Recently in America President Trump revoked the right of transgender men & women to serve in the US armed forces (or at least that’s what he plans to do); in the UK the Church of England General Synod, passed a motion calling for a liturgy to help transgender people celebrate their transitions. Not only that but in the UK this autumn a new Gender Recognition Bill will be debated. As Peter Saunders reported on his blog:
Men and women will be able to change their gender without a doctor’s report and amend their birth certificate accordingly under new government proposals.
Yesterday Justine Greening (pictured), the education secretary and minister for women and equalities, said (£): ‘What we want to try to do is streamline the process, make it easier, de-medicalise it and make it less intrusive.’
She told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News that the state needed to ‘stop treating people changing their gender as if it’s some medical problem that needs fixing. Actually this is a choice that people are making and we need to try and make that choice more straightforward than it already is.’
I’ve written before on this topic & yet the pace of change remains astounding, the consequences of which are unknown and likely to be far more significant than we realise. The idea that children as young as 9 should be given puberty blockers should be concern people.
Carl Trueman pulled no punches in his estimation of what will happen.
They are putting their seal of approval on the demolition of the notion of human nature. The costs of that will in the long run be catastrophic, seen in mutilated bodies and hormone-addled minds.
I think Christians are asking deeper questions and thinking harder about these issue than the wider culture who have long-ago sold themselves to the gods of personal choice and freedom. Trueman is right when he notes that
What is missing in this doubtless well-intentioned move is any reflection upon the deeper philosophical implications of transgenderism. To treat it as yet one more legitimate human choice, which can be included in the pantheon of human freedoms, is to miss the real issue. Transgenderism challenges traditional notions of human personhood at the deepest level.
Jennie Pollock does an excellent job of revealing these inconsistencies at the individual level with the case of a person who thought their gender was changeable but their size (in her case being fat) was a given.
The inconsistency is baffling – sometimes our body tells us who we are, sometimes it doesn’t. Some characteristics are natural and ‘benign’, others are unnatural and must be changed to fit the person’s understanding of who they really are. Sometimes it is right and good that body parts should be amputated and life-long drug therapies given to alter the body, other times surgery is ‘dangerous’ and a negative concept. And this is the same person holding completely opposite views about different aspects of her own body.
She is consistent in her belief that she should get to choose who she is and what she does with her body, of course. It is a piece of property to her – she owns it as one might own a house and choose to remodel or redecorate or not as the whim takes her.
It should come as no surprise that the media will show little or no interest in thoughtful debate and will be keen to paint Christians into the reactionary corner along with all other bigoted and backward people as Ian Paul experienced.
However this debate orthodox Christians find themselves having some surprising allies in radical feminists, who are much harder to pin the bigot label on having earned their progressive stripes fighting for gender equality & sexual liberation.
First read what and then listen to what Camille Paglia who describes the use of puberty blockers as a ‘criminal violation of human rights‘ has to say:
It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.
The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.
She goes on to argue that
In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.
And here she is saying what many Christians think – that it’s a sign of cultural collapse.
So let’s clarify using a few authors on the current position of most evangelical Christians:
There is no scientific reason, no justice reason, no internally consistent reason to think we can be boys or girls just by declaring it so. In our saner moments we know this to be true.
The Bible is unashamedly binary. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created man in his own image – male and female. This is perfectly consistent with what we see in nature – male and female are different – genetically, hormonally and physically. Researchers have identified 6,500 genes that are expressed differently in men and women.
Yet here are the important things that Christians are saying that will not be reported, or will be edited out. Pay attention now.
First, we should never mock or belittle those suffering gender identity disorders. These are neighbors to be respected and served, not freaks to be despised. They feel alienated from their identities as men or women and seek a solution in self-display or in surgery or in pumping their bodies with the other sex’s hormones. In a fallen universe, all of us are alienated, in some way, from who we were designed to be. That alienation manifests itself in different ways in different people.
While we do not have patience for secular agendas, we must have patience for struggling people. We may be quick with rebuttals in the public square, but we must be quick with a listening ear in the neighbor’s kitchen. It means we must show private care in a way that is not confused with public indifference, and make known our public concern in a way that is not confused with private disdain.
Russell Moore again
We should stand against any bullying of kids who different from other children, for whatever reason. Children with gender identity issues are often harassed and marginalized. They should be loved and protected. Schools can do this without upending all gender categories. More importantly, churches and Christians can do this. We should hate the bullying of our neighbors, especially children, even more than the outside world hates it.
We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.
People affected by these conditions are often deeply hurting and we need to treat them with the love and respect we should show to any human being made in God’s image. We are all tainted by the consequences of the fall and we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.
Love the people. Oppose the ideas. Simple.
Photo by Liz Henry