"In Loco Parentis" is Long Gone

"In Loco Parentis" is Long Gone July 6, 2009

The University of Chicago is now allowing male and female undergraduates to share dorm rooms.  The push for the new policy, according to the Chicago Sun Times, came from “advocates for transgender students,” since transgender students should not be forced to live with those of the same sex if they actually identify better with those of the opposite sex.  Thus housing should be “gender neutral,” they claimed.  But don’t worry!  Before they reach the stage of “open housing,” freshmen are still assigned roommates of the same sex.

This raises a few issues in my mind.  First, it is all in line with the attack in academic circles on “gender binaries,” or the notion that masculine and feminine are largely distinct and fixed categories.  “Male heterosupremacy” enforces this binary in order to perpetuate male aggression and female passivity, or so it is claimed, and this excludes gays, transgenders or anyone else who might not fit neatly into the categories “male” and “female,” masculine and feminine.  It’s better, some maintain, to understand gender as a continuum.  Allow me to quote from a paper by two “postgenderists”:

“Postgenderists argue that gender is an arbitrary and unnecessary limitation on human potential, and foresee the elimination of involuntary biological and psychological gendering in the human species through the application of neurotechnology, biotechnology and reproductive technologies. Postgenderists contend that dyadic gender roles and sexual dimorphisms are generally to the detriment of individuals and society. Assisted reproduction will make it possible for individuals of any sex to reproduce in any combinations they choose, with or without “mothers” and “fathers,” and artificial wombs will make biological wombs unnecessary for reproduction. Greater biological fluidity and psychological androgyny will allow future persons to explore both masculine and feminine aspects of personality. Postgenderists do not call for the end of all gender traits, or universal androgyny, but rather that those traits become a matter of choice. Bodies and personalities in our postgender future will no longer be constrained and circumscribed by gendered traits, but enriched by their use in the palette of diverse self-expression.”

This is replete, of course, with the language of liberation, and it is generally assumed that “destabilizing” this binary is on the whole a good thing–all in keeping with the continual sexual revolution.  We are “constrained” in the diversity of our “self-expression” by the notion that we (and others) are either male or female.  It is possible, of course, that certain views of masculinity can encourage violence, or notions of femininity can encourage passivity.  Yet these need not be the case.  What is the Christian perspective on these things?  Can we reject the elements of our notions of “masculinity” and “femininity” that have become idols, and yet still celebrate God-given models of male and female?

Second, and perhaps more importantly, since few of us identify as “transgender” or “intersex,” how can we re-influence a culture that has largely dismissed Christian notions of sexuality as outmoded and oppressive?  How should we respond to the University of Chicago — and others will surely follow suit — and articulate a vision of sexuality that inspires young people?  Perhaps it is more liberating to accept and celebrate who God has made us as men and women.

Third, one has to wonder whether we have become a shame-less society.  In many cultures, and once in ours, shame functioned as a hedge against activity that was regarded as dangerous, immoral, or (most often) both.  It would have been regarded as “shameful” for a young man to share a room with a young woman.  Since removing every hedge of shame, we’ve seen rates of teenage pregnancy, divorce, deadbeat dads, and etc., skyrocket.  It’s not that difficult to draw the line between the sexual “revolution,” which did away with the idea that anything in the area of sexuality could be shameful, and the increase in social dysfunction.  American society has tried so hard to get rid of shame, but I wonder what it has wrought.  Or rather, these days you’re made to feel ashamed for thinking that it’s shameful for an unmarried man and woman to live together.

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