“Altered Carbon” Translates Transgenderism
Altered Carbon is my new favorite sci-fi Netflix show. The main character is a freedom fighter who is trying to find his long lost love across both time and space while utilizing his prodigious martial arts skills against both bounty hunters and dark governmental forces. It takes place over 300 years in the future where a person’s memories and consciousness can be transferred into a disk-shaped device called a cortical stack, which is implanted in the vertebrae at the back of the neck. Physical human or synthetic bodies are called “sleeves” and stacks can be transferred into new physical bodies (along with customized upgrades!) after death, but a person can still be killed if their stack is destroyed. The original intent was to allow space travelers access to extended life-spans necessary to explore distant stars that were light-years away. While this theoretically means anyone can live forever, only the wealthiest, known as “Meths” in reference to Methuselah (the biblical character), have the means to do so through clones and remote storage of their “backed up” consciousness in satellites. Those who do not have the monetary resources are left to have their stacks discarded into the ocean or transferred to any available less desirable sleeve. All sleeves have value, especially children’s sleeves based on limited supply and high demand.
I was reminded of this sci-fi show this week after reading from Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body. It appears that transgender activist evangelists religiously believe that gender identity is one’s “cortical stack” and that sex or biology is merely one’s current compared to one’s desired “sleeve” (using Altered Carbon themes). That is, gender is fixed, while biology is fluid. With compassion towards those suffering from gender dysphoria and their families, our reading this week awakens us to the predatory threat of evangelical zealous transgender activists wielding their political power base towards vulnerable children and young adolescents with zero tolerance for question or criticism of transgenderism (from parents or anyone else, including adult members of the LGBTQI community). Michael Bird is a unique reviewer in that he is a lecturer in a Christian theological college as well as the father of an autistic son. He has passionate concerns for those caught up in gender dysphoria as well as being alert towards the “mad-scientist anthropological experiment” being foisted upon children and adolescents (especially as rates of gender dysphoria in autistic children are allegedly markedly higher). Unlike our other assigned readings and those who espouse their views of them, this reviewer approaches this critique of transgenderism as someone who is avidly willing to learn how to pastor and prepare others to pastor those suffering within the milieu of transgenderism. I respect him and others all the more who are not playing at mere academic gamesmanship but rather have academic minds and hearts open to learning how to serve those who are suffering. His summary questions to the editors revolved around: (1) What about when transitioning seems to go well? (2) How to find a middle path between gender as social construct and gender as shaped by biology., and (3) What types of transphobia should we be vigilant against?
I have never read anything vaguely academic-related to LGBQTI. I am so unfamiliar with terminology; I must check each time to be sure I have the letters in the correct order. However, I felt this was so needful; I purchased a copy of Transgender Children and Young People for our church and those who work with our local church’s children and youth. I was most touched by “I’m Not A Hideously Bigoted Parent Who Doesn’t ‘Get it.'” This father’s story of his relationship with his daughter captivated me. Briefly, he is raising his voice, his clandestine GenderCriticalDad blog, to do battle with the false “simplistic dogma that gender dysphoria is when the gender of your brain (your cortical stack) does not match the sex of your body (your sleeve) and the cure is transition (simply change your sleeve).” His blog has become his therapeutic creative outlet to combat his terror towards, “What has made my wonderful daughter decide on a course of self-mutilation and lifelong drug dependency?” I found his Ignore, Redirect, Reward coping mantra brilliant and pragmatic. While not trying to be cute or trite, his approach reminded me of our dealing with our first child, our daughter, who was the quintessential strong-willed child.
Unfortunately, unlike Altered Carbon‘s implied technologically packaged process, there is nothing simple or straightforward about the sexual/biological transition to, or especially, to reverse the transformation should one change one’s mind, one’s gender. These are life-long medical disciplined practices predicated on decisions made at probably one’s most vulnerable and impressionable crossroads of life.
Commuting home one evening this week, with this reading in mind, I listened to a BBC interview of a man who transitioned from gay to cross-dresser to trans-female and then elected to return to his gender of origin as a man. He experienced a lifetime of hormone treatments, surgeries, and various associated social and sexual interactions. Amazingly, eventually, God speaking directly to him within the context of his Christian faith to return to his created gender was not met with contempt or ridicule by the interviewer. She did point out, however, that many in the transgender community feel his story should not be heard because it detracts from their (dogmatic – emphasis mine) message and their power base. He simply responded with, “Hey, I have no judgment towards anyone else; this is just my story, my experience, and my life.” I leave us with GenderCriticalDad‘s final takeaway, “..make their decision to transition because that’s the best option available to them at the time…The trans people I have met don’t want to dictate to anyone what they should think or say.” So as followers of Jesus, we show love and grace to serve those who are struggling or currently living somewhere within the transgender universe. However, we must be vigilant and brave to speak up towards those who would utilize our children and youth for their own “mad scientist transgender experiment.”
