June 27, 2014

Blurred lines

The cover story of the June 9, 2014 issue of Time was titled "The Transgender Tipping Point," arguing that transgenderism is the next social movement, after same-sex marriage, that will push for full social legitimacy. Certainly the media (in addition to Time) has been working overtime in recent months to normalize "transgendered" persons of every stripe.

A handful of articles have caught my attention in recent days reflecting this trend.

In Vancouver last week, the school board approved a policy change intended to protect students from being singled out and bullied on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. In addition to the usual confusion about who gets to use what bathroom, this new policy mandates the made-up pronouns xe, xem, and xyr for those students whose self-identification doesn't fit into the usual categories of, presumably, he/him, she/her, or them.

Similarly, last fall, at Mills College, a woman's college in California, the all-woman student body began to abandon "binary" gender identity (male and female) in favour of choosing their own preferred personal gender pronouns: in addition to the conventional she, these include he or they, or even a slew of custom PGPs like ze, sie e, ou, or ve. (I imagine that professors, frustrated by the laborious task of keeping this word salad straight from one student to the next, may ultimately put the kibosh on this inhumane torture of the English language.)

However, the most serious offender is an opinion piece published yesterday on Slate, titled "Don't Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn." It begins,

Imagine you are in recovery from labor, lying in bed, holding your infant. In your arms you cradle a stunningly beautiful, perfect little being. Completely innocent and totally vulnerable, your baby is entirely dependent on you to make all the choices that will define their life for many years to come. . . .

Suddenly, the doctor comes in. He looks at you sternly, gloved hands reaching for your baby insistently. "It's time for your child's treatment," he explains from beneath a white breathing mask, shattering your calm. Clutching your baby protectively, you eye the doctor with suspicion.

You ask him what it's for.

"Oh, just standard practice. It will help him or her be recognized and get along more easily with others who've already received the same treatment. The chance of side effects is extremely small." This raises the hairs on the back of your neck, and your protective instinct kicks your alarm response up a notch.

After several more paragraphs of this melodrama, the author asks, "Would you consent to this treatment for your child? . . . Or would the stakes be too high: Russian roulette with your baby's life?" By now I, a typical reader, am wondering: What is this highly risky medical procedure? Is this an anti-vaccination article? Anti circumcision, perhaps?

Alas, no.

It's called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It's a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring's genitals.

If you like playing spot-the-sophistry, you might have noticed that our trans-activist author commits a categorical blunder: identifying the sex of a newborn isn't a treatment, it's an observation (and one that even the most ardent of LGBTUVWXYZ-rights activists would have to concede is accurate in the overwhelming majority of instances). Fortunately, sanity prevails: even most Slate commenters thought this op-ed was asinine.

These kinds of stories—I could point to many similar ones—blur the distinction between man and woman or attempt to destroy it outright. This confusion repudiates biblical categories established at creation.

When God created humanity in the beginning, "male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). God created a woman for Adam because nothing else was a suitable mate (Gen. 2:20). Man and woman coming together in marriage to produce offspring was the design from the beginning. "[A] man shall . . . hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Male and female—not male and male nor female and female—are natural counterparts. Jesus Christ's teaching on divorce (Matthew 9:1-12) appeals to these same two passages (Gen. 1:27, 2:24) to reaffirm that God's original intent was a lifelong, exclusive bond between husband and wife. We are often informed that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, but really he did—because his strong affirmation of heterosexual marital fidelity excludes the lawfulness of same-sex unions. He affirms the male/female "binary" as natural and right.

Of course, we Christians also affirm traditional marriage because it pictures the relationship between Christ and the church. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-26). Paul does not confuse his categories. Christ is represented by a husband, and the church by a wife. They are not interchangeable. (I wrote about same-sex marriage and the church in more depth last June.)

Nor did God blur the male-female categories by creating a wide spectrum of sexualities in between, like the 50-odd gender identifications recently offered by Facebook for user profiles. Social-science academics often draw a distinction between sex (determined by biology) and gender (a social construct). This theory was popularized in the 1950s by a sexologist named John Money. It was tested in the 1960s, after a baby boy named Bruce Reimer had his genitals mutilated in a botched surgery. Money recommended that Bruce be surgically reassigned as female and raised by his parents as a girl, saying that if they did so, he would accept his gender identity. So they did, and renamed Bruce "Brenda." Money declared the sex reassignment a success, and it became the standard procedure for similar cases.

However, Money had covered up the truth. Even though Brenda Reimer hadn't know she was born a boy, she never accepted being a girl. At 15, Brenda took the name David and became male again. Sadly, after a short life that included depression, bullying, and a failed marriage, David Reimer committed suicide in his 30s. The line between male and female just isn't as blurred as the gender-studies mavens want to believe. Nonetheless, the nature-vs.-nurture debate continues even though Money's gender theories were discredited.

Original sin is responsible for these blurred lines. Paul describes the universal human condition in Romans 1. Idolatry is one symptom of mankind's rebellion against the authority of God: they "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" (Rom. 1:23). A sculpted beast cannot adequately represent the living God. Mankind alone bears God's image. Trying to represent God with an animal erodes the distinction between the Creator and the created—not to mention man and animal.

Paul also writes, "their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men" (Rom. 1:26-27). Humanity has rebelled against God again by overthrowing natural sexual relations for unnatural. Men and women become interchangeable objects of desire.

A clash of worldviews is at work here. Our supposedly secular culture now idolizes unlawful sexuality, without shame. It blurs the lines that God established in the beginning, calling them antiquated and hateful. However, the Bible affirms that what God made was very good (Gen. 1:31). As Albert Mohler has said:

The reality is that Scripture reveals that binary pattern to be built into creation, and to have been established by the Creator. The categories of male and female, and more importantly of man and woman, are not merely social constructions that human beings have come to know. . . .

The Bible says that we are not who we think ourselves to be, but who our Creator made us to be. And that means that no matter how we say we know ourselves, or what we claim about ourselves, the key issue for eternity is what our Creator thinks of us, because he knows us better than we know ourselves, because he made us. . . . [T]he only way we can come to terms with that is by reading the Scripture and hearing what God says in his word about who we are. And once we know that, we're stuck in the same position as we are in every other reading of the Scripture. The question really isn't "who am I," but rather, "will I obey or disobey the Scripture?" Will I come to terms with who God says I really am?1

When we declare the whole counsel of God against its secular critics and social engineers, we need also to reaffirm the good "binaries" that exist between man and woman.

(This article has been edited from its original form as published on Faith Beyond Belief.)


1 Albert Mohler, "The Briefing 02-28-14," AlbertMohler.com, MP3 audio file, <http://albertmohler.com/>, accessed 1 April 2014.