I find this to be a powerful statement about how no person is scientifically actually “transgender.” It is written by Dr. Berger, a psychiatrist in Toronto. The truth is that people have feelings of unhappiness or unease about their gender. The solution is not surgery but rather psychological help to address the feelings instead of altering the body.
The occurrence of people born with bodies that have some biologically male traits and some biologically female traits have led many people in common culture to reject a sexual binary and of course also a gender binary. It is common to hear people argue that we are all on a spectrum, and there is no such thing as true males and females but just a bunch of people at various points in a spectrum, and so there should be no need to have to label people as either male or female. Some people could choose these labels but many people could choose something entirely different, something in between, or nothing at all.
Some of justification for this view comes from a false understanding of inter-sexed conditions. This recent scholarly article (Unfortunately we don’t have access to the whole article, but the 1 page preview explains quite well and gives a nice summary) by Leonard Sax explains -
“Anne Fausto-Sterling’s suggestion that the prevalence of intersex might be as high as 1.7% has attracted wide attention in both the scholarly press and the popular media. Many reviewers are not aware that this figure includes conditions which most clinicians do not recognize as intersex, such as Klinefelter syndrome, Turner syndrome, and late-onset adrenal hyperplasia. If the term intersex is to retain any meaning, the term should be restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female. Applying this more precise definition, the true prevalence of intersex seems to be about 0.018%, almost 100 times lower than Fausto-Sterling’s estimate of 1.7%.”
In addition to this article, both Fausto-Sterling and Sax are mentioned in wikipedia on “Intersex.” Sterling’s view is well reported at the site, but Sax seems to be only briefly mentioned.
Although intersex is popularly used to refer to any person whose biological characteristics are not fully female or not fully male, I believe, as Sax seems to be arguing, that it is more helpful to use the term only for those whose sex is truly ambiguous. And that number of people is very small. People with conditions like Klinefelter syndrome or Turner syndrome are still clearly male or female. It is just that they were born with these unhelpful abnormal conditions. People like this deserve our compassion and help and we should not criticize them for being different. However, their existence does not justify a whole culture rejecting that there are two distinct sexes, male and female. The occurrence of people born truly ambiguous in their sex is more of a genetic irregularity happening very rarely, than it is proof that we are all on a spectrum of sex. In fact, I think these genetic defects help to prove the existence of the norm. They would not be such difficult emotional and physical conditions, that happen so rarely, unless indeed there really exist a sexual binary, of males and females. In fact, to define these intersexual conditions we have to compare them against the normal genetic and biological binary.
What do we do with the few people who are truly ambiguous? This is a tough one. If I was counseling them, I’d first ask them to tell me about themselves, and see if they feel like one sex or the other. If they clearly perceived they were male or female, we could consider options for surgery. But I would not necessarily push them into some kind of corrective surgery. I think in these very rare cases it would be okay to allow them to just be themselves, if they were able to live comfortable not fitting into either sex. That seems like it would be very hard in our culture though, and so they might want to consider still dressing like one sex or the other, instead of purposely appearing ambiguous. I am not a expert as to what to do to help these people. I’ll leave that to others wiser than me. But I really wish that transsexuals and crossdressers would stop using these people as justification to reject the sexual binary, or as justification to get sex change surgeries or as justification to portray themselves in public as the opposite sex. These people were born in a specific way to have this ambiguity. It is not justification for us to live ambiguous lives when we were not born in the same way.
Thoughts? Ideas? Feel free to teach me, point out flaws in my argument, or tell me something new.
**12-10-13 edit – I don’t condone the anger and seeming hatred that come out in many of the shared posts. As Ralph points out in his comment below, they become not so helpful posts after all because of their tone. Perhaps they were not worthwhile to share because of this. In the future I shall post articles that not only have logically persuasive arguments, but that are also said in a loving, or at the very least civil way. I apologize for my poor judgment in this posting. **
A blog I follow had this post – Transgender Tropes 101 - which is actually him sharing what he read from yet another blog which is called by the same name. He suggests reading the 10 links on that blog, and I must say, I found the arguments helpful. Again, as I’ve said before, I disagree strongly with much of radical feminism, but on this area of transgenderism we seem to have very much agreement.
