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Grace, Truth and Transgender

The issue of transgender and sexual identity has emerged as a major issue in recent times. There is a push by governments and major tech companies to adopt a certain ideology, enforced through legislation, taught in school curriculums, and influenced through social media. My goal here is to share my story and provide a response that is hopefully gracious and truthful according to the biblical narrative. I would encourage you
to listen to the full talk here, as well as the interview with Hilton.

At the age of 10 I started knitting. Around that time, I also joined the school choir and acted in some musicals. I was always emotional and sensitive, displaying many of the so-called feminine characteristics. I struggled to put the fish I caught out of their misery (unlike my masculine older brother) and loved my bright pink pants and smart shirts. I spent hours getting my hair just right. At 13 years old I went on a school tour and when the group was divided into boys and girls the organiser asked if I was a boy or girl as he could not tell. How embarrassing! Fortunately, I excelled in sport and had a vicious temper, which meant I was accepted by the more masculine boys.

The Western Cape will likely adopt its “Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation in Public Schools Bill” by the end of 2022. It seems similar to the “gender-affirming” approach adopted in the USA and many European countries. This approach encourages children with transgender traits (ie. Non cultural gender stereotypes) to begin a journey towards gender transition through LGBTQ+ education, safe spaces, gender neutral uniforms, confidential counselling, unisex bathrooms etc. While some proponents of this approach may be well meaning, and some children may struggle deeply with this issue, it seems to have evolved into “transgender evangelism” in some places, that could prove extremely confusing and damaging to a child’s psyche. This is evidenced in a recent increase in lawsuits against medical employees, by young people who are de-transitioning after having irreversible gender reassignment surgery. Many of them felt like they were given guidance and allowed choices they were not old enough to make, with irreversible damage. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-lgbt-transgender-trfn-idUSKBN28B3AV). If I was a pre-teen boy attending a school in the Western Cape today, I would have been a potential transgender candidate in today’s world.

In the last 7 years (especially since Bruce Jenner “came out” as Caitlyn on the Vanity Fair magazine cover in 2015) there has been a cultural shift promoting and encouraging individuals who feel discomfort with their gender (Gender Dysphoria: feeling like a “boy trapped in a girls body” or vice versa) to undergo sex change surgery from as young as 15 years old. As one activist said “Gender is no longer what is between your legs, but what is between your ears” or “Biology is bigotry”: Gender is now defined by how I feel and not by my chromosomes.

In her book “Irreversible damage” investigative journalist Abigail Shrier describes how this ideology is playing out in some states in the USA.

1. Child expresses unease at their gender, often after being taught the LGBTQ+curriculum or being influenced on social media.
2. Child is referred to the school counsellor, who by law is often not allowed to have a different view
3. Counsellor refers child to a ‘gender affirming’ Psychologist
4. Child begins hormone blockers with the high likelihood of eventual gender reassignment surgery.

Historically, only those who have been “persistent, insistent and consistent” (display signs of gender dysphoria from an early age and continue therein) have been regarded as transgender and helped in adulthood. This has changed. At age 10 (UK) children can start hormone blockers (experimental) and ‘top’ surgery (breast removal) at 15 years old (USA). In some states in the USA and in the UK, this is often done without parents consent. In 2007 in the USA there was one ‘Teen gender clinic’, in 2018 this number had grown to 300.

Abigail Shrier believes that this growth is from social contagion, where peer pressure and social media is driving entire friend groups to transition together. Previously 70-80% of people struggling with gender dysphoria eventually ‘grew out of it’ where the approach was ‘wait and see’. Gender dysphoria was almost exclusively male, and roughly 0.01% (1/10 000) of the population. It has risen dramatically to 2/100, and mostly affecting young teenage girls. In the last 10 years there has been a 4000% increase! This has lifelong consequences, including loss of fertility, bone density problems and irreversible surgery.

How do we approach this from a biblical perspective?

The Blueprint
We need to go back to the beginning and understand what God’s blueprint for creation was: Gen 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
a) Gender identity is embodied. It is physically, not psychologically grounded. God did not make a ‘nonphysical’ self and look for a body. He shaped a body, breathed into it, and called it Adam.
b) Gender identity is binary (involving 2 aspects). There are 2 genders, male & female (XX&XY). There are unique characteristics & non interchangeable characteristics distinct in both genders. Another similar binary given in Genesis is heaven & earth.