Michael Bird, “A Must-Read Feminist, Queer, Disability & Psychoanalytic Critique of Transgenderism” Patheos May 11, 2019,https://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2019/05/a-must-read-feminist-queer-disability-psychoanalytic-critique-of-transgenderism/?fbclid=IwAR2A9wr-o0CLQf-RwKde_Q5Az4023j64gugzEuj7I4RNPIMol_z0ZmGOkMg
 Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore, Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018) 71.
 Evans and Moore, Transgender Children and Young People, 67.
 Evans and Moore, Transgender Children and Young People, 79.
 Michael Bird, “A Must-Read Feminist, Queer, Disability & Psychoanalytic Critique of Transgenderism” Patheos May 11, 2019,https://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2019/05/a-must-read-feminist-queer-disability-psychoanalytic-critique-of-transgenderism/?fbclid=IwAR2A9wr-o0CLQf-RwKde_Q5Az4023j64gugzEuj7I4RNPIMol_z0ZmGOkMg
10 responses to ““Altered Carbon” Translates Transgenderism”
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Harry, I love that you reference science fiction to understand this week’s discussion and Altered Carbon is a great way of getting there. So much of the discussion around these topics is too close to home for a lot of people. This is where a sci-fi world can help because you’re not talking about the person you know down the street. Thank you for your thoughts.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and give me the benefit of your insights. Yes, you are so insightful, perhaps sci-fi and other fiction provide us with a sandbox to consider concepts and constructs too challenging to discuss in the real world. However, isn’t it amazing how fictional realms provide healthy processing for real-world dilemmas? Thanks again!
Great post and great conversation between you and Sean. His Star Wars post generated a lot of class time discussion . . . the sci-fi parallels help us all!
I also loved the ‘Ignore, Redirect, Reward’ approach! It seems so healthy to ensure that you protect your relationship with the person you care about through persisting in shared time and experiences. I also felt that he drew our attention to some troubling medical moves that are allowed. While I didn’t blog on it, this did lead me to think about how we might engage in critical conversations without alienating the people we are working to reach. If you felt called, how would you engage in this conversation strategically so as to limit alienating a vulnerable people group? Thank you for your alignment with sci-fi as well! Always fun!
I started season 2 and love the show as well. Awesome analogy with the show and real life. I think we have to continue to remember that the stories we hear are of real people and we can’t disconnect that. Thanks for the reminder and awesome post.
This is probably one of my favorite posts of yours, German Harry! While I’ve not seen the show, I can see how this would be such a good parallel to understanding the difference between sex and gender and how one navigates the space between the two. I appreciated your humility and vulnerability and your desire to educate yourself and your church in this matter. We need more people like you who are willing to engage the conversation even though they may not have all the answers. Thanks!
Great post harry, while I’m not familiar with the Sci-fi show, you have made clear enough to relate to the study of the week. I appreciate your conclusion on the need to extend grace to those struggling with transgender issues but also have the spine to face up to those who would want to use our children and youth for their selfish ends.
Love it Harry. You definitely made me curious enough to to want to watch Altered Carbon.
Great post Harry. I think if we do our part of loving people, God will do the rest.
Hi Harry. I love that you correlated our book with a recent movie you have viewed. I’ve never heard of the movie you addressed, but you’ve peaked my interest! I especially appreciate your quote that stated: ‘with compassion towards those suffering from gender dysphoria and their families, our reading this week awakens us to the predatory threat of evangelical zealous transgender activists wielding their political power base towards vulnerable children and young adolescents with zero tolerance for question or criticism of transgenderism’ – and I agree. Kids need time to be kids and to explore what their life will hold for them and what may be their direction with regards to their beliefs and platforms. I think youth are confused about so much – and then to add life altering decisions into their already confused brains is not fair to them. Life will unfold as they age, and their decisions for themselves will mature with age. My heart breaks for youth who are being misled along this confusing journey called life. Thank you for your gifts, my friend. Hugs to Glo!!!