I’ve heard the first one a lot, “you should educate yourself on the subject” when dialoguing on the blogs of transgendered individuals. Of course, many of them have been very civil with me. But unfortunately, many have said that I’m an ignorant bigot otherwise I would not have dared to ask such questions which they find offensive, and they end the conversation with this. I confess, that at times I do feel very uneducated on these subjects compared to others. But then I think about all the books on transgender and crossdressing topics that I’ve read, and countless blogs and articles, and then I wonder – how much do I have to read about this stuff before I’m allowed to talk to others about it and ask questions in debate? Are there books and articles on this stuff that I haven’t read yet? Of course there are. Some are probably really good or important. But I’ll never be able to read it all. And I’ve read more than 97-98% of all other Americans on this stuff I’m sure. I think that qualifies me to speak about it.
The third one is worth commenting on. Transgendered people say they are subverting gender roles or stereotypes. But as I’ve always argued, they are actually keeping them going in our culture and giving in to them. We need to realize we can be real men, or real women, even if we are different than the average man or average woman. In contrast to some feminist beliefs, I do think the biology of our sex plays a large role in our gender expression, so that most men can be said “to be like this” and most women can be said “to be like this.” It’s sort of a delicate balance. There are true biological sex/gender differences. But each person is still unique and so there is no set grouping of stereotypes that will fit every individual. So in the end, be a man, or be a woman, and be yourself, knowing that each man doesn’t totally fulfill all the gender stereotypes. We all fit some and don’t fit others.
The fourth one I’d like to comment on as well – Denying gender “identity” denies our very existence. A transgendered person is still very much human whether or not I recognize them as the sex they want to be recognized as. Further, I don’t see why there is so much offense taken when I do not assent to how they want to be recognized. Being a Christian is THE most important part of my identity. But if someone thinks I’m not a true Christian, I still know I am, why would that need to offend me? If a Muslim said I’m not a true worshipper of God, why would that offend me? I know it’s his belief that is different than my own. If I disagree with a transsexual about whether they have truly transformed into a woman or that they are still a man, why should that offend them? Why do I have to pretend that I agree with them?
Number 8 is so important, which talks about how the existence of intersexed people do not in any way truly support the claims of transgendered individuals. Best line from this one – Plenty of people are born with birth defects. Some are born with no legs, some missing an eye, etc. But no one claims humans are not a bipedal species. No one claims that sight is not a human trait (barring grave disability). The reason we can safely say that hominids are a bipedal species is because -except in case of developmental disorder or amputation injury- humans are born with two legs. Roughly one in 400 humans is born with some sort of congenital anomaly (birth defect). About one in 800 is born with Down Syndrome. About one in 14,000 is born with a disorder of sexual development or “intersex”.
Number 9 is a bit raw and uncomfortable to read. But the main thesis of it is true.
This was an interesting resource to look through – Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual,Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People by The World Professional Association for Transgender Health. I didn’t read every word but I looked at a portion of it.
I was struck by how much I disagree with. It seems that the transgender lingo and ideology we are inundated with on the internet and the news, is the same ideology used by these mental health professionals. A quote will illustrate my point -
“Mental health professionals should not impose a binary view of gender. They should give ample room for clients to explore different options for gender expression. Hormonal or surgical interventions are appropriate for some adolescents, but not for others.”
It is one thing to say that someone is born with a faulty body so that they are truly a woman in a man’s body, and so they should get a surgery and live as the opposite sex. I disagree with this, but it makes more sense than these psychologists going along with the idea of rejecting the common sense biological reality that the world is made up of males and females (as well as males and females whose bodies have abnormalities they were born with, who we tend to label as intersexuals). When I think of psychologists, I think part of their job is to work with mental health. In other words, they listen and care for those who are mentally unhealthy, who are confused in their minds, or whose feelings are hurt. I think of them as pointing people to the truth, giving them hope, helping them sort out their confused feelings. But with this issue, it seems the psychologists are instead going along with the false reality and pretending that sex does not actually exist beyond what we feel. Instead of helping people overcome and make sense of the confusing feelings, they prolong the confusing feelings.
