Article – Surgical Sex

I know that Paul R. McHugh has received a lot of criticism, but I find him to be persuasive and this is a powerful statement by him on sex reassignment surgery – Surgical Sex.   He talks about how performing surgery for those with transgender feelings was cooperating with mental illness rather than treating it.

The first paragraph is perhaps the most powerful –

When the practice of sex-change surgery first emerged back in the early 1970s, I would often remind its advocating psychiatrists that with other patients, alcoholics in particular, they would quote the Serenity Prayer, “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Where did they get the idea that our sexual identity (“gender” was the term they preferred) as men or women was in the category of things that could be changed?

 

He also makes some interesting points here:

The subjects before the surgery struck me as even more strange, as they struggled to convince anyone who might influence the decision for their surgery. First, they spent an unusual amount of time thinking and talking about sex and their sexual experiences; their sexual hungers and adventures seemed to preoccupy them. Second, discussion of babies or children provoked little interest from them; indeed, they seemed indifferent to children. But third, and most remarkable, many of these men-who-claimed-to-be-women reported that they found women sexually attractive and that they saw themselves as “lesbians.” When I noted to their champions that their psychological leanings seemed more like those of men than of women, I would get various replies, mostly to the effect that in making such judgments I was drawing on sexual stereotypes.

This gets at what we as a society think it means to be “man” or “woman.”  People on many sides of this transgender argument talk about gender stereotypes.  A transgender man may tell me he feels gentle and sensitive and that’s part of his “real” female identity, and I would just tell him those are gender stereotypes and you can be a gentle and sensitive man.  But in the paragraph above, gender stereotypes are used in a different way.  It is pointed out that transsexuals don’t exhibit many of the gender stereotypes actually common to women, such as desire for children and less interest (not no interest) in sex compared to men.  Do I, does Paul McHugh, do transsexuals, do we all just pick and choose what stereotypes we think are essential or most important in what it means to be a woman?   For transsexuals, it does appear that this is what they are doing, since they are basing their decisions not on biology, but only on stereotypes.  Yet it seem they are conveniently ignoring those stereotypes about women that they do not even come close to fitting.  I, on the other hand, think that biology determines whether we are a man or woman, not conformity to certain stereotypes, thus it makes sense for me to say that someone can be a man, physically, even if he does not conform to all the stereotypes about men, (such as he might be gentle and sensitive).   I don’t think I am being inconsistent on the issue of gender stereotypes, but it appears that transsexuals are indeed doing so and I think, (while I have compassion for them and understand how they feel), that they are deluding themselves.

The rest of the article gives good background information and history, covering much of the same ground as Bailey’s book – The Man who would be Queen.

Christmas Meditation on the Incarnation and Gender

From Matthew 1:

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

 

In our world today sex/gender is hotly contested. Some people claim that gender doesn’t exist, and some people claim it exists but you choose your own gender for yourself. Most people think sex exists but they think it is something that can be chosen and you can alter your body to match the sex you want to be (or that you are truly in your mind/soul). We live in a world where people have rejected “the binary” and it takes more than 50 terms to classify all the different variations of people out there in their sex/gender/sexuality combos. Yet many don’t even want to be forced into one of these categories.

In crossdressing circles, there is also the idea that the best person is someone who is a conglomeration of the masculine and feminine. The idea is that a person like this is more fully human, more well-balanced, and overall healthier. So the argument is that it is good and healthy and better for everyone if some people can be a mixture of male and female, or else they can be male at times and female at other times. Crossdressers and some of their accepting wives love to say that it is a beautiful thing for a man to embrace his “feminine side” or the “feminine within him.”

In stark contrast to all of this, we get the Christmas message. The wonderful astounding amazing news of Christmas is that the 2nd person of the Trinity, the Son, God himself, became a human being. We will never fully understand this mystery, of how the Creator could become the creature. It is the beauty of Emmanuel, God with us. As John 1 says, he “tabernacled” among us, to live with his people. This means that people could actually reach out and touch God, as they reached out and touched Jesus. It is incredible. And not only did the incarnation reveal God himself to humanity in the fullest way possible, but the incarnation was also necessary for our salvation.

