Why Become Something You Can’t Define? The Crisis of Transgender Identity
During her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, now-Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was asked by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), “Can you provide a definition for the word, ‘woman?’” This ridiculous-sounding question, one that even a few years ago would rightly have been castigated as an absurd waste of time, proved to be a vital one given Justice Jackson’s response: “I’m not a biologist.”
Thankfully for Justice Jackson, to know the difference between a man and a woman, you don’t have to be a biologist. Biology, morphology, neurology, and the experience of ordinary, everyday life demonstrate that there are two sexes, distinct and unalterable.
Genetics don’t change. A man can have eviscerating surgery, but he will never bear a child. A woman can bulk-up and get strong, but should she ever try out for the NFL, even a modestly talented male linebacker would make short work of her football dreams.
Biological sex is not a social construct or produced by cultural norms. While certain stereotypes (women shouldn’t ever be assertive; men should never cry) should be discarded, science simply will not allow us to deny that there are two chromosomal-based sexes whose genetic composition is encoded from conception. Whatever elective and mutilative surgery one might have or whatever drugs he or she might take, no one’s sex can ever be altered. This is not a statement of fundamentalist hostility but of medical fact.
Yet to suggest clear definitions of sex and gender is to be accosted by transgender extremists, called names, and “canceled.” But there is an obvious question from which we cannot escape: Why are some people so eager to assume a sex they cannot define? When a man says he believes he truly is, or should be, a woman, is he not endorsing a gender stereotype of the kind the feminist movement has been trying to rid us of for the past several generations? When a woman wants to become a man, isn’t she doing the same kind of thing?
Let me be clear that I believe that some things are inherently male and others female. The Bible offers both explicit and implicit teaching in this regard. There is some overlap, surely, and some take things to an extreme; a man can use scriptural teaching on male headship as a pretext for cruelty to his wife and family, for example. Yet the distinctions are clear, as the two sexes was ordained from the beginning (see Genesis 1:27).
The question comes down to this: Can anyone actually explain what it means to “feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body,” or vice-versa? Some people enjoy wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. Some men enjoy wearing makeup and what traditionally have been regarded as feminine hairstyles. Some women enjoy attempting to dress like what men generally wear.
It’s equally clear that some people feel uncomfortable in their bodies. This is as undeniable as it is painful. Yet normalizing this discomfort is to hinder the psychological and even psychiatric care, truthful counseling, and grace-filled integrity they urgently need. To encourage their self-deception is to disregard whatever trauma and disordered thinking motivates them to want to assume a false identity. Affirming someone in believing a lie is to foster repression, not give much needed support.
The demands of “trans” activists and their allies in the media, the entertainment industry, and education are insatiable yet keep changing. As scholar Ryan T. Anderson has noted, “At the core of [transgender] ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests, they disparage alternative practices, and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down any disagreement.”
Anderson continues that transgender advocates “keep patching and shoring up [their] beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics, and punishing apostates, because as soon as [their] furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed.”
Rosaria Butterfield, once a practicing lesbian, counsels this: “Even when hormonal or chromosomal imbalance causes gender confusion, hope is found in the gospel. … The modern invention of transgenderism reframes sinful deeds and desires of the flesh in worldly or therapeutic terms.”
We offer those who dislike their sex no service in affirming or condoning their tragic misconceptions, especially given that they cannot define what maleness and femaleness even are. Redefining sin is no answer to either emotional distress or, more importantly, separation from God. The gospel calls for repentance and faith, leading to new life in Christ. That’s our message and our glory.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.