have shown that adolescents who take hormone blockers do not desist into their early twenties. Longer-term follow-up studies are needed to know the effects hormone blockers have on desisting when prescribed at an early age. Non-cognitivist gender theorists have integrated transgender identities into their ideology whereby the body, mind, and spirit are not essentially united. Although these ideologies attempt to liberate individuals from restrictions of biological realism, this ideology has not offered transgender people an inner sense of peace. According to a 2018 Hu-man Rights Campaign study, individuals who identify as non-binary and other newly named gender identities suffer from the highest levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts. Thomistic realism offers additional resources for transgender individuals, which secular science cannot offer on its own. Thomism embraces all disciplines of science and the humanities to present a holistic expression of the truth. The Thomistic heuristic utilizes medical science and then seeks to restore nature by the least invasive means while depending on virtues and grace to provide wisdom and character to over-come obstacles. This dissertation argues that using a Thomistic heuristic in line with church teaching is a better approach than medical therapies alone, a faith-based conversion therapy, or adopting non-cognitivist-based gender theory ideology.

Subject Area

Gender studies|Philosophy|Theology|LGBTQ studies

Recommended Citation

Thibault, Jake, "Transgender: Science, Nature, and Virtue" (2020). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI28157130.