If God wanted to remain a God of justice but also give us mercy, he had to have a way for humans to take the punishment that humans deserved. Punishing a sheep just didn’t cut it. An animal can’t really take the place of humans. And if God punished humans as they truly deserved, then how could he show us his incredible mercy? He had to show his justice and mercy together at once. The only way to accomplish that was to punish himself instead of us, but he could only do that by becoming a human. Jesus, as our representative human, took the punishment for humans, for all those that have trusted in him as their sacrifice. Jesus lived the perfect righteous life we could not live. And he took the punishment that we deserve. Through him we have salvation and eternal life. Thanks be to God!

But the incarnation tells us something about sex and gender as well. If the incarnation had not happened yet, what might we expect? In today’s modern culture, I would imagine we would think – “God created both males and females, and if he is going to become a human, he will want to reveal the fullness of both, so perhaps in an incarnation, he will be some kind of hermaphrodite, neither male nor female, but fully human. Maybe he will be genderless. Or maybe he will be born as a boy or girl but then live a genderless androgynous life embracing both genders?”

But what actually happened in the incarnation? Jesus was born as a boy. Not an “it” not a “zie,” or a “sie,” or a “they,” but a “he,” a boy. He became a son, a baby boy, and later a full grown man, a brother. These are not genderless terms. He was a man, a male, in sex and gender (with sex and gender not being divided or separated or confused unlike our modern gymnastics with these term).

 

Could Mary have been promised a girl? I don’t see why not. But the fact is that God had to choose one of the two, either male or female. Why? Because that is how he created people to be, male and female. And the incarnation is so powerful precisely because God was born to be exactly as we are, not some kind of super-human, not some kind of genderless androgynous being, but the same kind of humans that we are.  Therefore Jesus was not attractive, not notable, he ate, he slept, he drank, he pooped, he cried as a baby, and he had a penis. He was a real man in every way.

The incarnation shows us that God’s creation of humans is good, so good that God was willing to become a human. This shows that we don’t have to be ashamed of our bodies, of ourselves. The incarnation is a stamp of approval both on humanity in general, and the goodness of the individual sexes. We don’t have to strive for some kind of median between male and female, we don’t have to strive to be androgynous. Not only do we not need to, we shouldn’t. The incarnation reaffirms the creation event, showing us that being male or female is part of what it means to be human, and therefore Jesus had only one sex, not a mixture of the two.

Is Jesus an example to both males and females? Yes of course. His identity and purpose goes far beyond his sex as male. He is the savior and leader and teacher and Lord and King for all of us, male and female.

If our God was willing to become a human, but to be only one sex, and not some kind of mix, then why are we trying to do something different? God himself, who doesn’t have sex in his divinity, did not reject the binary when it came to the incarnation. So why should we? God himself, who doesn’t have sex in his divinity, was willing to be limited to one sex in the incarnation, so why do we feel like we can go beyond God and not limit ourselves to one sex in our lives today?

Jesus was the perfect human being, with no faults and no sins, and he was a man. He had a sex. Does this mean that men are better than women? Of course not. In the incarnation, he had to be born a boy or girl, one of the two, but just because he was born as a boy, doesn’t mean men are more important. Perhaps he was born as a boy because in that time, teachers and leaders and kings were men. But again, Jesus was the perfect human being, and he was a human being who had a definitive sex/gender. If we want to be like Jesus, we will learn to be content with the sex/gender that we were born as, and not strive to be something different.

This Christmas, take some time to slow down and ponder the wonderful beauty of the incarnation and all that it affirms about our humanity.

 

Clarification – Some people might read this and argue with me and say that although biologically Jesus was male, in his nature and person he exhibited the best traits of masculinity and femininity. I agree with this only because I think our definitions of masculinity and femininity are incorrect. If we take the traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity, it’s true that Jesus exhibited the best of both. But when I look at the Bible I don’t see such traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity. For example, the fruits of the Spirit, like love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness etc. would be, by traditional definition, “feminine traits” but I think they are human traits not feminine traits. I think Jesus was a man in every way, including in his personality. Some emotions or aspects of his person that we might see as masculine or feminine are in fact just human emotions. Jesus was not some kind of androgynous mixture being in his gender nor in his sex.

He or She? How Should I Refer to Transgender Friends?

This is the title of a podcast by Pastor John Piper – He or She? How Should I Refer to Transgender Friends?

What do we do when a transgender friend wants us to call them a new name, and we know that the new name does not fit their actual sex?  This can be very complicated for a Christian who on the one hand believes sex/gender to be given by God and not chosen, but on the one hand the same Christian wants to show others the same compassion and mercy that we also have received from God.

