Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Should Christians Address Transgenderism?

In the last post, we saw that it can be problematic to refer to some people as “Christian homosexuals.”In this post, the continuation, I’d like to discuss the idea of Christian LGBT—specifically the “T.” I’d read a blog post where a well-meaning person suggested it would be a good step for the Southern Baptist Convention to seek to hear from members of the LGBT Community. There’s a charitable way to interpret this suggestion, but it got me thinking about this issue. In the acronym LGBT, one of these things is not like the other. The “T,” specifically, does not relate to sexual orientation. In fact, it trades on the supposed distinction between gender and sex, and so differs greatly. A trans man is one who was born a female in sex, but identifies as a man in gender. This identification may or may not coincide with sex re-assignment (now called “gender confirmation”) surgery.

Can the Christian Church recognize so-called Christian transgender? In order to answer this, one must answer what his anthropology and philosophy of gender/sex are. On the Christian view, we are persons made in the image of God, created as male and female. The intention is for the two to be separate, and thus, along with the last post I made, we can conclude there is something wrongly ordered about the mixing together of the two in one human being in some way.

However, we must ask ourselves the questions: are gender and sex two separate things, or identical? Are there really such things as gender roles or gender distinctives? Our society has been of incoherent mind about each of these questions, but Christians cannot afford to be. To the first: if gender and sex coincide (or are identical), then there really isn’t such a thing as transgender as outlined above. Whatever sex you are “assigned”[1]is what your gender is, and hence what you really are. If gender and sex are not identical or do not coincide, we have to ask if we think God assigns a gender and allows it to be distinct from the sex. If we think that God does assign a gender, then we must answer the second question in the affirmative. We must think there are gender distinctions, and that includes at least functional roles of some kind or other. Additionally, if we answer the first question by saying gender/sex are identical or at least coincide, we must answer the second question in the affirmative. Only in the case that we say sex and gender do not necessarily coincide and God does not assign a gender to a person can we answer the second question in the negative (and even here, answering “no” does not necessarily follow). 

If there are no gender roles or distinctions, it makes little sense to say there is a true gender beyond the sex one is (at least currently). So this means, essentially, there are gender roles and distinctions. As Christians, we ought to think about gender and sex in terms of what God intends, in a rightly-ordered fashion. God intends that some of us are male and some are female, not switching or intermingling the two. I further think it’s problematic to say there are no gender roles or distinctions, given the Christian view. Thus, while we can debate about the functions of the roles and the kinds and extent of the distinction, Christians should not debate that there aresuch roles and distinctions.

As such, recognizing “Christian transgender” as a category is unhelpful from a Christian standpoint. As with the LGB post earlier, it’s important for us to recognize these people are made in the image of God. We ought to find ways to love them and come alongside them in support of who they are or can be in Christ. And we ought to recognize there is a rightly ordered way—a way humans were meant to be—and move forward with any proposals with a distinctly biblical and Christian way of viewing this issue.


[1]A somewhat silly concept, as what sex one is typically is a matter of objective, empirical fact, not subject to arguments from the humanities.

2 comments:

  1. Great job highlighting the distinction between the epistemology and ontology of gender roles. That's a helpful distinction!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jonathan! Honestly, I'm afraid that although we as evangelical Christians mean well, we often fail to think deeply about these issues before we start offering solutions. :)

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