I was, however, encouraged by this quote below. I am glad to see that they are willing to explore alternatives to surgery and they realize that at least some people with cross-gender feelings can learn to live with their real body and be happy without surgery. My question is – why do they think only some people can do this, and not all?
“Often with the help of psychotherapy, some individuals integrate their trans- or cross-gender feelings into the gender role they were assigned at birth and do not feel the need to feminize or masculinize their body.”
The title of the video series is Hjernevask or “Brainwashing” in English. Go here to view the videos. The videos are not in English, but there are English subtitles. The whole series is really interesting, but it takes a fair amount of time to view it all. Some of the videos though are particularly interesting for topics related to this blog, topics such as nature versus nurture, gender differences, sex, homosexuality, and gender identity. The theme of the videos is basically that the social sciences have a lot of naive theories and tend to ignore biological studies and research. Even though the setting is Norway, the same seems to be true in the USA. We are fed a lot of cultural theories and assumptions that are not necessarily the truth, even if the truth is politically incorrect. I found these videos to be very informative, powerful, and interesting.
Here are some of the things I found most interesting.
1. There are considerable differences between men and women on average and this is not just the result of cultural socialization but actually the result of biology. In fact, as the videos show, the more egalitarian and free a society is, the more people can do whatever they want in a society, then the more we will see different sexes generally choosing different lines of work and interests. This tells me that there are innate differences between men and women (on average, in general), that God designed. They say evolution, but I say God, whether directly or through using the process of evolution. This is an important truth. I was taught that men and women are generally exactly the same other than reproductive organs. But this isn’t the truth. We are different from birth and predisposed to different things. The studies in the video show that these differences show up 1 day after birth.
Now, my argument still stands that if we find ourselves different from the average man, that doesn’t mean we aren’t truly a man. We have to accept ourselves as still being a man, but just not one that fits with the general stereotypes. I’m still against harmful gender stereotypes, of which there are many, such as that men can never cry, or show compassion or have to be good at working on cars or other stupid things. But at the same time, we can acknowledge that there are certain general differences between men and women. The challenge is to still accept women engineers and male nurses, without saying they are not truly men or truly women. The answer is still to find acceptance as atypical men, rather than to try to be women through crossdressing or transsexualism in order to be ourselves.
2. The homosexuality video clearly shows that there is something biological going on with same-sex attraction. This is what I was already taught in seminary. The video surprised me though. I had no idea so many homosexuals wanted to refrain from looking at biological evidence for homosexuality. I always thought that the liberals promoting homosexuality wanted to find the biological evidence in order to say that they can’t help but live this way. So we have Christians like me who want to see what biological evidence there is for homosexuality, and Christians who are afraid to look there. And then you have homosexuals who want to look at the biological evidence, and homosexuals who are afraid to look there. At any rate, I think it’s safe to say that it is proven there is at least something biological going on with homosexuality. But again, it is a logical jump to then say that homosexual behavior is morally acceptable to God. That I do not believe. See this post – But I was born with these desires.
Also in the homosexuality video, I thought it was interesting how they talked about the extreme promiscuity of homosexuals. Their explanation seemed to make sense to me as to why this happens. The video was talking about how across all cultures men want more sexual partners than women. They want much more diversity. Well, if both partners are men, they both feel that way, and so they end up with many partners. There are no children to tie them down to the relationship long term. It is crazy that 28% of the homosexuals in San Francisco have had over 1000 sexual partners.
There was also talk in the “sex” episode about the similarities in personality and interests between male homosexuals and females. The mannerisms are very similar, in actual biology, not just in learned behavior. And the interests are strikingly similar. I’m not sure what this tells us exactly, but it is very interesting information.
3. The last episode about nature and nurture made clear that nature and nurture both play a role. But many liberals want to say its ALL nurture, and this is clearly wrong. If you have a son, you should realize he is going to naturally be different than if I had a daughter. But you can help him to teach him what being a male means as well, according to the Bible, and even some of the cultural norms. But at the same time you can allow him to be himself, if his “nature” is different from the typical males in our culture.