Piper handles this issue fairly well I think.  He talks about how names are culturally arbitrary on the one hand, so in some ways it’s not that big of a deal.  Piper admits certain cases that he would indeed go by calling a transsexual person by their preferred opposite sex name.  But he goes farther I think than most Christians, in that he says he will not “lie” by calling a transsexual person using their preferred pronouns, even at a workplace, even if it cost him his job.  In summary he makes a small deal about names, given their arbitrary nature, but he will not lie to transsexuals or other people by identifying transsexuals as something they are not.

John Piper does a good job discussing the very real and painful reality of those born with sex anomalies, such as hermaphrodites, and how it is a very different issue from transsexual phenomena today.

The name and pronoun issue is a thorny issue which I’ve talked about before.  I’m trying to think of other analogies that don’t involve transsexualism that may be helpful.  Perhaps as Christians there are other issues in which we are or are not making concessions.

When a coworker says he is married, but I know he means something different from my Christian view of marriage, do I still refer to him as being married?  Yes.  I don’t think this would be inconsistent with Piper’s view.  Marriage is a thing I recognize across all cultures as part of God’s common grace, part of the structure of even non-Christian society, but I also recognize that there is more to a Christian marriage than only that cultural structure.

If a coworker claimed he was white, when really he has dark skin, I would not concede to call him “white.”  (But actually I can’t think of any reason why I’d ever need to make a comment about his race or color of skin).  It is not nearly as complicated as an issue like sex, in which even in a simple email we have to use pronouns like he or she.

If a coworker claimed that she was fat, and she wanted me to admit she was fat (even if she was anorexically skinny), I would not admit it, but instead try to help her see how thin she is and the need for counseling.

If an Indian coworker was worshipping an idol at his desk, I would respect his freedom to do so.  But I would not refer to the figurine as the real God of the universe.  Even if he tried to tell me that his god is the true God who I also worship, I would openly disagree with him.  I might be willing to go so far as to say, “your god that you worship.”

If a coworker changed his name, I would be willing to call him a new name of his choice.  If he chose a female name and got sex reassignment surgery and started trying to live as a female, it would be more difficult for me to use his preferred name, because I would feel like by doing so I would be communicating that I agree he is now a female.  But I don’t know what I would do until I got to that situation.  Perhaps I would use the preferred name but still not use the pronouns of his choice.  Or perhaps I would use the pronouns he wanted as a concession to avoid needless offense, while he and everyone else knew what I really thought about his sex.  It’s hard to know what to do.

As I’ve written before, I lean towards Piper’s position, of not lying, of always speaking truth, but speaking it in a gentle and loving and compassionate way.  But when you get down to the reality of different situations, you first can try to avoid needless offense while also avoiding lying at the same time.

I’m stumped in coming up with more analogies.  Anyone have any good analogies that would argue against this position?  It seems to me that the only exception I can think of that our culture has made on these issues of denying reality, is this one issue about sex.  On every other issue when a person is completely denying reality and wanting us to go along with it, I think our culture is still not willing to do so on those other issues.

Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

**April 4th, 2015 – Quick Addition – I had forgot to mention that there is also a chapter of the book that explores such issues as androgyny, crossdressing, and transsexualism, especially among ancient cultures.  The author of that section explores how in each of these cultures the androgynous or transsexual people had roles of being the ones to have contact with the pagan religious world in some way.  He talks about how these cultures (and modern New Age religion), believe that everything is part of everything, so these cultures would celebrate those who could combine various things into one unified monad, like the person who could combine masculine/feminine.  It was an interesting chapter especially in light of the many crossdressers today who speak of how their lives show the ideal of a perfect balance of masculine and feminine.  I strongly disagree with such reasoning, and agree that it is a pagan idea contrary to the Bible’s teaching.

 

One of the most helpful books I’ve read on the topic of what it means to be a man or woman is the book – “Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood.” I want to recommend it to all of you. If you click on the link you can read it for free. It’s by Wayne Grudem as well as some other authors.

