Truth, Sexuality, and Gender
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a new Indiana law that prohibits teaching on human sexuality to children in pre-kindergarten through third grade is designed to “control what youth can and cannot read, what they can and cannot learn, and — most troublingly — who they can and cannot be.”
Perhaps I have lived too long in a deep and unlit cave, but is it not true that we prevent small children from reading about sadomasochism, bestiality, and Stalinist torture techniques? Is this not a form of “control?”
Of course we protect small children from things that should not enter their young minds and tender hearts. We protect their bodies from traffic accidents with car seats and seat belts. Do their thoughts and emotions matter any less?
In a statement on the legislation, which also “require[s] school officials to provide written notification to a child’s parent or guardian within five business days of the child asking to be called a different ‘pronoun, title, or word,’” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) said, “I believe in parental rights. I also just believe it’s commonsense that sex education should not be taught in pre-kindergarten through third grade.” Should not what the governor said be as obvious as blue in the sky?
At least 13 states have now enacted measures to “ban or significantly limit the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and transition surgery for people under 18.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest advocacy group for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities,” these laws “target transgender and non-binary youth’s access to age-appropriate, medically-necessary care. The attack on gender affirming care is relentless.”
“Target?” “Age-appropriate?” The World Professional Association for Transgender Health claims that what has, until recent years, always been understood as mutilative surgery should be legal as early as age 14. As a father, I can speak to the reality that a 14-year-old is in no way mature enough to make a decision about major elective surgery that would have a comprehensively life-changing effect on him or her. Indeed, the consensus in the medical community is that a person’s brain is not fully developed until about age 25.
This does not mean a young person cannot make important decisions. However, as noted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2016, “Transgender medical interventions pose a tremendous risk to children and adolescents because they create a host of irreversible physical consequences.” The permanence of “transitioning” is even more tragic given that based on 12 studies of so-called “transgender youth,” we know that roughly four out of five of these children and teens will leave their feeling of being “wrongly sexed” behind them.
There is also the small matter of biological reality. As explained by Britain’s Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender, “A person’s genetic inheritance, their biological sex, is an immutable characteristic.” No one can change his or her sex, “which was determined at fertilization (genotype) and during embryonic development (phenotype).”
Yet today, many in the medical community want us to distinguish between biology and self-perception. The National Academy of Medicine has called on scientists to use the term gender “to refer to a person’s self-representation as male or female, or how that person is responded to by social institutions on the basis of the individual’s gender presentation.” In other words, “self-presentation” — in this case, referring to men dressing like women and vice-versa — and how others respond to the dissonance between a person’s apparel, make-up, etc. and his or her visible biology compose “gender.” This is all rather stuffy academese for saying that if you want to pretend you are something you are not, everyone should go along with the pretense.
Whether young or old, people struggling with their biological identities need counsel and sometimes treatment with anti-depressants or, in some cases, anti-delusional medication. They need the body of Christ to come alongside them and affirm their God-given value and His love for them. Like the rest of us sinners, they need encouragement to follow a Lord Who always knows best, even if His way is hard.
What they don’t need is affirmation — surgical, spiritual, or anything else — of their psychological confusion, peer-driven desire to be something other than what they are, or spiritual vacancy. Such affirmation, even if driven by a desire to comfort a youth feeling alone and desperate, is misdirected compassion that will foster a lifetime of self-deception.
The Bible teaches that sin is deceptive (Hebrews 3:13) and speaks of the human tendency to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:17). Truth can sometimes be painful, but it is better to treat a wound, even if the treatment is painful, than to let it fester.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.