When Ian McEwan writes in today’s Guardian:

The inheritance of the XY chromosome is inalienably connected to maleness. However, biology is not always destiny. That the transgender community should want or need to abandon their birth gender or radically redefine it is their right, which should be respected and celebrated

what on earth does he mean by the word ‘gender’? I suspect that he means nothing by it, and that the true intelligible content of this passage is: “While facts are facts, hurrah for freedom!”




Human beings and other animals have a sex. In certain languages, nouns and sometimes also adjectives have a gender.



If someone says, “I am biologically male, but I identify as a female/feminine/a woman”, there are various things he might mean (identify is a transitive verb, but let that pass.)

He might mean “I am male but I want others to think that I am a woman”. But this is to wish evil to others, for a male human being is necessarily a man, and to be wrong about a necessary truth is an evil for the intellect.

Or he might mean, “I am male, but I should like to be a woman.” But this is a vain and foolish wish, since if someone is a male human being he is necessarily a man, and being a man is incompatible with being a woman.

Or he might mean: “I am male, but I ought to have been a woman.” But this is a confusion of mind, since one’s identity is established by the infusion of a soul into matter which is so disposed that either a male or a female will result. So there is not, and never has been, any ‘I’, independent of the male human being which he is, that could have had some requirement or fitness to exist as a woman.

Or he might mean: “I am male, but I intend by drugs and knives to become a woman.” But this is a vain and vicious plan, since he cannot in this way cease to be a male human being, and therefore a man, but can only mutilate and deform himself unlawfully.

Or he might mean: “I am male, but I wish to pursue the activities characteristic of women”, then he may refer to activities which are necessarily proper to women, such as giving birth, in which case his wish is vain; or he may refer to activities which in his time and place are considered suitable for women and not for men, for example (it may be) cooking or sewing, in which case his wish is not necessarily vicious of itself, but may easily become so in act, by neglect of duty or dignity or needless offence given to others. Thus where men’s and women’s clothes are clearly distinct, a man who wears a woman’s clothes offends his proper dignity and shocks others.



The word ‘gender’, used of men and women, is either a synonym for ‘sex’, in which case it is superfluous; or else it is used to foster vain and vicious desires, or mental confusion, in which case it is pernicious.

Today it is not used as a synonym for sex; and so it should not be used.

I recently had occasion to read through the anathemas of the ecumenical councils. It struck me even more forcibly than it had before, that the forthcoming Roman Synod on the family could perform no more pastoral act than to anathematize in due form the principal errors on that topic. And since their Lordships are all busy men, I have made so bold as to compose some anathemas myself; and if anyone of Synodal Fathers should ever happen to see this posting, they would be very welcome to make any use of them that they might see fit.

1. On the indissolubility of marriage

Si quis dixerit, vinculum matrimonii rati et consummati inter baptizatos ob haeresim, adulterium, conhabitationem molestam, absentiam affectatam, sterilitatem aut quamcumque aliam causam, coniugibus ambobus viventibus, dirumpi posse, anathema sit.

{If anyone should say that the bond of a ratified and consummated marriage between baptized persons can be broken on account of heresy, adultery, irksome cohabitation, deliberate absence, sterility or of any other cause whatever while both spouses are still living, let him be anathema.}

2. Same sex ‘marriage’

Si quis eo versaniae pervenerit ut non erubescat affirmare legibus divinis aut humanis sanciri posse ut vir virum in matrimonium ducat vel mulier mulieri nubat, anathema sit.

{If anyone should reach such a degree of madness, that he is not ashamed to affirm that it can be sanctioned by divine or human laws that a man should marry a man, or a woman marry a woman, let him be anathema.}

3. Civil partnerships

Si quis dixerit, licere civitatibus illas coniunctiones seu pacta  viri ad virum aut mulieris ad mulierem legibus sancire, quae matrimonii formam et speciem prae se ferant, immo quae totam matrimonii rationem praeter solum nomen habere simulent, anathema sit.

{If anyone should say that States may establish by laws those partnerships or contracts of a man to a man or of a woman to a woman which have the form and appearance of matrimony, or rather which pretend to have the whole nature of matrimony apart from the name alone, let him be anathema.}

4. ‘Gender theory’

Si quis effutire praesumpserit, aliud esse sexum, aliud sexualitatis genus, sexum quidem singulis hominibus a Deo vel natura plerumque praestitum, sexualitatis vero genus ab ipsis hominibus libere delectum atque amplexum, ita ut civitatibus statuere liceat ut viri se femineos nominantes iurium et officiorum mulieris, mulieres vero se masculinas dicentes iurium et officiorum viri potiantur, anathema sit.

{If anyone should presume to babble about how sex is one thing and gender another, and about how each human being is generally endowed with their sex from God or from nature, whereas gender is freely chosen and embraced by human beings themselves, in such a way that a State may establish by law that a man who identifies himself as feminine may possess the rights and duties of a woman, and that a woman who calls herself masculine may possess the rights and duties of a man, let him be anathema}

I think that should wrap things up for now.