Over the last few years I’ve been changing on my view of sex/gender. I wrote about that change in this recent blog post – “Gender Sameness and Difference.” Because of the liberal schools I went to for both grade school and university, I was taught that men and women are mostly the same, and that we shouldn’t overemphasize the biological differences. In a way, that was true and helpful and it showed me how much unhelpful gender stereotypes have contributed to my problems with crossdressing as well as other people their problems with transgenderism. I realized that being sensitive or emotional or gentle or a lover of beauty did not make me less of a man. I realized that being someone who exhibits the fruits of the spirit does not make me feminine, but makes me the kind of man God wants me to be.

But what I’ve found through my healing from my crossdressing addiction, was that this understanding of gender is severely limited. Over the past few years, as I have recovered from crossdressing addiction, I have also been growing in my understanding of men and women, male and female, masculinity and femininity, and the biblical roles of men and women. My growth in that area has helped me to recover from crossdressing. And my recovery from crossdressing has helped me to grow in my view of gender and the discovery of male and female differences. They have grown in a reciprocal way I did not expect, and did not fully realize until now.

I have grown in my appreciation of the differences between men and women, emotional, physical, and in our different roles. God made two sexes for a reason, and I am finding great beauty and complementarity in the differences. Men and women are suited to be together. If God wanted to, he could have made only men, but he didn’t. Clearly he wants a man and a woman to be together, not two men, not two women. As I have understood this, and understood my role as a man and my role as the biblical head in my marriage, I have been able to be much more successful against crossdressing temptations. I know who I am as a man, and can be content in living out that identity, instead of trying to be something I am not.

I think back to my times of crossdressing and much of it was about wanting to be submissive and wanting to flee from my role as a man and husband. I know I am not alone in this. If you read crossdressing fiction, you will quickly see that many crossdress to escape the feeling of stress and responsibility, or to be able to feel demure, passive, and submissive. I think because of our broken sinful natures, men are tempted to distort their leadership role either through domination or through passivity. And women, because of their sinful natures, have a temptation to distort their supportive role through either being a doormat, or by trying to take the husband’s place of authority. For some of us, it sure is difficult trying to do what God has called us to do. But I am finding great freedom in my role as a leader and finding more peace in it. Instead of fleeing from responsibility, I’m focusing on being a good leader and a dedicated servant to my wife.

As an aside, I’ve also changed on my view of women in church leadership through these past years. This book clinched it for me. I now think that in the church, as well as in marriage, men should be the ones in authority. I think this is faithful to Scripture even though at times it can bother people or even me that women are not allowed to be in those leadership roles. But I think there is godliness in leadership and godliness in submission (Jesus was submissive to the Father and that wasn’t a bad thing!), and God has called us to those different things. In striving to fulfill the role that God has laid out for us, both for us men, and for women, we learn holiness and learn to do what God wants us to do, rather than what we might be comfortable with.

Biological basis for transgenderism?

In various posts on my blog I’ve looked at studies and articles about whether there are truly brain differences between transgender men and non-transgender men.  It’s something that interests me and every article I read seems to say something different.  It’s clear that that there are indeed some differences, but why are those differences there?  This blog I found is dedicated to exploring these issues, and the argument there is that the brain differences exist because of the female hormones that transsexuals take, and it is not that those differences existed from youth.   It is an interesting blog with a lot of well researched content.  If you are curious about this issue, it’s a good place to start.

The blog also clearly articulates what “intersex” is all about, and how it is completely different from transsexualism, and should not be used to argue for it.

John Piper on Transgender

I thought both of these audio interviews with pastor John Piper in the USA were good.  He doesn’t say anything a whole lot different than what I have said.  But it’s nice to hear these things from another pastor.

One point I thought was especially interesting was what he said about men being prone to violence.  This can be easily proven biologically and scientifically.  And yet I have never heard anyone say that it is morally okay for men to commit acts of violence, just because they are prone to do so because of their testosterone.  Biologically we are hardwired to desire and commit violence.  Yet it is not okay to do so.  Being born with a desire does not mean it is morally okay to give in to that desire.

Yes, clearly, some people are born feeling like they are the wrong sex.  They want to live as the other sex.  But being born with this desire to be the opposite sex does not entail it is morally good (or good for the person), to try to then live as the opposite sex.

I also appreciated what he said about people born with intersexual conditions.  He said similar to things to what I have already written in other posts.

Testimony of Dr. Berger

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.

http://arpacanada.ca/attachments/article/1724/Testimony%20of%20Dr.%20Berger%20re%20c279.pdf