They did a great job talking about gender identity in this episode, that its not something that is neutral that can be changed. Oh how I wish all the liberals on wordpress would watch this video. There is indeed a gender binary. It is a biological thing. Gender is not a fluid thing that we can create. There are not 5 genders. There are biological aberrations once in a while, or confused people, but not multiple genders to choose from. The case studies they mentioned are important. We are not a blank slate when it comes to birth and gender. But they mostly talked about intersexuals and how they are a definite sex, even if it’s not clear to us because of the malformed organs. I wish they would have talked about people who feel that they have a different gender identity. That would have been more helpful for many of us.
Watch the videos and comment with your thoughts. They are long but so worth it! Don’t comment with something contrary unless you first watch some of the videos. Thanks!
This is a strong article, Sex without bodies, in Christianity Today. I don’t think I ever put my finger on this common theme of the LGBT movement. They think that only whats in our hearts matter, and our bodies are irrelevant. This is totally contradictory to the Christian faith.
The Bible affirms that God made us as men and women, both made in his image. Together we reflect God. (Gen 1-2). Our bodies are fallen and broken but still essentially good. They matter. God cares about what we do with our bodies. For Christians, they are temples or houses of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to take care of our bodies, and for us to be healthy. He wants us to live as men and women, that he created us to be.
This is why the incarnation of Jesus and the resurrection from the dead are some of the most important of all Christian beliefs. Think about it. God didn’t just appear to be a man and live among us. He didn’t just talk to us from the sky. He became flesh and blood, and was even born as a baby! Jesus, the God-man, walked the earth, ate, pooped, cried, laughed, and lived bodily. This is one of the most amazing mysteries, God made flesh. But it is so beautiful. It affirms how much God cares for us. It affirms the lengths God would go to be with us so intimately. And it shows us how important and GOOD bodies are. Bodies aren’t bad. They are good. Good enough for our God to take on flesh.
And the resurrection of the dead is equally important. Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death. He didn’t just die for us so that our souls can float to heaven. He rose from the dead as the firstfruits so that we can also be raised from the dead to take on new wonderful bodies (1 Cor. 15).
Our bodies are good. They matter. We can’t just do whatever we want with them.
Read this article – Recognition for Australians who identify as neither sex. I learned before kindergarten that boys and girls are different. They are not exactly the same. They have different bodies. This used to be basic common sense knowledge. How has our society gotten so confused?
It’s such a warped view of freedom. We tell little kids so often, “you can be whatever you want to be.” I used to think people just meant by that phrase that kids could do whatever type of job and work in the future that they wanted to (though that is not even true, life is hard and we don’t all get to do whatever the heck we might want). But I think now society thinks of that phrase quite literally, “you can be whatever you want to be.” Oh you don’t like being a little boy? We can alter your body through surgery so that you can be a girl. You don’t like having small breasts? We can get you breast implants later.
People in Australia and everywhere else should have a good amount of freedom to dress how they want to (within reason, I happen to appreciate laws against public nakedness). And they should have freedom to give themselves names that are usually given to the opposite sex. They should have freedom to live how they want to within the bounds of the law. But transgendered folk should not impose upon me, and upon the government, that we must view them as not being either a man or a woman. You can go around calling yourself a woman when you are really a man. But don’t make society go along with your charade. That is ridiculous.
This article is very strange in that society has recently adapted to a distinction between “sex” and “gender” (a distinction which I have found unhelpful and misleading. They use “sex” to talk about biology and “gender” to talk about behavior. Unfortunately they qualify “gender” according to old worn out gender stereotypes. And then tell people they can choose what gender they want to be). But even if we grant that those two things are different as most of society tends to do these days, then wouldn’t this person in the article be registered with the government as either male or female sex (which can be scientifically proven and is not a subjective thing!), even if his gender was not specific?
I understand that the case for intersexed people (who are born that way), makes it a bit more complicated, but my understanding is that the vast majority of people born intersex still identify clearly with one sex, and most of their physical conditions make clear what sex they actually are, and what other aspects of their body are an anomaly.
Am I being too harsh or am I missing something? I know that if had given fuel to the transgendered feelings in myself, and actually went on to try to live as a woman, I personally would not have expected the government to pretend I was not actually biologically male.
