Transgender people believe that their gender identity does not match their biological sex. The spotlight is now very much on the extension of human rights to this group of people. Recently, the debate in the US has been around whether people be allowed to use the public bathroom of their choice.
As Trevin Wax observes:- ‘the unmooring of “gender identity” from “biological sex” leads to a number of unresolved questions, as well as troubling inconsistencies among advocates of transgender rights.’
1. Do transgender theories undermine the idea that sexual orientation is fixed? The success of the LGBT movement has depended to a considerable extent on the notion that sexual orientation is genetically determined. To attempt to change one’s orientation would, accordingly, be misguided at best. And yet, in the case of a married person who transitions later in life, that is precisely what his or her spouse is expected to do – be attracted to a ‘man’ who is now a ‘woman’ (or vice versa).
2. If gender identity is fixed and unchangeable, how is it that many children who experience gender dysphoria lose those feelings when they reach puberty? And where is the wisdom in ‘affirming’ a transgender identity in children as young as five?
3. Why, in the case of gender dysphoria, is it assumed that it’s OK to bring the body into close conformity with the psychological state, rather than vice versa? Physical treatment will probably involve not only hormonal therapy but also surgical intervention. Research from Sweden suggests that it is precisely the psychological effects of such surgery that give cause for concern. Moreover, what medical ethic is involved in surgery that damages body parts that were fully-functioning in the first place?
4. Is the distress experienced by a number of transgender people (associated with a higher suicide rate) primarily due to society’s attitude towards them, or to their own inner psychological tensions? Transgender advocates tend to argue the former. As Trevin Wax puts it: ‘It is difficult to make the case that transgender persons exhibit no signs of mental disorder while at the same time saying that the wrong pronoun can lead a person to suicide.’
5. How do we square many people’s criticism of ‘gender binaries’ with their own support of gender stereotypes? Feminist writer Elinor Burkitt says: ‘For me and many women, feminist and otherwise, one of the difficult parts of witnessing and wanting to rally behind the movement for transgender rights is the language that a growing number of trans individuals insist on, the notions of femininity that they’re articulating, and their disregard for the fact that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.’
6. How is it that we must accept anyone’s self-declared gender identity, when other forms of self-identity need not be accepted? Many would look askance if a black person declared that s/he was a white person born in the wrong body, or if a white man identifies as a Chinese woman, or a 40-year-old man as a 7-year-old child, or any person identifying as an animal (and yes, these are all real cases). The transgender theorist may well want to say, ‘Yes, but that’s different’, but they have to demonstrate that that is so.
7. Without a clear legal definition of transgender, how are we to avoid all kinds of practical problems, including access to public toilets? There is a serious disconnect between an approach which says, ‘I am what I say I am’, and the need for a school (say) to formulate a coherent policy.
Trevin Wax concludes:-
For Christians, however, neither of these options is available to us.
We believe God’s design of male and female to be structurally good, but we also understand gender dysphoria to be another symptom that reminds us we live in a fallen world. For this reason, we must extend love and compassion to anyone who experiences this kind of distress, even as we reject society’s efforts to establish a fluid understanding of personhood.