What did Jesus say?
Matt 19:4 “Haven’t you read, at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

He AFFIRMS BINARY ‘male & female’ from the order of original creation. He AFFIRMS complementary & unique roles in “becoming one flesh”. But he says more…
v12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others – and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”

Jesus defines three categories of eunuchs here:
1. Made eunuchs: castrated by men. Ancient courts, male servants castrated to stop sex with royal women. Advisors castrated to encourage focus and minimal distractions.
2. Eunuchs for Kingdom: celibate/sexual desires incongruent with marriage.
3. Born eunuchs: those who were born physically or possibly sexually different. Jesus takes this into account. Some may be born different or with sexual identity challenges.

Why?
We know from Romans 8:19-22 that “creation groans”. That at the fall of man, creation was not quite right, dislocated from the creator and prone to be out of step with God’s BLUEPRINT for life. How does this apply to us?
a) Apply to bodies: they don’t always work as originally intended. Some will experience frustration with their body image / sexual orientation.
b) Apply to minds: “they became futile in their thinking” (Rom 1:21) – Should we always trust our perceptions of ourselves? EG. Anorexic

How do we as Christians respond to transgender people?
John 1:17 “For the LAW was given through Moses, GRACE and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ”

Law. The law is truth without grace, which destroys people, puffs others up.
Grace:
1. Grace listens well & responds wisely. Some people have real struggles in this area – we must love well and realise that this is a complicated, painful issue for many people.
2. We can enlarge our perspective on what is means to be male or female. Just because a boy is sensitive, not sporty, bookworm / or a girl likes watching war movies and carrying a sword – does not mean they are trapped in the wrong body.
Truth: Creation is out of joint, Gender is binary and our final identity is actually not in our sexuality but “in Christ”. We are in the bodies that God gave us. He created us male or female and we have a high calling to fulfil. Jesus experienced “sin dysphoria” when his sinless body carried the sin of the world.

This is certainly an issue that we need to grapple with in grace and truth. It is also a call to vigilance in what our children and grandchildren watch and are taught in school.

Extra Notes:
Some of the above ideas come from Sam Allbery’s talk:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kaex8EA2y4

If you google this subject, the headlines will be full of ‘discriminatory’ laws that some US states are introducing against transgender kids. These laws can be controversial, but many are a reaction to what is happening in the USA today. You must look pretty hard to find information against gender reassignment, as a lot of the info is deemed hate speech and removed from the internet. The book “Irreversible damage” by Abigail Shrier, an
investigative journalist, lays bare the real facts. Here are some links to her talks:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWbxIFC0Q2o
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlekg5imwjQ /
 https://www.parhamlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/1502397/2020/09/Irreversible-Damage.pdf

Also see Ken Zucker, who was fired for his views on the debate. He worked at a mental health clinic in California, implementing the “wait and see” policy. Although he came up with the term “gender dysphoria”, he was fired for disagreeing with the present easy accessibility to gender reassignment surgery. Zucker and his colleagues point frequently to the small but consistent body of research suggesting that something like three-
quarters of children with gender dysphoria will “desist” — they’ll eventually come to feel comfortable with their natal gender.
Zucker articles:
 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/11/bbc-film-on-child-transgender-issues-worries-activists
 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-doctor-fired-from-gender-identity-clinic-says-he-feels-vindicated/

Western Cape Education curriculum:
 https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/western-cape/western-cape-lauded-for-being-the-first-to-introduce-lgbtq-guidelines-for-schools-50216449
 https://forsa.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/5THDRA1.pdf
 https://forsa.org.za/wceds-draft-guidelines-on-gender-identity-give-serious-cause-for-concern/

In support of gender reassignment, Swedish researchers Dr Richard Bränström and Dr John Pachankis released highly publicised results in 2019 from a study which claimed that transgender people who undergo surgery to ‘change sex’ have better mental health outcomes and are less likely to need mental health treatment than those who do not. They also said that the likelihood of being treated for a mood or anxiety disorder reduces over time.  However, they have now been forced to admitted they skewed the results of
their survey.  Scrutiny of their study by other academics revealed that their major conclusion was based on the outcomes of just 3 people, despite having collected the data of more than 2,500 gender-confused people in Sweden. They have now admitted – with almost zero media coverage – that the results of their study demonstrate “no advantage of surgery” in relation to subsequent mental health treatments or a reduction in
hospitalisations following suicide attempts.

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