A while back the wordpress reader brought me to a blogger sharing a video about how being transgender is not at all like being intersex, as much as many transsexuals (and even crossdressers) want to claim they are similar things. Watch the video at the blog – here. I am not familiar with the blogger, and haven’t had the time to research the site for. I am also not familiar with the person who is speaking in the video. I am simply sharing this because the insights in the video were very interesting to me.
The video shows that it can be offensive, and it is illogical, to use the reality of intersex conditions in the world to argue for there not being only 2 genders. It is illogical also to use the reality of intersex conditions in the world to argue for transgenderism (or crossdressing). Now of course, the video is not saying that being transgender is morally wrong, but just for transsexuals to check their arguments. I don’t agree with everything in the video but I am glad this person is setting the record straight on that issue.
“Intersex is not glamorous.” This is one of the best quotes. Intersex is used often by transsexuals to talk about the beauty of ambiguous gender in the world, or the beauty of people who live as both male and female at separate times. And yet intersex conditions have caused so much pain to intersexed people. They don’t view that part of who they are as a beautiful thing and neither do I. They view it as something to get medical help to deal with properly, something to be overcome. It is probably similar to how view my own bodily abnormality in my limb as something which is not beautiful and which I need medical help to address.
The speaker in the video also talks about how so many people – homosexuals, transgendered people – are wanting to find some scientific basis to prove that they were born the way they were. I see why this is so important to people, but really it is not that important, at least for Christians. Christians believe we are all born with desires that aren’t good, and all born with bodily abnormalities and problems. Crossdressers and transgendered people are desperate to claim we were born the way we were, because if that is true, than we can give in and do what we want. But that argument simply doesn’t work. See my post – But I was born with these desires.
There is of course much more that can be said about intersexuality and those born as hermaphrodites, and I plan to tackle that subject at a later date. It will be a short post as I am not an expert on that topic, but I’ll look at how we can think of such conditions biblically and theologically. I’ll tackle the hard question, “did God create them that way?” And I’ll give some suggestions as to how to even approach giving answers to that question.
I’ve updated my links page with quite a few links. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t read every word, or listen to every second of each video because of my limited time. But I looked at most of each one. If you find something offensive, feel free to let me know about it, but I think these are all helpful resources.
First, here is a page of many personal testimonies of those who struggled with crossdressing or transgenderism – Help 4 Families Personal Stories. Read about the brokenness that these struggles caused, and the freedom these people found in Christ.
Second, here is a video testimony from Sy Rogers – here. He talks about Jesus giving him freedom from homosexuality and transsexualism.
Third, – here – is a video of Sy Rogers explaining differences between crossdressing, transgenderism, etc. And he explains some of the current debates about transgenderism, intersexuality, and how to think about them from a Christian perspective.
Fourth, here is a – blog – that looks like it could be controversial, but he has some interesting stuff about the relative unsuccessful results of sex change surgeries, and talks about the depression and suicidal rates of those even after the surgery.
And if you look at my “Links” page, you’ll see I added 5 new ministries. Each one has their own views, and emphases in ministry such as sexual brokenness, pornography, homosexuality, transgenderism, sexual addiction, etc. They each have helpful resources and readings and links.
I just read this article – “What is a Biblical View of Transgendered People and Hermaphrodites?” – by Sue Bohlin. I think it is pretty good. I don’t think it is thorough enough by far. I don’t think it says enough about how to give pastoral care for these people or how to respond to them as churches. It doesn’t say enough about how these people can find healing and full lives. But in general I think it’s pretty good and has some helpful things to say that I do agree with. Anybody else like it or dislike it? I’ve added it to my links page.
I also added a link a little while back to an article called “John or Joan?” by a seminary professor named Russell D. Moore. You can read it – here. It’s a little bit longer of a read, but I found it quite good. I didn’t agree with every little thing, and I may say things slightly differently, emphasize different things, and would include other thoughts. But overall, it is quite good with many helpful things to say. It’s something that more pastors should read to be aware of these issues. I particularly thought it was interesting to read his response on this question – Should the Surgery Be Reversed? This is on the bottom of page 5. It’s an interesting read. What are your thoughts?